Lina graduated from Spiced a couple of years ago, and is one of almost 1000 Spicedlings enjoying a fast-growing career in Berlin’s tech scene. Initially, she was skeptical about learning to code as she didn’t think she had a “scientific mind”, but she found the supportive community and practicality of the profession appealed to her – and now she loves life as a developer. We spoke to her about her career journey, and her time at Spiced.
Why did you choose to study at Spiced? What made the course stand out?
At the time when I was choosing a school, there were not so many options available as there are now. But to be honest, I wasn’t too well informed – I just knew I wanted to become a Developer, I knew I was interested in a Full Stack program, I did some googling and found Spiced. I’m very happy I chose this school, though. The program was broad and deep at the same time: we focused on only one programming language but we got the chance to do different things with it: we tried out various Front End frameworks and libraries, worked with databases, built a Back End, etc.
You graduated 2 years ago, what have you been up to since?
I was very lucky to find a job relatively quickly after my graduation and moved from a Trainee to a Junior to a Professional Level Front End Engineer at Babbel.
You’re now working for Babbel. Can you tell us a bit about your role there?
I am a Front End Engineer, working in a cross-functional, cross-platform team. Babbel is a language learning application and my team focuses particularly on “success moments” in the learner’s journey. I work with other Engineers, Product Managers, Designers, QA Engineers and an Engineering Manager in a 2-week periods (called “sprints”) to deliver new features to Babbel users. As a Front End Engineer, I am mostly involved in creating features for the Web application.
Initially, why did you make the move to Berlin and into web development?
I’ve been in Berlin for six years now. My move to Germany wasn’t related to becoming an Engineer. I was born and raised in Lithuania but I always knew I wanted to live abroad. I always dreamed of living in the USA but while studying in New York City, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to leave Europe. I came to Berlin for the love for this city. I had been here before, I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the city and when the time came to chose my new home, Berlin was the obvious answer.
However, Berlin has one problem – the German language 🙂 I spent a long time learning it and mastered it to some extent but I didn’t feel comfortable using it at work all the time. Therefore I started looking for ways to earn my living without the need to speak much. A friend of mine suggested I tried programming. At first, I was very sceptical because I had had no previous experience in anything even remotely related to “sciences” or “math” or “engineering” but as I started learning and experimenting with coding, I realized how much I was actually enjoying it and I haven’t doubted my decision to become an Engineer not even for a day ever since.
What inspires you to keep learning and coding?
Learning to code is like learning a foreign language. At the beginning you feel totally stupid and whatever comes out of your mouth doesn’t work. Then, with time, the more you practice, the more meaningful sentences (or code) you can produce and one day, all of the sudden, you realize that you’re communicating (to a person or to a machine)! The more time I spend communicating to “the machine”, the more motivated I am to learn. It makes me want to elaborate my skills, to speak a more elegant language and to express more complex thoughts (aka, write more complex and clean code).
If you could give one piece of advice to someone starting at a coding bootcamp, what would it be?
Don’t stress. I always give this advice, even if I know that no one will ever listen to it. It’s impossible not to stress when you’re bombarded with so much of new information and there is a pressure of monetizing your new skills in a couple of months. But stress caused the most suffering when I was going through the bootcamp. It’s also impossible to learn and understand all the little details. It’s important to learn the concepts, to understand how things connect and where to look for when one day you need the specific tools. Instead, if possible, switch your point of view to curiosity. Get interested in how things work, try to understand the big picture, like for example, if you’re learning React (my favourite!), strive to understand how the information flows instead of trying to memorize every little syntactical nuance. If you get a bit more relaxed and curious, at some point things will start making more sense. Everything else – the job, the salary, the mastery – will come afterwards.
What was your biggest challenge during the course?
Stress 🙂 I was in a rather unfortunate situation of changing my whole life at the same time when I started the bootcamp and I was between jobs. So I knew that as soon as I finished, I’d have to find a job or I’d have found myself in financial trouble. Obviously, this pressure stressed me a lot. But at the same time, it kept me going. I knew that quitting was not an option and I didn’t even allow myself to wonder if I could do it or not. I think, if I had had a plan B, I might have tripped along the way.
Can you tell about your favourite projects?
I like the product we’re building at Babbel. Of course, when you work in a team, tasks can get repetitive, but in general, being a language nerd, I love the idea of building a tool that helps people learn foreign languages.
Speaking of Spiced, I really enjoyed the Petition Project (working with canvas). I adapted the project to work on mobile and it blew my mind to see that I could physically interact (sign with a finger) with a page that I had built. I also enjoyed building my final project. It was a social network for people looking for language exchange partners. I can see a pattern emerging there 🙂
What do you love about being a developer?
I love the practicality of the craft. I come from a humanities background where all I ever studied was ideas, not hard skills. I gain great satisfaction from sitting down, working, and seeing a feature emerge at the end of the day. I guess it’s what a shoe-maker or a potter felt back in the days, when they looked at the product they had created at the end of a work day.
I also like the fact that it’s quite a sociable profession. I like being able to work with other Engineers, connect little pieces of what we’ve all done and see it come together into a big functioning machine. I also get to learn a lot from my colleagues, professionally and socially.