After moving across the world, switching careers was an ideal choice for our alumna, Rena Suzuki Wagner. Looking for more job flexibility, she wanted to pursue a career in web development. Rena joined our Full-Stack Web Development Academy and received multiple job offers before graduating.
To get to know her story, you can read about her career-switch experience at our Academy below:
Could you tell us about your education and professional background?
Rena: I'm from Japan. I graduated from a University in Japan with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and I did a one year Exchange program in the United States.
Right after I graduated, I started to work at investment banks so I was working in the financial sector. I was working in both the Singapore and Tokyo offices. Then I was a venture capitalist for a while and I was investing in startups in Japan. Also at the time I was founding my nonprofit organization in Japan. I was very interested in women empowerment. Then we moved to Europe. We moved to Amsterdam and I started working at The Next Web as a Senior Content Manager. There I was working with the events team because in Japan I had experience organizing events within the nonprofit organization that I founded.
What was your motivation to become a web developer?
Rena: Due to the pandemic, the events business really changed. TNW was a big presence in physical events and that's what I really liked about it. I enjoyed meeting speakers and talking to them. Since the pandemic happened, we started to do more online events which didn’t give the same vibe that I got from doing the physical event. I started thinking about the future and what I want to do in the next couple of years.
What challenges did you face during the Academy and how did you overcome them?
Rena: At the beginning of the Academy, time management was really difficult. The first day the teacher told us not to code after 6 p.m. but then sometimes I felt like I had to push a little bit too. This was super exhausting because I was using a different part of the brain for coding. I started to have these dreams that were related to coding. The main challenges were time management and mental exhaustion. It was a reminder that I have to refresh and take care of myself more.
What do you enjoy most about coding?
Rena: What I enjoy the most is when I have an error and then being able to fix it. That's an amazing feeling and I really like it because it's instant feedback. Whenever I do something wrong, I get the feedback instantly. If I do something well, I also know it instantly, which is very unique in a job.
For example, in Marketing or Finance you have to wait until the market or the people react to your campaign. That's what I really like about coding but it can also be stressful because I am receiving constant feedback on how I am doing. Since I know that it’s wrong, I have to fix this bug and it can be frustrating but I see it as a good thing overall.
How was the job search process and the career accelerator week for you?
Rena: It was a month before the graduation and then I started to apply on Linkedin. At the same time I was lucky that former colleagues from TNW reached out to me to introduce the people they know. Then I was introduced directly to the founder so that was really amazing and that's how it started.
The Career Accelerator (CA) week definitely helped me a lot. I had written a resume before but the CA has helped me a lot because I learned how to create a developer resume. The first career meeting happened within the first three weeks. The Career Coach at Codaisseur asked us to apply for a fake job. She gave me feedback and then I was able to ask a lot of questions. After this, my resume was close to complete.
I learned what kind of jobs I should apply for. Even if the job listing was asking for three plus years of experience, I should still apply. 4 plus years is more of a stretch. That’s how I can kind of narrow it down to which job I can apply for so the CA was a really good guide. They didn’t tell me what to do but if I had a question, then she supported me all the way which was really amazing. So it helped me a lot.
What were you looking for in a company?
Rena: I didn't know if I wanted to work on the front end or if I wanted to do full-stack. So I didn't mind as long as it was a developer role. I was looking for a smaller company instead of a big company. The other reason I like to code is that I like creating and building something so if it's just fixing bugs that's not really what I want to do.
I wanted to make something, build a website or an app. So I was looking for smaller companies with team members I could work with. There were some job offers I was given where I would be the only developer but that was a bit too much. That's why I didn't choose that offer. Also I wasn't sure if I wanted to work at an agency or a start-up. In the end, I was considering one startup and one agency that I now work for. The Codaisseur crew helped me a lot in understanding what this kind of job entails and which is going to be more beneficial to me career-wise in a couple of years so that was really good.
Could you tell me a little bit about your role now and what you do in your job?
Rena: My role now is a front-end developer at a digital agency. Clients ask us to build things. It can be an app or a website. Then we also have the design part and development part so mainly we do both. First the designers at our company create the kind of design for the website or an app and then we can start building the website or the app. We work on tickets and we use Next.js and Storyblok to build small components. Then we build those and make pages. After that the designer checks it all again. Then we have to make changes based on the designer’s feedback.
How did your experience at Codaisseur prepare you for your job now?
Rena: The Academy helped me a lot, especially for the personal portfolio projects and also the group portfolio project. The group project took one week and we didn't have much help from the teachers. This is similar to how I work now. Of course there is a co-founder who is the head of development but he is not going to help me all the way. He is going to tell you what to do and then I try to figure it out on my own. If I'm really stuck the whole day or I can't see any solutions coming up in one or two days then I will start asking him for help.
If I didn’t experience this at Codaisseur, the teacher letting us code on our own, then I would have wanted somebody to answer my questions but then I had that experience. I had the experience of trying to figure it out on our own when we were building a portfolio so that really helped me a lot.
I became good at fixing bugs because I learned to do console logging (logging out all the things). We were taught this the first day. Instead of asking questions right away, we try to find what the problem is to begin with and then try to Google it. If you still don't get what it is, then you have to ask questions. These are the three steps that I use everyday now at my work.
The last thing is that one of the teachers told us if you have any questions try to write as if you're writing on the Stack Overflow question page. That really helps me a lot because it organizes my brain to find out where the problem is. Then I can try a new solution. Before asking questions to someone, I'm doing this whole process on my own. Of course learning all the material in class allowed me to become a developer but what was really helpful at Codaisseur was learning the concepts behind it and how I should think as a developer. That really helped me a lot.
Could you give a short review of your whole experience at Codaisseur?
Rena: I think it was great, the tuition fee that I paid was worth it to be honest. The first reason is because I got a job right away. I got a couple of offers right before my graduation which was amazing. I didn't expect it to be like this especially during the global pandemic situation so I was really happy.
Overall great but also something that helped me a lot was the alumni network. I tried to connect with somebody on LinkedIn and they're willing to help which was really nice. I could learn what the average junior front end developer salary in an agency should be and the average salary at a startup. It was nice to get to know the benchmark.
All the technical skills that I learned are really helping me a lot and I only used Redux once at my job but still when I go to an online textbook, it helps me a lot. It’s really helping me a lot. So overall I'm very happy and I really appreciate that Karla and Matias were my teachers.