At OpenClassrooms, we love success stories. Especially when they tell the stories of students that can inspire others in the exact same situation. Today, we’re telling you the story of Veronica, an OpenClassrooms graduate from Germany. Before last year, Veronica had never written a line of code. She was actually a complete beginner when it came to programming and she had everything to learn from scratch. But she managed to finish the OpenClassrooms frontend web developer path in less than a year and got praised by her OpenClassrooms mentor for producing stellar work.
We decided to ask Veronica a few questions about her background, her tips for success and her feedback about OpenClassrooms.
Remember: up until last year, Veronica had NEVER written a line of code. Today, she has just landed a job as a frontend developer in a startup in Germany.
1) Can you introduce yourself in a few words and tell us which path you followed?
My Name is Veronica, I’m from Germany and I studied the Frontend Developer Path at OpenClassrooms.
2) What was your background before starting your studies? Is it possible to learn to code with no previous experience? Any tips?
I didn’t have much experience with writing code before getting my diploma on OpenClassrooms. In fact, up until last year, I had never written a line of code.
After finishing school, I got a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and another degree in Journalism. Initially, I wanted to work as a journalist for science magazines. It was pretty hard to find a job, besides low-payed internships, so I began working a job related to journalism as an online product manager, which involved writing product descriptions. Soon I realized, that this wasn’t the right path for me and began feeling frustrated about the career I had chosen.
Eventually, I decided to become self-employed and began working on a lifestyle blog. For a few years, I wrote articles about fitness, food and personal development, created videos and wrote a smoothie recipe book. I even started working for an American beauty company, creating videos and social media content for them.
I enjoyed writing and filming videos a lot, but the downside was the gap between the work that I put in and the profit I was making. Being self-employed is already quite demanding, on top of that I was working as a waitress to make ends meet.
Furthermore, I could not shake the nagging feeling, that this occupation is not something I could pursue long-term. Even though my reader numbers and views were growing, I realized that ultimately, any success I would be having could be gone just as quickly as it came.
By that time, I was no longer in my twenties and I had to admit to myself that factors like job security and working in a growing industry that has a promising future became more and more important to me.
After I told my husband that I needed to make a career change, he sat down with me and we went through my skills and capabilities.
He said that I am the most analytical person he knows and that I’m great at things like logic and solving problem, and recommended I’d look into programming. I was surprised by his suggestion, as I would have never pictured myself as a programmer, but decided to give it a try.
Within a few days, I enrolled at Harvard’s CS50 introductory course in computer science. During the course of three months, I learned the fundamentals of programming, taught myself C and the basics of HTML, CSS and so on. For my final project, I built a simple iOS app with Swift.
After this experience, I was certain I wanted to become a programmer. I applied for the Computer Science Bachelor’s program at the TUM in Germany and was accepted. But soon I was met with another wave of disillusionment: Studying full time whilst working my waitressing job on the weekends was becoming more difficult than I had imagined. I considered decreasing workload and extending my study years, but that would have also meant increasing my student loan even further. I was frustrated and about to give up.
Eventually, I began questioning myself what areas of computer science I’m most interested in. I thought rather than studying the broad spectrum of computer science, maybe I could find a specific niche that I love and that I’m good at.
Frontend development was just that. It had all the perks of programming I liked: it was logical and creative, abstract and visual at once. It didn’t take me long to find OpenClassrooms and their course program. It seemed like the perfect fit for me as it was self-paced, came with a mentor and was affordable.
Looking at my path, one can easily see, that I never had much experience with coding. I wasn’t taught it in school, so I never developed an interest for it.
This experience has shown me, that as long as you bring the drive and discipline to teach yourself something new, you can overcome any hurdle.
I often get questions about programming nowadays, and I always tell people to give it a try. There are so many free online resources to try it out and see if this is something for you. Just because you have never written a line of code, does not mean you can’t be brilliant at it.
3) Can you describe your mentorship experience? Did it help you improve?
One of the reasons I signed up with OpenClassrooms was the mentorship. From my previous experience studying journalism online, I knew too well, what it is like to lose motivation and to feel isolated.
Having set mentor sessions each week motivated me to work harder so I would have something to show to my mentor the next session.
I always knew whatever problem I would get stuck on, there is someone that will read through every line of code with me and help me find that bug. Even when things got more challenging, he would know instantly where my line of thinking was going wrong and always made sure to supply me with helpful resources after each session. I was even able to contact my mentor outside of our set sessions, which meant I could always keep working on my projects and didn’t have to wait a whole week for my problems to be resolved.
4) What did you enjoy the most about studying at OpenClassrooms?
There are two things that really stand out to me: One is the flexibility. I could study whenever and wherever I wanted, which was ideal since I was working a part-time job.
What I also really enjoyed at OpenClassrooms was the personal tone and one-to-one conversations. I was contacted several times by the student success team, checking in on me, asking how I was doing and if I needed anything. As mentioned before, I also enjoyed the private mentoring sessions and even the project presentations, that are usually done with another mentor.
Every interaction I had always felt very personal, never like I’m just another student on their list.
5) If you had to motivate or inspire someone to study, how would you do this?
I would tell them that in programming it is natural to hit roadblocks. That is actually part of the process.
If you don’t get frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel every once in a while then you are probably not challenging yourself enough.
I always find it amazing how in retrospect previous coding problems seem so small, but at the time they seemed like the most difficult thing in the world. This always puts into perspective for me how fast my knowledge is growing, and that even today’s problem – as difficult as it may seem – will probably become second nature in a few weeks. Plus: That feeling after wrapping my head around a difficult problem and that light bulb finally going off – priceless!
6) Did you find a job after your studies? What’s your professional goal?
I found a job three weeks after finishing my last presentation.
I created an online portfolio and a profile on an online web developer platform and got half a dozen job offers within a couple of weeks.
I decided on the job that seemed to suit me best and allows me to continue to grow and learn.
That’s the thing with web development: You are never done learning as this field is forever changing. This is something that motivates me to continue to learn and expand my skills. Eventually, I want to become proficient in other programming languages like Java and in general become an expert at my job.
Are you inspired by Veronica’s story? Are you up for a challenge of a career change?
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