A blogpost by Jillian and Nicole Lovas at Onlea.
Onlea’s newest front end developers talk about their experiences graduating with Computing Science degrees, job hunting, finding and adapting to their first jobs related to their degrees.
At Onlea, we’re proud to be a creative tech company that makes learning more inclusive and accessible for all, but we’re even more proud that we don’t just talk about principles like inclusivity and diversity, we live them. One of our founders is a woman, our president is a woman, 30% of our staff are visible minorities and the makeup of our team is 55% women, which is not the industry standard. We asked a couple of our newest team members, sisters Jillian and Nicole Lovas, to talk about the transition from University Grads to members of Onlea’s development team and what it’s like to be women in a male dominated field.
--Jeff Woodward, Director of Client Productions
University was extremely challenging, especially as a minority in Computing Science. I barely had any free time from my schoolwork, so graduating felt like a huge relief. My advice for anyone still in school is to hang on, because university is the worst part. It does gets better. Your grades don’t define you, and employers are more interested in what you can do than your grades anyway. Try to volunteer if you can and work on projects outside of school.
The courses that have been the most relevant for me are software development courses like CMPUT 301 and 401, and particularly the web development course CMPUT 404 at the University of Alberta.
Graduating was a huge celebration for me. I transferred from a small college to go to the University of Alberta, so it was very overwhelming at first. University was not an easy experience to say the least; luckily, I had lots of support. If I could do it all again, I would work on more programming projects over the summer. You don’t have to make the next Facebook - just make something small enough that you know you can complete it! Doing this can help you to broaden your horizons and teach you that programming isn’t the grind school makes it out to be. Doing hackathons and game jams are also great for gaining experience. I often thought I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to join hackathons, but if you have a desire to program, you can join a hackathon.
Girls in It: Women & Tech
Job hunting after graduating began to feel discouraging after a while because it seemed like every employer wanted several years of experience or knowledge of something I wasn’t taught in school. But I recommend that even if you don’t have every single qualification in the ad, apply anyway. You can still stand out using the skills you have, and don’t undersell your soft skills. It’s easier to teach someone a new technology than it is to teach a better work ethic, how to work in a team, conflict resolution, etc.
Additionally, I was recommended HackerRank to help me hone my programming skills. It has a section dedicated to computer science interviews and tons of questions that will help you feel more confident. Also, making a small project such as a personal website can help you practice and learn something new. But overall: don’t give up!
I agree with Nicole on this. It was difficult to even get an interview because most opportunities wanted a minimum of two years’ experience. I did not have internship experience so these requirements made the job hunt very discouraging. I often wondered while job hunting, ‘did I spend all that time in school learning the right things?’ However, I feel like the most valuable skill I gained from school was learning how to learn, which is probably the most valuable skill someone can have, especially in the everchanging tech field.
I found it useful to make a personal website to show off what I did (art/programming/etc). Whether employers looked at it or not, it was useful for me to develop outside an academic space and it gave me confidence in my skills.
Starting at the first job in our field
I was surprised at how comfortable the work environment is. After dealing with a degree’s worth of pressure and stress, it was a breath of fresh air to start working at Onlea. I have a lot of independence at work and there is a very relaxed atmosphere, which feels amazing. My decisions make an important impact on the end user’s learning experience and I love that I can let my creativity show in my work. I learn something new every day, from how to deploy a website using Amazon Web Services, to how to network, to knitting. It also feels great that I don’t need to pull all-nighters anymore.
I used to work as a graphic designer over a few summers so I have some experience working outside of retail, but it is refreshing to be able to use the skills I’ve learned in school for the first time. The projects at Onlea are very interesting, a very satisfying change after being in school for so long. I’ve had the opportunity to learn technologies that I care about and would use in my spare time here, which is a huge plus for me. I thought a programming job was going to be what school made it out to be - a lot of grinding and very strict. Some of my friends are in positions that are like this, but I’d like to think that that isn’t the norm. I’m fortunately in a position where I feel free to develop without someone watching my every move, which I think leads to better results and satisfaction in the long run.
Below is a selection of Computing Science Courses Produced by Onlea. Send them to a woman you know who’s interested in coding!