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Jess Gilbert: from teaching to Associate Software Engineer

Social media handle(s): @teacher2coder (Instagram)


A few words about me:

Photo of Jess

I'm an Associate Software Engineer at Sky Betting & Gaming and career changer from teaching to tech.


Outside of work you'll probably find me working on a DIY or up-cycling project, reading a book or binge-watching the latest crime drama.


Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?


Prior to learning to code, I worked as a Primary Teacher for 5 years. I completed an Undergraduate and Masters degree in Education, so had no previous tech experience.


Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?


Non-STEM related. Both degrees in Education, no science or maths taken at school level qualifications. All professional experience has been working in classrooms and prior to that customer service roles.


Where did your professional journey start?


After 5 years studying Education, 5 years after graduating and I was completely burnt out by the career I'd dedicated all this time to. I worked at various school throughout my teaching career and found that the workload, lack of resources and support created an environment that was detrimental to my mental and physical health.


How did you get into tech and what motivated you?


Teaching was making me miserable and my physical and mental health was deteriorating, so I knew I had to make a change to get out. I saw an advert for Code First Girls on Instagram about learning to code for free.


Tech was never a career I had considered before as I didn't think I had any of the necessary skills. I started with one of their Kickstarter courses before going on to complete their 'CFGDegree' which is a 16 week bootcamp.


As someone totally new to tech, this was a STEEP learning curve. It was tough going at the time, but I was motivated by the chance to get out of a job I wasn't enjoying and in to an industry where I had the opportunity to grow and develop.


CFG has partnerships with companies who are committed to diversifying their workforce and getting more women into tech. They sponsor places on their degree and offer jobs upon completion. I was offered a place with Sky Betting & Gaming to join them as an Associate Software Engineer once I finished the degree and have been in this role now since January 2023!


Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?


It can be disheartening when there is a lack of women in more senior and leadership positions in tech, as the lack of visibility can mean you find it more difficult to see yourself in these roles. However, it has been positive to see the steps that the industry are taking to address this and companies (like my own) committing to taking on more women and nurturing their talent, allowing them to progress into more senior roles.


Photo of Jess sitting at a desk with computer screen in the background.

"... my advice would be don't discount your previous experience as irrelevant - there are plenty of opportunities to utilise these skills in tech!"



What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...


Prior to applying to CFG, I had applied for a lot of 'less technical' roles in various industries. I had hoped a lot of my skills from teaching would be transferable, but I felt like these were never recognised and I was viewed as 'just a teacher'.


Since starting work in tech with a company that took a chance on me before I even knew how to code, I have realised how valuable and transferable the skills I gained working as a teacher are. Being able to communicate, ask the right questions, think critically, plan and manage your time effectively and team work are key to success in tech. So my advice would be don't discount your previous experience as irrelevant - there are plenty of opportunities to utilise these skills in tech!


What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?


The response to the BBC article that I was featured in about women leaving their jobs and learning to code. The amount of messages from people (lots of them teachers in the same position) who said they'd seen the article and been inspired was incredible!


So many have since reached out to say they have completed a course with code First Girls and are now starting new roles in tech - I never imagined it could have had this impact and it made me so happy to see that I was able to help others who were feeling trapped by their job.


What do you like / not like about working in tech?


I love working in tech because there is always something new to learn every day. It is really rewarding to look back and see your own progress (no matter how small), as it is a lot more evident than in other roles I've worked in.


I also LOVE the freedom and flexibility it gives me to enjoy my life and spend time doing the things I'm passionate about. With teaching, I was always restricted with the holidays I could take and the hours I worked. Whenever I did have free time I was too exhausted to do anything. Now I have time to prioritise my wellbeing and spend time doing things I enjoy outside of work.


As I am on a remote contract, it can be lonely at times working from home. However, generally the positives far outweigh any negatives - so I really can't complain!


"Don't let your background or education put you off a career in tech. There are so many routes in to tech now that don't require a relevant degree or experience. You have valuable and transferable skills that you can bring to the table - have confidence in your abilities!"

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?


My most memorable moment working in tech so far was getting to travel to Lisbon to attend the Web Summit conference with some of the girls I work with. I had no idea of how big it would be and the scale of it blew my mind! Getting a learning and development budget to spend on trips like this is still a wild concept to me, coming from a role where you have to beg for a set of new pens when they run out - you can imagine how different this feels! Not only did we have an amazing time, but it really stuck with me as I felt like this was only just the beginning for me in such an exciting and rapidly advancing industry.


And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?


Enjoy the process of learning - it is ongoing and will be for the rest of your career, so get comfortable with this and embrace it. I found joining communities really helped with this - join a local meet up group, reach out to likeminded people online or attend conferences. Doing all of these things help to keep me on track and to stay inspired and motivated.


Don't compare yourself to others. You are on your own journey and should celebrate any progress you make, no matter how small! Celebrating small wins will keep you motivated when it feels tough.


Don't let your background or education put you off a career in tech. There are so many routes in to tech now that don't require a relevant degree or experience. You have valuable and transferable skills that you can bring to the table - have confidence in your abilities!

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