By Deidre Olsen
Deidre Olsen is a Toronto-based digital marketer, developer and journalist who spends her free time learning Jiu Jitsu and how to code.
The current job climate is tough, and especially so for those of us with an arts degree. In 2014, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. At first, I was confident that I wanted to work in the non-profit industry. However, I struggled immensely trying to find employment. Positions were few and far between and the existing ones — while administrative and underpaid — were competitive to score.
I decided it was time to embark on a new career path, one that was in-demand and in an environment that was actionable and creative. Something like tech! Fortunately, my background in political science means I am a trained critical thinker with great analytical and problem-solving skills. These skills are transferable to the other industries but at the time, it was clear to me that I lacked the hands-on, technical skills I would need to get my start.
I started by completing a Certificate in Web Intelligence through correspondence at the University of California, Irvine. The certificate taught me about digital analytics and project management and while it was a valuable experience, it wasn’t enough to jumpstart my career. As a next step, I signed up for a class at the University of Toronto on enterprise data analytics but ended up performing poorly due to my irritation with traditional education.
It was clear that it was time for me to try something new, but I also knew that I needed the structure of a classroom to keep myself engaged. After some preliminary research, I learned about the various offerings in Toronto for people interested in a career in tech. After weighing my options skill-wise, I decided coding was what interested me the most.
I read reviews online and compared schools, inevitably determining that HackerYou seemed like the right fit. I loved the fact that the CEO of HackerYou was a entrepreneurial young woman and that the majority of the staff were women as well. I had just started a full-time job, so chose HackerYou’s Part-Time Web Development courses because they would allow me to work and be a student simultaneously.
I remember the wave of excitement that washed over me as I submitted my application. Within hours, CEO Heather Payne had reached out and scheduled an in-person interview with me. At the interview, I was immediately impressed with the downtown location, gorgeous space and friendly staff. Two weeks later, I was ready to start my first class.
By the end of my first class, I felt at home at HackerYou. The instructors were accessible, friendly, and most importantly, skilled and passionate about their craft. My instructor Wes Bos made learning to code fun and creative. I was able to easily follow along and process the concepts being taught. Whenever I did get stuck, there were plenty of mentors (like TAs or “Teaching Assistants”) available to walk me through a problem.
The learning environment was one where I never felt embarrassed when I didn’t understand something, and where it was always okay to ask questions. I was able to collaborate with my peers and work through problems together. Everyone in the classroom was excited to be there, something that I’d rarely felt in my undergrad. The passion in the room was infectious and the one time I had to miss class, I was very unhappy about it.
HackerYou was always open before and after class, so I always had a place to go if I needed some extra time to work through a problem I was having with my code. The space was always full of people working and helping each other out, and the balance of lab and coworking space made me feel like I was in an environment that encouraged me to experiment and explore.
Move Forward In Your Career
My initial goals in joining HackerYou were to gain the technical skills necessary to build my own website from scratch and jumpstart a career in tech. I have achieved both of these goals since completing the part-time intro and advanced web development program. My first job after finishing the program was a contract Product Owner position at TELUS Digital and now I’m working as a Digital Marketing Analyst at Dentons.
Only two years ago, I was struggling to find an entry level position as an administrative assistant. Since then and with the help of HackerYou, I’ve accelerated my progress in my career path to gain fulfilling employment. Coding is one of the most desired skills to have today and something I use on a daily basis at work. Even knowledge of the basics can be incredibly rewarding.
I know several people that have gone through HackerYou’s full-time bootcamp. I’m envious to say the least, and who knows, you might see me there one day. I have friends that are now working as web developers for agencies and startups after graduation, and some who found jobs before even completing their program. Whether you join HackerYou on a part-time or full-time basis, the opportunities to move forward in your career are unparalleled.
Master The Side Hustle
In addition to my full-time work as a Digital Marketing Analyst, I’m also a freelance journalist and copywriter. It’s my side hustle. I wanted to showcase my writing on my own website that I coded myself from scratch, not one created through a platform like Wix or Squarespace. By the end of the part-time program, I was able to do just that. I designed a sleek, minimalist website that I now use as an example of what I can build for others. My new goal has been to take on clients who want something similar and grow my side hustle further to become a better developer. I’ve started doing this recently and I’m excited to continue honing my coding craft.
So, thank you HackerYou! Thank you for being the type of modern education that people like myself have desperately needed. You’ve managed to change the lives of hundreds including my own. I’m excited for what the future has in store for me and I couldn’t have done it without you.
Feeling inspired by Deidre’s story? Learn more about how HackerYou’s Part-Time Web Development courses can help you reach your career goals.