A year ago, Inga made a drastic career change and started learning to code. The ex-diplomat is now Vinted’s front-end developer. We met with her to talk about the challenges that she encountered in this transformational journey.
How did you become interested in programming and specifically front-end development? Tell us about your career path.
I completed my undergraduate studies in Politics and chose International Relations for my master’s degree. I was then successful in landing a position I dreamed of, so I pursued a career in diplomacy. The decision to take a completely different career path was a tough one and surprised many in my life.
There were a few reasons I made this shift. Firstly, web development seemed to be a more promising career to me. In addition, I needed new challenges - my previous job became quite repetitive and I wanted to do something more meaningful.
On the other hand, it was also scary to take the first steps towards a career change. Maths and technical subjects had never been my cup of tea. However, I still thought I would give it a shot, so I started an online Khan Academy course. I enjoyed it enough to continue taking on more complex projects. This helped me acquire the skills I needed to become a good candidate for an internship in front-end web development.
Once my internship ended, I was offered a full-time position in the same company. At almost the same time the opportunity to join Vinted came up. So far, I’m happy about having chosen the latter.
What do you like most about your work?
I’m impressed by the strong bonds that connect people at Vinted. It is very easy to get to know colleagues from different teams. Not only do I get to hang out with my teammates every month, but I also have a chance to spend time with randomly selected coworkers during our “roulette” team-buildings.
What challenges have you experienced at Vinted so far?
Joining Vinted has been challenging in many ways. First of all, getting to know your team, their working methods and communication styles is always a challenge in any new job. Thankfully, my team is very supportive, so this part of the process has been quite smooth and enjoyable. A second and much bigger challenge was to get familiar with all the technologies that are used in software development processes at Vinted. Three months in I am still learning so many new things. The fact that I always have something to learn is the reason why I like my new profession.
What are the key principles that you follow in life and at work?
I always have to set goals for myself which push me to action. Without them, I don’t feel motivated. For example, a little over a year ago, I set myself the goal to jump onto a completely different career ladder by learning to code and getting a front-end developer job. Currently, my goal is to become an expert in front-end technologies and this helps me study harder.
What is the most valuable/memorable advice you received?
The most memorable advice wasn’t actually advice per se, it was more of a statement. In one of the online courses that I took, our tutor said that developers are not all that smart. All they have to do is follow a set of procedures to become good at what they do. This gives a lot of confidence to new learners who think that software development requires exceptional intelligence. I think that the three most important things when learning to code are patience, curiosity and hard work. Your coding talent will be the result of them.
After hearing this advice, I stopped thinking that I may not be smart enough to be a developer.
What qualities make people become great at what they do?
This relates to my previous answer. I believe in hard work rather than innate talent. Anyone can get good at almost anything if they give enough of an effort - even arts and music, where talent is often considered a prerequisite. This means practicing every day for many months and years. In my opinion, this is how talent is made.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by people who know a great deal about programming and share their knowledge with other aspiring developers. I also want to have that kind of in-depth knowledge in my field of work and this is one of my main drivers.
What would your perfect day look like?
It would be a productive day. At the end of it, I’d love to see that I accomplished what I had aimed for. Sometimes there are blockers that prevent me from doing my best work on a given day: the lack of resources, the fact that I depend on others. I’d like to find more ways to overcome them.
What do you do to stay efficient?
I try to stick to a routine. So, for example, I normally choose what to wear the night before and I have the same meal for breakfast. Reducing the number of decisions I have to take in the morning helps me stay more productive during the rest of the day.
I also always take time to plan: it’s important for me to know what I’m going to do next. At the time when I do something that doesn’t require much attention - like commuting or doing chores - I enjoy reading or listening to podcasts.
I try to keep a work-life balance. This means making sure I have eight hours of sleep, as well as taking the time to relax after work, when I usually do sports or read.
What is your advice for people who are considering a career change?
Do it and do it now. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to change anything. I think people can and should have multiple careers throughout their lives. Learning new things - whatever they might be - is exciting and enriching. As long as you work hard enough, you will succeed.
The podcasts you love listening to
When I started learning to code, I discovered a podcast called “CodeNewbie”, which is aimed at people who are new to the field. I really liked it, because I had the opportunity to listen to the struggles and stories of people who were in a similar position as me. Learning to code is no easy thing and realizing that others find it just as hard helps. Currently, I listen to several podcasts that are related to front-end technologies, namely “Front End Happy Hour” and “Syntax”. I also like “Simple Programmer”, which is more about programming career in general rather than technical know-how. And as for podcasts that have nothing to do with programming, I have recently fallen in love with “The Sceptics’ Guide to the Universe”, which covers the latest news in science. I love the style of the show - it’s very engaging and informative.
Is there any book you could recommend?
Grit by Angela Duckworth