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#WomenInTech: Break into the tech industry with our digital skills courses | Case Study

3 mins read time

By Jordon

From hospitality to finance to maternity leave to tech; 31 year old Rachael Lawlor is just one of the hundreds of learners who have completed our government funded digital skills courses in partnership with West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Having no prior experience or knowledge in computer science before starting the “Get hired as a Software Tester” course, Rachael came equipped with determination, passion and dedication, resulting in her securing a job as a Software Engineer soon after finishing the course.

We had a chat with Rachael to learn more about her journey, from culinary arts, to finance to motherhood to Software Engineer. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you want to do the software testing course?

I was kind of stuck in my job. I think for everyone, lockdown made most people rethink what they were doing. I had just come off maternity leave as well so I was looking for something different and I kind of felt like I didn't have the want to stay in finance, I wanted to do something else. So I was thinking of going to Open University to study Computer Science, doing my job and getting a degree and then moving on into something computer related. But then I saw the ‘How to Get Hired as a Software Tester’ course on LinkedIn. So, I was like that could be really good to see if it's something that I'm interested in, if I want to go down the testing route.

“I never thought that it was something that would be within my reach without going to university.”

Did you have any prior knowledge in software testing?

Nothing. I just knew that the world of tech is growing all the time. I like to keep my mind going, especially in work, so I felt like that was the kind of environment where I could actually do that. From basic research and having a look at different areas of tech, it just seemed something that suited my personality more. However, I never thought that it was something that would be within my reach without going to university.

Talk us through your career journey so far.

I originally wanted to be a chef, so I did culinary arts at university. I was halfway through and thought, “I don’t think I want to do this, but I’ve already done two years so I might as well continue”. After university, I stayed in hospitality for two years in different roles but it just wasn't what I wanted to do. I wanted something that was steady, stable and not a zero hours contract.

So I started working in a bank and doing financial care working with people in debt and I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed working out how to help people.

I moved on to Accounts Payable with an airline and it was fine, but there was no real progression and I wanted to be able to grow within a role. So hospitality to finance and now to tech!

What was your experience of the course and would you recommend it?

Yeah, I really did enjoy it and I definitely would recommend it. I worried after the first maybe one or two sessions that I was a bit in over my head, because I had no idea what any of this was. I felt like there were a couple of people who, of course, might've known a little bit more than I did. But, I put in the work to do the homework every night. I really wanted to get good at it and I wanted to know what was going on. I feel like as time went on I got it and it just clicked. And I was like, “All right, okay, I get it now”.

How did you juggle work, the course and looking after your son?

He’d just turned one at the time. That was difficult, time management wise but it worked out really well because the course was Monday after work and I worked from home anyway. Sometimes he was awake, but the people who ran the course were always fine with it. I had the option to watch a replay if I missed a session; I did this twice.

Did you think the course was good value?

Yeah, it was free! But I would have paid for it. I thought the quality of it was really good. Everyone knew what they were talking about. I think if you were paying for it, it would definitely be good value.

Did the course improve your employment prospects?

Oh, 100%. I went on LinkedIn and I got a couple of interviews. I had the two interviews and I got offered them both on the same day.

Tell us about your new role.

I accepted a job at Sky Bet, as a Software Engineer and they are also paying for me to do my Masters in Digital Technology With Sheffield Hallam. It's a full salaried job and it's such an unbelievable opportunity. I was in disbelief when I got offered it because I'd seen the competition there - it was tough.

“I was in disbelief when I got offered it.”

Did you do any other learning before your interviews?

No, I had no experience in tech. They were really impressed with taking the initiative to do The Coders Guild course. I think that 100% helped, and I never would have applied for them if I hadn't done The Coders Guild course; I wouldn't have had the confidence or knowledge or feel like I was smart enough to do it.

“I never would have applied for them if I hadn't done The Coders Guild course.”

What are your hopes for the future?

In the next five years I want to know nearly everything. So in two years I’ll have completed my Masters and my wage will nearly triple. My plan is to just get better and constantly learn. I think I'd still like to look into testing, so I do still want to get like my ISTQB as well. I just want to know all the ins and outs if it's possible. So that's what I want to do, and then, who knows…

What would you say to someone looking to take up one of our digital skills courses?

Go for it! If you're someone like me, you might think that you don't have the skills to do it, but you don’t need to have any prior knowledge. It's never a bad idea to learn something new and it might make you passionate about something you probably wouldn't have ever known you're good at.

“It might make you passionate about something you probably wouldn't have ever known you're good at.”

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