…who went from Patisserie Chef to Front-End Developer – and helps her students make big career transformations themselves.
It was really interesting having a chat with Rebeccah Cox about her mentoring experience with her OpenClassrooms Front-End Developer students. Her desire to find the perfect work-life balance by pursuing a more nomadic tech lifestyle in the future was inspiring!
“I had been a Patisserie Chef since I left school, but I was getting frustrated not using my brain and figured out that programming may be the thing for me. None of my family had done it but I have math logic. When I was 21, I applied and went to University, but I didn’t like traditional education at all. It was too slow, didn’t feel too relevant and was not my learning style. I found another school and I took 2 courses (the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree) in game-programming. These were way better because they were all project-based, like OpenClassrooms”.
Varied creative and tech experience
Rebeccah’s experience in programming and game development is wide and varied. She is self-employed and works remotely building games, websites, and art assets (like animated logos and characters) for consumers or other developers.
She has released iOS games, and is currently focusing more on PC games. She “Kickstarted” a game a few years ago called “JellyGod”, which (after a pause) she is back working on and the Alpha version is about 6 months from release.
When she is not building games, Rebeccah enjoys playing them, particularly creative exploration type games, with Return of the Obra Dinn, Subnautica and No Man’s Sky being amongst her favorites. Her creative streak continues with her other hobbies, including knitting, cross-stitch, sewing and painting.
Living the dream
“Finding the ultimate flexibility: I want to move to different cities and work at the same time. I want to have a home, not be super nomadic, but it’s cool that I could still do adventuring, holidays, discover different places, and work at the same time too. It’s all about finding that balance.”
Recently Rebeccah met a fellow developer who had set up his lifestyle to enable him to travel and work. His nomad lifestyle really inspired her. It’s great that the flexibility OpenClassrooms’ students enjoy can also be enjoyed by mentors and working developers, too.
She has a calendar at the end of each week for her students to book the next week, so she would continue to do this and keep it flexible around her travels.
This is an exciting prospect and is a real-life example of a work-life balance like this being facilitated by a tech career. This is something that a lot of students dream of.
Connecting and supporting as a Mentor
“Mentoring is very different from tutoring. I really get to know my students over a year, or more sometimes. We connect in-person and email back and forth during the week too. It’s really cool to find out things as people open up. Find out their struggles. When they manage to get over it and keep going, I feel proud to know that I have helped as well.”
Rebeccah has a lot of experience with mentoring, with both adults in a programming context and she has run coding clubs for children too. She has been an OpenClassrooms mentor for over 2 years and usually has between 12 and 18 students at any one time.
Rebeccah described mentoring experiences that had really resonated with her, particularly a couple of different students who had struggled with fairly severe mental health issues, like depression, anxiety and bipolarism, that they had to learn to battle while pursuing their studies.
She could really empathize as her past included similar experiences that she was able overcome. She explained that now they have both graduated and are doing well. Rebeccah really cares about the achievements and wellbeing of her mentees: “It was really great to see them pull through.”
“I had some full-stack students who keep me updated for their whole pathway. They keep checking in with me – maybe it’s my “kiwi” thing!”
We think it speaks volumes that some students continue to check in with Rebeccah after their formal OpenClassrooms mentoring relationship has ended. Her combination of tech skills, soft skills and being a friendly empathetic person, no doubt is the reason.
Teaching soft skills
Speaking more about these soft skills, Rebeccah explained that this is an area where she finds it is very common for students to need extra help from her. When learning how to code, there are hard skills to acquire, for which you can refer to documentation and look up how people have done something previously and see how that fits into your project, but problem-solving requires a different skillset:
“If you’re thrust into the deep end with nowhere to search how to figure it out, you have to sit back with the code and think about it. You need to break the big project down into small features and then break these features down into tiny tasks. For example, a menu/navbar would be a feature and then each button could be a task requiring you to make the button, put the text in, click it etc… that’s where I see a lot of people having trouble getting really caught up at that stage. They may be going great then they grind to a halt. They have to reset and get into that frame of mind, rather than searching for the answer each time.”
Preparing you to work in real-world scenarios
Rebeccah explained how notably impressive the OpenClassrooms project learning structure is to prepare students for the real world. The work they do on coding problems is really similar to what a developer would work on in reality and is portfolio-ready when complete.
Another soft skill that Rebeccah emphasized for student development, is learning to receive feedback.
“Students can be precious about their code, so getting used to someone else critiquing it is really important.”
She encourages her mentees to use public sites like “Git” and “Git Hub” where they can see feedback and collaboratively work on their code and others. She emphasizes this because,
“It’s something that every developer needs to get over because you have to be cool with ditching your code and starting again sometimes. This can make the work twice as fast rather than trying to fix the broken version.”
Words of Wisdom
We asked Rebeccah if she had any words of wisdom for someone thinking about starting a tech-based career. She had this to share:
“I’d like to emphasize that whether coding suits you is all about your attitude and how your brain works. You don’t need a fancy computer or the best internet. I have a student who is a Facebook Developer Circles Scholarship recipient in Indonesia who is zooming. He had no coding experience whatsoever, and now he is doing some complex stuff. It is amazing to see. He had no confidence but now he is doing fantastically.”
Thank you, Rebeccah. We appreciate your dedication to our students. Thank you for sharing your story with us!