How Willemijn made the career switch from Marketing to Web Development and Cybersecurity

Our graduate's story about her journey into the world of IT.

a year ago   •   10 min read

By Hannah Park
Table of contents

Switching careers is a major step in one's personal development. But to switch careers twice takes immense passion and commitment.

That's exactly what our graduate, Willemijn Waterbolk, shows us. From working as an SEO specialist, she first joined our Full-Stack Web Development course to become a Software Tester / Frontend Developer. Shortly after, she joined our Cybersecurity course and has recently started her new role as a SOC Engineer.

We are truly inspired by Willemijn for pursuing her passions and taking the incredible journey to start her career in IT with great enthusiasm. We're thrilled that we were able to support her in this process.

Read our interview with her below to learn more about her journey at Codaisseur:

Could you tell us about your education and professional background?

At Codaisseur, you see people with all different kinds of backgrounds. I studied Psychology, so that was my starting point. When I started my studies, I had no idea what direction I wanted to go. I ended up choosing Social Psychology as my major, which is about influence, motivation, and emotions.

During my studies, I also joined a growth hacking course (Growth Tribe academy), from which I started working in online marketing and the startup scene. I worked at StartupDelta at the time, now called TechLeap. It was an amazing first job because of its networking aspect. We worked together with startups, scale-ups, but also corporates, and hubs around the Netherlands. I got to see a lot of different things, and enjoyed it a lot.

Being surrounded by innovation got me excited to start a business myself. With two other people, I co-founded FlickFeeder, which is a software/hardware solution for compressing raw files. It’s a file compressor for photography that one of my colleagues (the real founder) developed. He already had the FlickFeeder product, so all credits to him for the solution. Our challenge was to make it into a business and scale it.

Unfortunately, things did not work out the way we hoped. It was a startup, so we knew the risk. It was fun to do, though, and I learned a lot. No time wasted at all. But at a certain point, I had to say: this is it for me, I’m going to back out now.

Then life happened, and something terrible happened in my personal life; my mother passed away. I did not have a job to go back to, nor the energy to get back to work again. So it took me quite some time to find my way back into working life.

That went on for quite a while. I tried a couple of freelancing gigs as an online/growth marketeer, and worked for the e-commerce store. That e-commerce store was Ridestore, a remote company that sells ski, snowboard, and outdoor gear. It was a safe haven, and made me enjoy work again. It also allowed me to go to Canada for a winter, and work remotely and snowboard a lot.

But I knew I needed a new challenge. My life’s perspective changed, and I did not feel right anymore to work in marketing anymore. I wanted to dive deeper into technology. It was a bottleneck in our startup. I did not know how to help on the tech side. I could make a WordPress website, but that was about it.

It was during the pandemic that I thought “this is the moment”. My trip to Canada ended earlier than expected, and I was at home a lot. I thought, why not make the best of it and educate myself. First, I started the Full-Stack Web Development Academy, and worked as a software developer for a bit.

When Codaisseur launched their first Cybersecurity course, I knew I wanted to join. I did not have the ambition to switch jobs at that time, I just wanted to learn more about computers, networks, and security because I thought that would be beneficial as a software developer.

If I had to go to the office 40 hours a week, I do not think I would have managed to do the Cybersecurity course, even though it was part-time outside of office hours. So it was the whole situation that made it work. I took the opportunity, and here we are.

It sounds like a crazy journey, which is kind of true, as it went from one thing to the other. To me, the choices made sense at the time. But I would have never thought that it would lead to my new job: working as a SOC engineer.

What was your motivation to learn how to code?

There are two reasons: One is related to the startup. As I mentioned earlier, one of our bottlenecks was that there was only one developer. At a certain point, it frustrated me because I wanted to help, but did not know anything about the systems or the programming language. It was all "abracadabra" to me. The itch to learn more about developing never left.

The other reason is maybe a bit far fetched. Before the lockdown started, as I mentioned before, I spent the winter in Canada. Unfortunately, I had to come back because of the pandemic, which was earlier than planned.

My brother was reading a book by Huib Modderkolk called "Het is oorlog maar niemand die het ziet". It’s a Dutch book about Cybersecurity. If you translate the title, it’s called The War that We Don’t See (The Invisible War). It got my interest so he gave it to me thinking I would enjoy it. I was completely hooked. I thought wow, this is a whole new world. So if hackers can get into your router and enter your network... how does that work and what does that mean?

I had no idea how you could become a cybersecurity specialist. My first thought was, I need to know how to code to get the technical knowledge. So I applied for the Full-Stack Web Development bootcamp. When I was doing the Full-Stack Web Development bootcamp, I didn’t think about my first interest in cybersecurity too much anymore. I was writing my own code, building apps, and I was learning a lot. I was definitely growing into development. Then I thought, let's see if I can get a job as a developer, that’s sounds exciting.

When I saw the ad of the Cybersecurity course, it was the first time that I had to think back about the book of Huib Modderkolk. It was ironic, because that was one of the reasons I started the Full-Stack Web Development Academy at Codaisseur in the first place.

How did you find out about Codaisseur?

I had seen Codaisseur a couple of times before. When I was comparing bootcamps that are in Amsterdam, I had no idea about which programming language I wanted to learn. While I was working with StartupDelta (now Techleap), Codaisseur kept popping up.

I visited the campus during one of those weeks in Amsterdam where they promote the tech scene. I went by and had a good chat with the team. They said I should join and I said yeah! Later I went back and just didn’t think about it anymore. When I was seriously searching for a coding bootcamp, I thought of Codaisseur again. That was the one that felt the most familiar.

Also, I liked the incentive of paying the admission fee and proving yourself. You pay it back with the job you get. That was something that I liked.

What was your experience at the Academy like?

It was really cool because during the Academy, the progression went so fast. During the first week, it was a surprise. After some time I managed to do the assignments, learn how to make an app on my own, and create own projects.

Then it started to click, and I started to think more about real world solutions. I found out something about Javascript and SEO. There was a bit of a clash between the two with the indexing of Google. I asked the teachers, what can we do about this? Is there a framework or is there anything that we can do? I know what the value of SEO is, but what if I make an app and then there is no value of SEO because we’re using Javascript? That got the conversation going and those two worlds combined at the time.

A teacher told me about the framework, Next.JS, and that it was different from React / Redux but familiar at the same time. So I did my project with NextJS. I already went from trying to think about a real world application and the complexity of it. I got really excited because I knew it would have something of value afterwards. That was also a topic I talked about in job interviews. Why I was choosing Next.JS over the React framework.

Overall, it was the whole experience of the academy that I enjoyed a lot. I guess a lot of people at the Academy have this that you first struggle a lot and all of a sudden it kind of clicks and it opens up a whole new world.

What challenges did you experience during the Academy?

It was a challenge that the classes were taught remotely at the time of the pandemic. Because once you’re stuck, you feel stuck on your own. It takes a bit of time to also get to know your classmates and ask for their help. So we were relying on the teacher a lot, and they were trying to help us as much as possible. I remember that one evening the teacher was going on until 10 pm because he really wanted to help the group out. That is dedication.

The remote format was not only a struggle in the Academy, I also experienced the struggle of working remotely in my job as a developer. It is way easier if you have seniors around you in a physical space, because if you have to approach someone via video with very little problem you have, that feels intrusive.

On the other hand, we had a lot of time to rewind the lecture recordings because it was online and recorded. You could also easily share screens. There were a lot of benefits with it, of course. The struggle and benefits of being alone while working remote is just there for everyone.

What was the job search process like for you?

It was quite overwhelming. I was lucky to get a couple of first interviews, and experience what the job application process was like. At one point, I was talking to somebody that I knew via my previous job, who is a partner in the software company Nalta. He said, well I have a software company so do you want to work at my company?

That started off as a joke. Then he said no seriously, let’s keep the conversation going. Even though I was (and still am) a very junior developer, they had trust in me that I could do it. I’m still very grateful for that. I worked there as a software tester and front-end developer, which was great. I got to see the day-to-day tasks of a software tester as well as front-end developer.

How has your experience at Codaisseur prepared you for your job as a developer?

The Academy taught me a new way of thinking to be able to solve all kinds of problems. Most of the time, when you don’t know how to fix a bug, you have to look for similar situations, and adapt it to the situation you're facing at the moment.

Not only problem solving, my experience at Codaisseur also thought me how to combine the things I learned or worked with in the past with coding, and other forms of technology. For example, integrating SEO knowledge into a Javascript application by using the Next.js framework. Or with software testing, knowing which tasks can be automated, leaving time open for testing as a ‘real’ user. My psychology background was very useful for that.

A real user doesn’t necessarily go in a linear way through an application, but explores the application in many different ways. Automating that process is a bit more difficult. By combining user testing, or exploratory testing as we called it, with automation you can catch more bugs and make sure your software is of high quality.

After completing the Full-Stack Web Development Academy, what was your motivation to join the Cybersecurity course?

I started my software development role in November, and Codaisseur was advertising the Cybersecurity course already at that time. I saw it passing by a couple of times, also in Slack. I asked myself, what if the Cybersecurity course was there and the Full-Stack Web Development Academy? If I had to choose between the two of them, which one would I have chosen? I couldn’t really answer that question.

Even though I already did the Full-Stack Web Development Academy, my curiosity about the Cybersecurity course stayed. The content, labs, and the fact that it was a part time course, got me enthusiastic about it. We were still in pandemic times, and it looked like it was not going to pass for a while, so I thought, why not. Learning more technical skills will help me become a better developer anyways.

How was your experience in the Cybersecurity course? What did you enjoy most?

What I liked the most was Capture the Flag (CTF) exercise that we did. In CTF, there are two teams. We had to defend our own machine and attack the other teams machine. It’s challenging, frustrating, and fun at the same time.

What I also liked was that we used all kind of tools, such as Wireshark, and practice them in labs. To do that, we had to spin up virtual machines. Having the machines running in the cloud makes it super easy to try out a lot of stuff, like a different operating system such as Kali Linux. Seeing and working with different security tools makes it easier to learn about Cybersecurity in general.

Could you tell me about your experience in the job search process for Cybersecurity roles?

There was another classmate who was already working at InSpark as a Cloud Security Engineer. We got to talk and he said there were junior positions coming up. I had to think about that because I was just starting to get the hang of the Software Testing job I started in November, and I knew there was still a lot to learn there.

Taking things into consideration and weighing the pros and cons, I knew that Cybersecurity was the direction I want to go forward in. Also if I would’ve waited, I wasn’t sure if I would get the same opportunity. I thought, let’s do it. Now I work as a Cloud Security Engineer in the Security Operations Center at InSpark.

How would you review your overall experience at Codaisseur?

Looking back at my time at both courses, I had a great time. Being in such an intensive course has its mix of emotions though. Sometimes it can be frustrating, sometimes easy. But the people I’ve met during the courses, from classmates to the crew at Codaisseur, made it really fun!

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