We recently spoke with Laurence Bradford, a self-taught coder and online contributor to publications including Forbes, Mashable, & SitePoint. Passionate about EdTech and using technology to break down barriers in the education system.
In addition to blogging about her experiences, she's helping to build a community for newbie coders.
You came from an economic background, what motivated you to switch into the software industry?
I transitioned into tech after realizing my bleak career options in economic development. This was when I was living in Thailand, working at a think tank.
Switching industries was probably the best decision I ever made.
Tech offers more career options, higher compensation, more opportunity for mobility (leadership wise). Working in a think tank was very archaic. The tech industry is fast moving and always changing. It's exciting!
Was there a difficult part about the transition, and what challenges have you faced so since then?
As far as the biggest challenge, nothing out of the ordinary. Probably the most difficult is imposter syndrome. The feeling of not belonging, not fitting in. It's something I still struggle with at times.
As far as current challenges, maybe time management? Wishing more hours were in the day. But who doesn't wish that ;)
What motivated you to start Learn To Code with Me?
I started Learn to Code With Me (LTCWM) to track my own journey. (It evolved a lot since then!)
I started Newbie Coder Warehouse (NCW) because I had people coming for the content on LTCWM...but there was no community aspect. I wanted to take my blog a step further by allowing people who came to it, and were on my email list, to interact.
As the saying goes, “People come for the content, but stay for the community.”
What plans and dreams do you have for your site & online community over the next 5 years?
I’m in a bit of a transitional point right now. I actually started a new full-time job at the EdTech company Teachable - which I am excited about. No, not as a web developer! A question everyone loves to ask. My official title is “Product Educator” - I am essentially a hybrid between technical writing, user experience, and product management, where my main goal is helping instructors understand how to use the platform better.
Stepping back from the blog, community and new role at Teachable - my overall goals in life are to inspire and encourage people (especially women) to transition into technical careers. More generally - empower people to understand and use technology.
So whenever making a decision - whether I should take on a project, a full-time job or contribute to a new online publication - I ask myself, “Is this going to help more people take the leap, and start teaching themselves how to code/acquire digital skills?” or “Will this help more people understand/use web technologies?”
I am excited to see how things will evolve over the next few years.
What you are hearing from recent grads/self starters in the tech industry?
Lots of things, depending who you talk to. Some with CS degrees feel ill prepared for the “real world”. Others, who have attended a coding bootcamp, find themselves in a rude awakening when starting their first tech job.
I don’t really think it matters where/how you learned. What matters is an individual’s grit, or mental toughness. If they’re dedicated, consistent, and persevere - they’ll transition into tech.
Do you see bootcamps and/or online learning replacing traditional college for parts of the population?
Definitely! I think it’s amazing there are so many resources readily available online. More than ever, if there is a will, there is a way. As long as you have an internet connection and computer/laptop, you can certainly learn how to code.
I really don’t think college is that important. I mean, I studied history of all things. Something I clearly don’t use today in my day-to-day. But what college did do for me was allow me to mature and grow into who I am today.
So, I don’t think individuals should forgo college. (Especially if they’re dying to go!) I just don’t think a college degree is a requirement for success - especially in tech.
What are some hot technologies or industry trends/needs that you see happening in the near future?
I am terrible at predicting the future. But I do know that data science is growing and will continue to grow in demand. So is AI, and of course cyber security.
Whenever someone tells me they have an interest in one of those fields, but are wavering, I always tells them to go for it.
What is the best advice you have for people considering entering the technology industry?
Follow Laurence on twitter @learncodewithme