The mere mention of software development conjures up images of men tapping away at their keyboards, with a seemingly foreign language on their screens. Enspiral Dev Academy are working tirelessly at changing this seriously outdated perception of the tech industry, by bringing in more under-represented groups to study coding.
Supporting this movement is Skills, New Zealand’s largest Industry Training Organisation, who have teamed up with Dev Academy and are sponsoring eight Women in Tech scholarships.
Lauren Hart, an accountant, was accepted into the scholarship and says that studying software development at university never crossed her mind. “Growing up, I really liked computers and my Dad was always building computers … but I think, at school, you never really think of doing an IT degree, as a girl.”
The 31-year-old has been a chartered accountant for over eight years and spent the last three in London. “The last year, I … haven’t been happy in my job and it made me really think about if I had chosen the right career. I think I just lost the passion for it and it just became a chore,” she says. Upon returning to New Zealand she landed a great job at a large telecommunications company, where she handled their IT portfolio. “The job was good, but I really struggled to understand what the IT industry was, and it sparked an interest. I started researching and doing some online courses and I just found it quite fun.”
With her passion reignited, she broached the subject of a career in coding with her parents. “Dad actually wasn’t 100% sure on me doing it, as he’s done a little bit himself and it was really difficult, he wasn’t sure if I would enjoy it,” she explains. “They were really hesitant because I have spent the last 8 years building up a good career and earning good money and they were worried about me just throwing it all away for something that I don’t know that much about.”
Lauren continued her research and soon ended up on Dev Academy’s website and liked the way they celebrated the lifestyle of a job in software development. It appealed to her creative and problem-solving nature. She knew she was onto something. However, it wasn’t just her parents who weren’t sure. “I was probably 50/50 on whether to do it and I didn’t have enough money,” Lauren says. While the Dev Academy bootcamp is worth every penny, Lauren was looking at facing another year in accounting until she could afford the course.
“I was on Dev Academy’s site regularly and one day I saw the scholarships.” Lauren talks about the day she saw the Women in Tech scholarships, sponsored by Skills; “I got really excited because it was perfect.” Skills resonates with what Dev Academy is trying to achieve, and wanted to support Dev Academy and women looking to enter the tech industry. “The initial outlay is quite large… but I think the scholarships will continue to help encourage women into the tech industry,” Lauren says.
What makes Dev Academy’s nine-week bootcamp unique is its fully immersive approach and practical application. Tech skills are taught through pair-programming and group projects, exposing students to environments that they will be exposed to in the workplace. Dev Academy has a focus on the human aspect of tech, where the students themselves are developed rather than just their tech skills, learning how to be collaborative, empathetic, negotiate with themselves and others, as well as give and receive feedback.
Lauren is currently attending the bootcamp and notices a difference in her experience at Dev Academy to her time at university. “I think with university you are just doing it to tick boxes and then you come out of uni and you have no idea how to work in a real work environment, and most of what you have learnt is not relevant,” she says. “Whereas this course is teaching you how to work with people in a team environment and mimics a real-life experience.”
With each morning at Dev Academy starting with meditation, yoga twice a week, weekly one-on-ones and small but supportive classes, Dev Academy seems to have a recipe for success, with over 86% of students that graduated over four months ago being hired in the tech industry. Rohan Wakefield, CEO of Dev Academy, notes, “It’s been absolutely fantastic that Skills have enabled more women, such as Lauren, to jump into web development through the Women in Tech scholarships. We’re always amazed by the quality of graduates that come from different career paths. If you want to change your life, Dev Academy is a fast, effective way to do it.”
Lauren cannot wait to begin her career in tech, which may be as soon as seven weeks. The final week will see her working on a large group project and presenting it to family and friends. When asked if she was nervous about presenting to her Dad, she laughed and replied, “No, I’m excited to show what we’ve learnt in such a small amount of time. He has done a bit of coding before, but I think at the end of the nine weeks, I will probably know a lot more than he does.”
While there is still a lot of work to do to better represent the New Zealand demographic in the tech industry, Dev Academy and Skills are taking a huge step in the right direction with the Women in Tech scholarships. Lauren echoes this, “I think it’s really important to get women in there because they bring a different set of skills to the table and … if you get a group of people with different backgrounds coming together, you’re going to get different results. We bring a lot that men don’t have.” She adds that a career change to tech is “absolutely possible to do and there is a lot of support out there. I think anyone can do it.”
Visit Dev Academy's website to find out more.