Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’m French, American and Tibetan. Born in Belgium, but grew up in the US (California, Hawaii and went to university in Boston). Studied Political Science, International Affairs and Art and Design and worked in digital communications for around 6 years before taking a leap and joining Le Wagon’s bootcamp in Brussels 2 years ago (Jan-March 2019).
What or who made you move back to Belgium?
My grandparents live here and I wanted to spend more time with them, and then my boyfriend got a job here – so everything aligned. I’ve been back for 7 years now.
Which are/were the biggest benefits of the Le Wagon bootcamp so far?
Le Wagon is a very intense, short bootcamp where you learn A LOT in a very short period of time. For me the biggest benefit of Le Wagon is the large global alumni network. It’s why I chose this bootcamp above others.
They have an extremely active Slack channel where you can throw out questions, discover resources, find new jobs and make acquaintances. It’s been integral in helping me find each job that I got post-bootcamp and learning.
What is your job and what does a typical workday look like for you?
I work as a full stack developer for a growing Belgian start-up called Smovin. My day typically starts with a quick stand-up meeting with my dev team to discuss what we’ve been working on and if we’re stuck with anything. Then moves on to actual coding.
For any new assignment, I first make sure I fully understand the task and what needs to be built, then break it down into smaller steps.
Now that we’re fully remote, we make sure to have regular calls with other teammates to stay in touch and problem-solve whenever we’re having a blocking issue with our code. I’m lucky to have such a great team, they’re always ready to help me.
What is the most exciting thing you have learned last week?
We recently switched up how our work cycle is, so we’re no longer working in sprints but via Shape Up – a longer 6-week sprint (yeah, it’s Basecamp…we started using it right before their whole recent meltdown/debacle/downturn). Anyways, last week was a preparation week, where we carefully review all the product feature requests for the upcoming cycle and start outlining how we’ll attack each of them with detailed task lists.
So I guess last week, you could say that I learned how to better break down bigger feature requests into smaller, more digestible pieces 🙂
How about when you’re not working? Any hobbies or interests you’d like to tell us about?
Since the pandemic, I’ve gotten really into cycling and joined a women’s cycling club. Every weekend (and even during the week) you’ll find me somewhere in Belgium riding my road bike or gravel bike, exploring new places. Otherwise, I also play tennis, like to hike and go on walks with my dog and partner.
What or who got you initially interested in coding and / or pursuing a career in tech?
After working in digital communications for a while, I had the opportunity to help manage several web development projects from the client side, as well as use many different online tools and software. Being on the client-side/user-side, made me realise that I didn’t just want to use these tools and platforms, but I also wanted to be capable of building and improving them myself.
The first idea of the Le Wagon bootcamp came after working in a company where several developers had gone through it. But I didn’t have the courage to change careers right away, so I sat on the idea for a few years. Then in January 2019, everything aligned and I thought it was now or never, so I jumped. It’s the hardest and best decision I’ve made in recent years.
If you look back on when you first started out. What advice would you give yourself?
I would say to be patient and kind to myself. That it’s ok not to understand everything right away, and that even the best developers still struggle to find solutions.
I would also start documenting my successes and achievements earlier and more frequently, so that when I feel a big bout of imposter syndrome coming on, I can remind myself of my accomplishments and how far I’ve come. I currently have a ‘Yay’ folder on my desktop where I save screenshots or notes of any positive moments or nice feedback about my work. It’s a nice little boost when you have those down/negative moments.
Are there any particular women in tech who have inspired you?
Irma Kaninda and Eva Karlsdóttir. We all went through similar experiences with changing careers to coding later in life and I’m very much inspired by their drive and motivation.
We’ve formed a small coding book club and each week we’re reading a new chapter in a chosen book, as well as chatting about our week and offering support to each other.
I think this is particularly important as a lot of the time, the world focuses on getting women into tech, but not so much on retention or how to keep women in tech. So I think it’s imperative that we find ways to support each other throughout the experience (start, middle and end) and make sure we don’t feel isolated or alone in this historically male-dominated sector.
Is the bookclub open to anyone?
The book club is really informal – just a couple of friends chatting and we’ve honestly been slacking the last few weeks (lots of personal commitments etc). So I’m not sure other people will want to join 😉 but if someone does want in on our irregular and messy calls to talk about work and coding and life in general, of course they’re welcome to reach out. We’d love to support more women if we can. 😊 Just send me a DM on Twitter
Do you think mentorship is important?
Yes, it’s absolutely important. Especially for me, as I have a lot of insecurities about my progress/level etc, having a mentor would help outline steps to improve and grow as a developer. But also help me recognise the leaps I’ve made in switching a career only two years ago.
So I think it can help build confidence, in addition to support learning and growing.
Do you have any favourite resources or projects you like to follow?
What made you join the women.code(be) community?
I was looking for a community of women in tech to support me in my new career in the tech world. To find new friends, people who would understand the new world I am navigating.
You are part of the team at DataBeers Brussels, can you tell a bit more about ?
I co-organise DataBeers Brussels, which brings together two great things: data and beer. In non-COVID times, we’d have several speakers come and give short snappy presentations on how they work with data, while the audience enjoyed some beers. Nowadays, we still have the events but they’ve moved online. We’ve still got the great speakers, it’s just the beer that you get to bring yourself.
What I love about DataBeers is that you get exposed to so many new subjects. Our speakers come from all walks of life and work with data in such different ways, that I’m constantly learning and having my mind blown. If you’re interested in joining the next event, follow us on Twitter or see our website
How could the tech industry be more inclusive for women and minorities?
Taking active steps to teach and hire women and minorities, not be passive. And not think that someone else will do it or that it’s not your problem. It’s everyone’s problem.
Also offering free opportunities for upskilling and knowledge gain – and making sure women and minorities know about these opportunities.
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You can find Marie on twitter.