You might think that school leavers have endless possibilities when choosing what they want to study. But for Emma Ashley, and many other women, studying tech seemed out of reach. “I always thought that coding and programming was something that guys did,” she says. “It seemed a bit scary and I never thought that it would be an option for me.”

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Emma, who studied International Business, moved to Auckland to work on a range of community engagement projects. This involved working in a coworking space where she gained amazing exposure to incredible people and ideas. It was here she found her passion for tech. “I needed my spreadsheet to do something specific, but the program wouldn’t allow it … I did some research and created my first loop to make the program work the way I needed it to, it was amazing!”

Excited by that first success, she delved further into the world of tech. “I was learning all these cool things that I hadn’t been exposed to before, that’s how I got interested and I just wanted to pursue it,” Emma explains. “I decided that I wanted to be a developer, so I quit my job.” With her decision made, she spent a lot of time at home trying to teach herself coding and got involved in online communities that supported her goal. “There’s only so much time you can spend in your house, teaching yourself. I was so far behind and I knew it would take me a lot longer to learn about JavaScript.” Considering her options, she explains, “I didn’t want to spend another four years at uni and the people I was working with were saying to do a bootcamp.”

Someone Emma was working with mentioned they had seen scholarships at Enspiral Dev Academy, New Zealand’s only full immersion bootcamp programme, with a focus on the human aspect of software development. Dev Academy is all about diversifying the tech industry, by teaching under-represented groups soft skills and tech knowledge. They develop the person, not just their tech skills, teaching students how to learn so that they can be as agile as the tech industry.

“I already knew about Dev Academy,” Emma says, “but I didn’t plan properly, and I would’ve had to wait another year.” Luckily for Emma, Skills was there to help. Skills is New Zealand’s largest Industry Training Organisation and understands the need to support women interested in tech. Working with Dev Academy, they sponsored eight Women in Tech Scholarships. Emma jumped at the opportunity and was accepted into the programme.

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A few weeks into the bootcamp and Emma is beyond happy and grateful. “I want to thank Skills, this has been really life changing.” She loves the morning meditation sessions and is experiencing first-hand what makes Dev Academy so special. “We’re learning how to pick things up really quickly, it’s such an important skill that I couldn’t have taught myself. You constantly work with teams and have to figure out how to handle that dynamic.” Dev Academy is shaking up the way education is delivered. “University is a really different style of learning, which might be great for some people but it’s not for everyone. I wish I could go back and take more time to think about that whole decision … on what I wanted to do.”

Dev Academy CEO Rohan Wakefield notes, “Enspiral Dev Academy has been designed by the industry for the industry. We appreciate that in today’s world people need to upskill rapidly and can’t take too much time away from earning an income, so we focus on teaching you the core skills that you need to gain employment in tech. People with families and those that have tried different career paths tend to thrive on the programme because they have actively decided that they want to change their lives - Dev Academy gives you the tools to do so.” Rather than spending more years in tertiary education, Emma will complete the bootcamp in just a few weeks and be ready to join the other amazing women already in tech. “I think at the moment the industry is a bit of a boy’s club, but I think they realise that they need to be more inclusive, so I think they are going to be very supportive.”

While the road into tech may be somewhat rocky, Emma encourages women to face tech head-on and follow their dreams. “I thought programming was like the Matrix and only the smartest people in the world were able to do it. But it’s not scary, there are so many facets of tech that you can explore … Take risks and do something different.”

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