A woman in programming is still seen as part of a minority but we believe that should change. We spoke to one of our talented Android developers Teresa, whose journey to Starling has been a unique one — it all started with an arts history degree. She shares her story and gives her top five tips when it comes to pursuing a career in the tech world.
Tell us who you are, and what your role at Starling is.
Hi, I’m Teresa and I am an Android developer at Starling Bank. You might recognise my name from a mention in Ben’s blog post back in June announcing the launch of Spending Insights. That was the first feature I worked on at Starling, immediately after I joined in May.
What was your journey to becoming a programmer?
Earlier this year, I was one of the recipients of the Udacity Android Basics Nanodegree scholarships funded by Google. I learned Android development in my spare time through the online course, but prior to that, I had no experience coding – in fact, my degree is in History of Art and I had been working full time in accounting for auction house Christie’s!
The journey from coding as a hobby to doing it as a full-time job has been life-changing. I had been trying to find a solution for a personal project on StackOverflow when I came across the advert for a role at Starling Bank. It struck me as interesting and fitted my skillset perfectly, so I applied, and after a few weeks of interviews and tests, I was offered a position. I wasn’t actively hunting for a new job, but life has a funny way of making sure you’re in the right place at the right time when opportunities present themselves! Starling’s office even turned out to be just down the road from Christie’s.
Teresa's top tips for someone wanting to get into programming
Know what interests you and what drives you
This is a question that career changers are asked constantly, so make sure that you come up with a good answer before you go any further! It’s also the question I tend to ask other developers or new starters because I find that it tells a lot about the person’s drive and motivation.
I’ve met many people who have made a career change into tech or are planning to, and I’ve found that they tend to be some of the most passionate people I’ve encountered. Convey that passion and drive to succeed and it can convince potential employers that you have the necessary motivation to make up for any initial lack of knowledge.
Find your community or support network
I’m fortunate to live and work in London, where there are no shortage of meetup groups across a wide variety of topics. I definitely wished I’d known this from the start! The Women Who Code (WWC) communities are incredibly supportive of beginners, and I’ve met many career changers there too.
I draw support from multiple communities. These support networks have grown and evolved over time, beginning with close friends and family and growing to include my peers on the Udacity scholarships and the people I’ve met at meetups and conferences. Most importantly, they now also include my incredible colleagues at Starling.
I’ve found that sharing what you’ve learnt and what you’re hoping to achieve with people who are going through the same thing makes your goals more tangible and easier to keep working towards.
Don’t sell yourself short
Sure, at the beginning you may well feel like an inexperienced waste of space standing in line next to applicants who have spent the last five to ten years working in the same industry or role you’re applying for. Don’t.
As cliché as it sounds, there are definitely transferable skills you’ve gained over the months and years in your current career, so don’t be tempted to downplay your existing experience. Teamwork, communication and problem solving skills are great qualities that can be applied to any role, in any industry.
Enjoy the process
As a career changer, I felt that I was in a very strong position — after all, with an existing stable career and no pressure to immediately find a job, I could afford to pick and choose what I really wanted before making the leap. I didn’t have to take the first job offer that appeared and I had the best time meeting people and learning about the industry.
Try to enjoy the process.
Know what you want to achieve
My advice would be to strike a balance between feeling the pressure to find that first job, and exploring options that you’re actually excited about. The pressure to find that first role can feel overwhelming, and often people take the first semi-suitable job they find, at the expense of their actual passions. Getting that first experience may well open the doors to something better, but it could also colour your experience of this new industry, for better or worse.
As far as I was concerned, I’d had a lot of experience working with traditional banks in my previous role, and spent at least four or five hours each day attempting to complete straightforward tasks across seven banks in five different countries. This meant that fintech and its potential to transform the banking landscape felt like a very attractive prospect to me, and that Starling Bank’s mission was something I felt strongly about. So when the opportunity presented itself, I took it in a heartbeat.
Our final thoughts
At Starling, we’re committed to helping women like Teresa succeed in engineering, finance and tech spaces. It’s an unfortunate truth that the Women in Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign’s latest analysis of the UK labour market states women make up just 14.3% of the STEM workforce. We’re on a mission to change that.
We know our industry can do better, and thankfully there are initiatives in place to increase the number of women in the finance workforce. We’ve signed the Women in Finance Charter, which aims to create a senior management team that’s 30% female by 2021. We hope that our attitude of inclusivity and transparency will encourage others to do the same.