Get with the program(ming)!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Paula Brouwer always wanted to make a difference in her work and even considered becoming a diplomat. But then she learned how to code and today, as a Head of Technology at The Next Closet, she is changing the way users engage with the platform. Le Wagon’s coding bootcamp gave her confidence and fed her curiosity. She told us about her experience in 2016.

What did you do prior to the Le Wagon bootcamp? 

“I studied Environmental Science at Wageningen University and did my master’s thesis on start-ups. After completing my studies, I knew I wanted to work for a start-up or small company—somewhere I could make a change. That’s when I started thinking about my skill set and what I could offer a small team. I wanted a clear skill, and for me it was programming.” 

Why did you want to learn how to code? Why did you choose Le Wagon?

“I enjoy learning from people, so I thought a bootcamp would be the best way for me to learn to program in a short period. Le Wagon offers the full package, so after finishing bootcamp, you know you can kick-start your own projects. Back then, Le Wagon started expanding from Paris to Amsterdam, so it was an exciting time for all involved.”

How did you experience the bootcamp? Did you find it easy/hard?

“Le Wagon focuses on peer-to-peer learning, which I liked. I think Le Wagon did well to establish a way to learn without feeling like you’re in school. We were building puzzles and ‘playing’ every day, and I’m still amazed that we could learn so much in a few weeks, without ever ‘studying’ like I used to do in university. They designed the course to keep us curious and engaged.”

How were your classmates?

“In my class were a former professional boxer, a chef, a 17-year-old high school graduate and many people from very different backgrounds, all with different reasons to learn how to program. You don’t need a lot of technical knowledge beforehand—some people did, others didn’t. 

“Some people came with a clear vision of what they want to do, like companies they want to start at the end of bootcamp. There were also people who wanted to change their career path and learn something new, while others wanted to know more about programming to better understand their technical colleagues. Two people from my class started a company together after bootcamp! Even today, I can still ask my former classmates for help if I get stuck on something at work.”

Do you feel that Le Wagon gave you the tools you needed to do what you do now? Was it easy to find a job after you did the bootcamp? 

“I started working as a developer at The Next Closet after finishing the bootcamp. Because I had a more defined skill set, it was easier for me to find a job. If you’re curious to learn, you can do it all.”

Are you still keeping touch with other Le Wagon alumni?

“Yes, I made friends! The Le Wagon community is so much bigger than the batch you learn with for a few weeks. I also worked as a teaching assistant at Le Wagon, which meant I met even more people.”

Would you recommend Le Wagon’s coding bootcamp to others?

“It was an amazing learning journey! Maybe girls are afraid of programming at first, but then you arrive at Le Wagon and see that your teachers are female and you have female classmates. When you program, it’s not only about the technical stuff but about the user journey and the business requirements. I’ve noticed, as a woman in tech, I naturally combine those requirements in the technical solution.”

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do the bootcamp?

“Just do it! It’s worth the financial investment and you will never feel lost—there is always someone to help you. Programming, to me, is just a way of finding a solution to a problem. It empowers you to provide a clear value to a business and kick-start your professional tech career. The code we build is used on a daily basis by ten thousands of users. By writing one line of code you can make a noticeable change.”

Feeling inspired? Together with our partner Le Wagon, we aim to teach you the essentials of programming in an action-packed 9 weeks — even if you’re a beginner! Read more about the coding bootcamp here.