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Who Codes? Samantha, She Codes!

You asked for more content about career changing, and we hear you! Changing careers and industries can be exciting, fruitful, and one of the most impactful things you can do for yourself and your earning potential – but it can also be scary. Listening to stories of other women who pivoted careers can provide the inspiration, the knowledge, and the connections to apply in our own situations. We sat down with Samantha Knopper, an Associate Software Developer at Cash Converters to hear her experiences, and what we can learn from them.

So, Samantha – how did you get started in the tech industry?

“I had been teaching for over a decade and was becoming quite burnt out. COVID hit and as teaching was one of the least flexible industries during that time I was looking for different career options to pivot into. I saw an advertisement for a bootcamp for web development through UWA, and as I had always been the go to IT person at all the schools I worked at, I thought maybe web development could be a good industry to try to enter, especially as it is quite flexible with remote working. While I was working full time I did the course at night, which was a bit hectic as there was 20 hours of homework a week. I finished the course mid year and was going to wait until the end of the school year to start applying for jobs, however, I got an opportunity to do an interview at Cash Converters, so I thought ‘why not give it a shot’. I was a bit intimidated initially as the interview is more of an audition and having to prove your skills and abilities on a whiteboard in front of the senior developers and engineers. It went really well and they offered me a job within a few days. They were super flexible with me and let me finish out the term with my students and enjoy my school holidays before starting my new role at Cashies.” 

Tell us about the role you do now – what does a day in the life look like?

I am currently an Associate Software Developer and my day to day is usually have an early morning stand up meeting that is really brief, just outlining my tasks / goals for the day and if I need to ask for help or I am able to help someone with their issues. Then, work on improving features in our software, usually means collaborating with the other devs on the most efficient way to make the improvements.  We have a work board so I can just grab different work tickets as I finish other tasks. I also peer review other team members’ work, and work with our testers to make sure the new features are working as expected.”

Have there been barriers or challenges for you? If so, what were they?

“The biggest struggle initially was the languages that I am working in. In my web development course I learnt JavaScript, HTML and CSS. As I am working at Cash Converters as a software developer I am usually working in c# for our software and a bit of Typescript / JavaScript if I am on our websites. I did a lot of the c# free courses during my first few months here but once I understood the basics of the language I was able to adapt my learning from my course to apply to the new languages I need to work with.”

What do you like about the tech sector?

I really enjoy the flexibility in the industry / Cashies. I have been allowed to work from New Zealand for a week while I was visiting my friend, as well as just in general being able to work from home a few days a week. Coming from a teaching background where there was really no flexibility, I’ve enjoyed being able to pick the time that I want to have my holidays and breaks. I find that I am not “needing” a holiday as I used to when I was teaching. My day to day job isn’t stressful. I am encouraged to work at a sustainable pace and produce good quality work, rather than rush and create bugs that will later cause issues.  Also, not being afraid to not know things. I have never felt embarrassed or like I am annoying people when I need to ask questions or to clarify things. As the industry is continuously evolving everyone is in a constant state of learning new things. Everyone is really supportive and happy to assist me in improving my understanding”

Do you have a particular career highlight?

It’s a bit silly, but during the Latency Conference last year there was a competition with AWS DeepRacer to train a model through machine learning and then see who could set the fastest lap time on the track at the event. I had never done any machine learning before, but i gave it a go. It took a few hours for the machine learning to complete and I put my model in the car and was controlling just the power output as it went around the course, through an iPad. I set the fastest time on the first day, however, it is a 2 day event so I had to survive the next day where more people could compete. Overnight I improved my model and came back on the 2nd day to see what would happen. Near the end of the day someone beat my time and luckily within the last hour or so of the competition I was able to try my improved model. I took the top spot back, beating my previous time by about 2 seconds and I was able to hold first position for the rest of the day.  I was super stoked, as a person who had been in the industry less than a year, to be able to hold my own against developers with way more experience and training. 

On a more serious highlight, I was put on a small work ticket to make a minor change at the beginning of my time at Cashies, it just happened to snow ball in to quite a massive project involving 3 of our systems and I’ve been leading the project, from the development end, needing to share my thoughts about best steps forward etc at the stakeholder meetings. For an associate developer I was quite proud to be able to be in the meetings and share my thoughts and opinions confidently.

Definitely not silly Samantha – that is so impressive! Latency Conf is coming up again on March 15th, hopefully we will see you there. To finish up – what is your advice for women new to the tech industry?

Although the initial change can be quite daunting, I think its key to remember that everyone is always learning new skills and languages constantly in the industry. Everyone that I’ve been working with is happy to help explain and guide, as they too are still learning new things. I find software development is really just solving small problems constantly. I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to find solutions to problems, so with a bit of stubbornness and stamina anyone is capable of being successful in this industry.

A lifelong learner mindset can go such a long way in surviving and thriving in a technical role. Thank you so much for your time and words today Samantha, we hope that it inspires other women out there who are curious about a career change but are still on the fence.

If you are interested in finding out about careers at Cash Converters, visit them at Cash Converters have been partnering with us for 3 programs now – we love to have them onboard, sharing stories of women in their organisation, and building up a future talent pipeline. If you’re looking to increase the technical talent in Australia, just like Cash Converters, download our partnership package here, and explore our available options.

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