Breaking Stereotypes, an Interview with Nicole Carman

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Software engineering has emerged as the career of choice for many in recent years, with increasing numbers of people realising the endless possibilities this field presents. It's not just restricted to the technology sector, as software engineering can lead to an array of industries. 

We had the opportunity to speak to Nicole Carman, a Software Engineer who developed an interest in tech from a young age, and pursued her dream role by enrolling in a boot camp whilst completing her degree. Nicole's story is a testament to the growing trend of women in tech, who are breaking stereotypes and making waves in the industry. Her success is proof that if you have the skill and passion, the opportunities in software engineering are boundless.

Check out what she had to say below.

What sparked your interest in software engineering? 

My background is likely one you’ve heard before... I’m another millennial who was inspired to learn HTML and CSS after spending a lot of time growing up on websites like Myspace, and Neopets. Considering how much of my childhood I spent online, and how much effort I put into my profiles it was inevitable that I’d pursue it as a career. I would customise profiles, or forum signatures through self-learning. 

I have more memories than I care to admit of my mom restricting my time online because of how much time I would spend on my computer… Despite limiting my screen time, my parents supported my love for web design, and gave me Adobe Dreamweaver and Photoshop CS3 as a Christmas present one year, and they paid for my very first domain name. I was only 13 or 14 at the time, but I already started to make websites on my own. They weren't fancy or elaborate, but I loved creating content and sharing it online for others to see. 

My most memorable project was an InuYasha fan site, where I would share character biographies, an image gallery, and even an episode schedule for when it would air on Adult Swim. I can still view a snapshot of it with the Wayback Machine. I love looking at it sometimes, and seeing how far I’ve come as a Developer. 

In the early 2000’s I started to learn HTML, CSS And MySQL. Saying it out loud, it’s crazy to think I have over 20 years experience in web design! As time went on, I became more and more interesting in backend development which is where my focus now is. 

I do still enjoy web design, but now it’s more of a hobby, and not my main focus. 

Before you became a Software Engineer, what was your career? 

In 2022 I was a full-time student, working towards my Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering when someone told me about an opportunity for aspiring Software Engineers to participate in a sponsored boot camp. 

The bootcamp consisted of 20 people, and they were given the opportunity to participate in a 16-week coding boot camp to learn Java or JavaScript. Out of those 20 people, those who graduated from the programme would have a chance to interview with the company that sponsored our tuition. It was an amazing opportunity, and knowing that there was a potential job at the end was a great motivator for me. 
I wasn’t sure whether to enter, given the limited number of spaces on the programme, but I thought ‘what do I have to lose?’ When I found out I was one of the lucky few chosen, I was thrilled and couldn’t quite believe it. I worked incredibly hard to ensure I completed assignments and the capstone projects required to graduate. 

Today I can proudly say that I’m working full-time as a Software Engineer, fully remote. 

What has your experience been as a Software Engineer? 

My experience as a Software Engineer has been nothing short of exciting. 

This is my first full-time role as a Software Engineer, and so I didn’t have any expectations. From the onboarding process to my day-to-day role I was going in blind. I can say that everyone was so welcoming and I’ve had a great experience into the working world! Everyone I spoke to and coordinated with was incredibly helpful, and it helped me to settle in really easily.

I work for a large company, which was initially scary and intimidating. But my team and manager have always encouraged me to ask for help when needed. It’s great having other people to turn to for questions, brainstorming, and troubleshooting. 

Very quickly, I had to get comfortable asking questions because I was used to learning, working, and solving problems independently. If I ever came across a problem I couldn’t solve, I would either research and find the answer, or I would rework it in a way that I could solve. Now, I have a team I can go to for help. 

It was a challenging transition for me to go from working independently, to working in a team. I also struggled and worked hard to positively challenge my mindset; I went from being a Web Developer with years of knowledge and experience to being a fresh Software Engineer. It was a humbling, to say the least, but it resulted in much personal growth. 

I regularly remind myself, I will never know everything I need to know, but neither will anyone else.

What’s the one project you’re most proud of? 

It has to be my final capstone project that I created as a part of the software engineering boot camp. It was one of two capstones I completed, and it was the most difficult project that I had attempted so far.

Despite facing numerous challenges that I thought would prevent me from adding certain features to my project, I managed to persevere and put out a project that I'm proud of. My project was a patient management system for a veterinary clinic. I wouldn't have been able to complete it without the help and support of my mentor and the instructors and friends I met during the boot camp.

Have you faced any barriers since working in tech? 

One barrier that still plagues the tech industry is outdated recruitment practices. I still see a lot of job postings for entry-level positions that have a bachelor’s degree and 3 to 5 years of experience on the list of requirements. 

This prevented me from applying to countless roles, until I kept seeing suggestions to "just apply anyway." Employers need to recognise that people who opt for a certification or boot camp before or instead of a degree programme have different skills and knowledge that’s only a benefit to companies. Diverse experience is only a positive! 

What do you think can be done to prevent these barriers in the future?

Attending a college or university is not always an option for people, assuming they even want to earn a degree. Earning certifications and completing boot camps are two great examples of alternatives to matriculation. Any one of these is sufficient for an entry-level position in tech, which should be made accessible to the very people these positions are meant for: people with little to no experience in the field.

We live in a day and age where information is so easily shared, making learning easier now, more than ever so businesses need to remind themselves that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to hiring, or to the solutions each company should employ.

It's so inspiring to hear stories like Nicole's, and it just goes to show how far you can get with hard work and dedication, even if you're a beginner. We're very grateful that we were able to connect with Nicole and gain insight into the coding world from her perspective. 

If you've been considering starting your own coding journey, don't hesitate to reach out for help. There are plenty of blogs on our page, as well as experts and mentors available who would be more than happy to assist you in finding the best solution for your needs. Don't let fear or inexperience limit your success - take action today!

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