From Dancer To Developer: How I Forged A Remote Career In Ruby On Rails

No one tells the story of CareerFoundry better than our graduates. I recently caught up with Kasia, a dancer turned web developer, to hear how life has changed since she took the course.

by Emily Stevens on 06 June 2018

One of the first things Kasia tells me is that, before she became a web developer, she ran her own dance studio. Later on, I learn that she completed the course and transformed her career while single-handedly raising her young daughter. These days, she’s flying the flag for women in tech as the only female developer on her team. If Kasia’s story doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will…

What were you doing before CareerFoundry?
My background is mainly in sports. Before I took the course, I was a dancer and had my own dance studio in Berlin.

What made you want to change careers?
I was running my own dance studio, and as it was a very low-budget project, I had to take care of everything — not just dancing and teaching. As part of that, I was running my own website. I was based in Berlin, so it was important for me to reach an international audience. I started to dig deeper into how I could expand and make the website more visible. I got really caught up in it, spending more and more time every day searching for solutions to grow the business and make the website nicer, more accessible and easier for people to book online. Then I somehow came across the CareerFoundry course.

Did you have any experience in web development before you took the course?
Not at all. My brother is a games programmer and my father is an engineer, so in a way I was quite familiar with computer sciences, but I’d never tried anything like that myself.

What was it that appealed to you about programming in particular?
One day I got the sad news that I had to leave the studio that I was renting because of renovations, so basically I was out of a job. I have a small child as well, and being a new mum, it was really hard to find a job in Berlin. At the same time, this was an opportunity to think again about what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to start my own business again; I enjoyed the experience but I wanted a fresh start. I started to think about the CareerFoundry course, and programming seemed like a good direction to take as it can be very flexible and remote — which is really helpful for a single mum! So I decided to give it a try.

How was it juggling parenthood with studying web development?
It was really hard. The last thing you want to do when you have a small child is sit in front of the computer, but it actually turned out to be fun. When I started the course, I enjoyed it alot. I never felt like it was a mistake or a bad decision — I was really into it! I bought a little netbook and used to go to the park with my daughter and learn there. It was really fun.

Flexibility aside, what did you find most useful about the course?
It went right from the basics, from something that most people are familiar with from their school days, to something that was pretty advanced for me at the time. During the course, I felt like every day I was building something. I was building my portfolio, knowing that I would leave the course with something valuable, which was really important to me. I also really valued my time with my mentor. I had a really great mentor who I’m still in touch with today; I appreciated his feedback alot. There’s also a super great community — I still use Slack sometimes, it’s great to see how other people are doing, and it’s a great source of support.

Once you completed the course, what were your next steps?
It wasn’t easy! I went back to Poland and started looking for a job, but unfortunately Ruby on Rails wasn’t so big in Poland, so it was hard to find a junior position. At this point, I decided to follow some online tutorials and make some of my own work based on what I learned on the CareerFoundry course. I basically tried to replicate the course to see if I could make the same applications without looking into the materials. After 8 months, I started looking for a job and going for interviews. I was lucky enough to find a really nice job at a startup here in Warsaw. It’s a software hub and we have a lot of international companies using our services. I’m a junior programmer, the only woman on the team! We work with really diverse products, from the most basic to really advanced and challenging applications. There’s something new almost every day!

How did it feel interviewing for your first job in the industry?
Really scary. I have strong social skills from my previous jobs, but I know I’m not very good at talking about technology and programming. I would often do well in the first part of the interview, but the task element could get really stressful. I felt ready, but the tasks were sometimes pretty advanced. I got used to it after a while, and I was lucky to find a company that has a nice approach to hiring people: giving people a chance who are keen to learn and can think logically, even if they don’t necessarily know how to use a certain technology. That’s how I got my break!

So you’ve been in your job for a year now. How do you feel now compared to when you first started?
Much better! I’m much more independent and self-confident. I’m less reliant on my co-workers and don’t need as much help as I did in the beginning. At the start, I had to ask for help with everything and it stressed me out; I was worried they would think, “Oh, she’s a junior,” or “Oh, she’s a girl” and treat me with some reserve. But actually, the people are great. They’re good developers and they understood everything that I was going through. They’d all done technology or IT at school and have been doing it for life, whereas I still feel very new, but I learned to talk to them and I feel more confident. I’m now leading my own projects at work, and this means alot to me because it shows they trust me. I’m really happy and think it was the best decision.

What are the top 3 aspects of your new career?
The top of the toppest is that it’s remote. For me, that means alot; if my daughter is sick or if it’s the school holidays, I can take her on holiday with me and my computer!

Secondly, it’s challenging. I’m very active and have a short attention span, so I need that to keep me focused. In this job, I can never say I’m getting bored. There’s always something new! I never feel that a day has been wasted.

Finally, it makes me feel really proud that I was able to do it, which makes me more self-confident. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made.

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I can definitely see myself becoming a senior programmer. I enjoy working at my current company but I can definitely see myself travelling more and working remotely from different cities. A big plus in this job is that you can control how much time you spend on it, so maybe I’ll work less in the future. For now I want to stay at this company. I can see it growing; when they employed me, I was the 4th programmer. Right now we have around 15 programmers, and I can see that we have more and more projects coming.

I also want to continue learning. I see an increasing need for a diversity of different languages, so I’m keen to branch out and learn more, like React or something. I want to keep developing new skills!

What would be your advice to anyone considering a career change?
Go for it! It’s absolutely normal to be scared, but it’s good to try: it might be the best decision of your life. I think IT is such a great market right now, it’s such a fast-developing area; there’s always going to be a need for people with these skills. If you put a bit of energy into it, people will be chasing after you to hire you!

Thanks Kasia! Any last words about your journey with CareerFoundry?
I’m really grateful for my mentor and for the fact that people were always really nice. I had a lot of questions, and these were always met with really helpful advice and a friendly response. The Slack community was also really helpful. If I had to do this course completely by myself, I wouldn’t be able to do it. There are moments when it’s really hard, times when I was thinking I’ll never learn that or understand it. It’s good to have the platform to set goals and keep track of your progress, and to have this community to remind you that everyone struggles, but that you can always count on someone to help. That’s really cool.

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by Emily Stevens on 06 June 2018

About the author

Emily Stevens

Originally from England, Emily moved to Berlin after studying French & German at university. When she’s not writing, she can be found travelling, hula-hooping or reading a good book.

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