Friday, 02 February 2018

Ellen is a blogger, UX Tester and Webmaster for an Amsterdam-based startup. She began this first job in tech just eighteen months ago and now travels the world with her daughter working remotely. Briana knew she wanted to work remotely and used a six month-long trip to force herself into it. When her lack of technological skills stopped her, she decided to sign up for coding classes. Here is her story:

Many years ago I decided I wanted to travel the world at some point in my life so, in 2015, I decided it was now or never. Of course, it was going to be difficult. I had no savings and was working as a marketing executive living in New York with my 7 year old daughter. To make it happen, we downsized our apartment, sold most of our belongings and I started working two jobs. By the winter of 2015, I figured out how I was going to put my daughter through the next year of school online and we headed to Europe for six months.

After myself and my daughter’s father ended our relationship, the trip was a chance for the two of us to spent some time together and experience a part of the world that neither of us had ever been to. I also had personal reasons for the trip – I had been obsessed with the idea of seeing the world while working remotely for years. I didn’t want to put a career on hold to travel, but I didn’t know how to make it happen! I figured if I let go of any inhibitions and put myself in a position where I was forced to find remote work it was bound to happen. By deciding that I would live my life like I had a remote job, I managed to sort the job part once I had found one.

Before the trip, I had no technology or remote work experience. Working in marketing meant I had an idea of what users wanted in a website, but that line of work was difficult to work remotely in without digital skills. However, I had many interests and wanted to have a job where I could explore all of those much more freely.

Although, as my savings got smaller and our trip went on, my plan wasn’t working.

We were two months in and I had dedicated a large chunk of time on searching for remote work. I kept having set-backs, and realised part of the problem was that my resume was lacking digital skills. As a result, I took a few online courses as I thought tech skills might help with my unfruitful search for finding remote work. Even though I wasn’t applying for tech-centric positions, I knew I needed to show an understanding of tech.

I signed up to learn HTML and CSS, and loved that online courses were challenging while allowing me to see what I had just created.  By the time I started taking the course, my daughter and I were staying in Stockholm and staying a week or two in each location. I set aside an hour a day to working through the course, taking notes, and doing the tasks. By the time we got to Greece, I had done my first two interviews for my current job, and when we were in Barcelona, I had my final interview and received a job offer!

I now work for an amazing start up based in Amsterdam. I live in Valkenberg, and the rest of my team members are dispersed across Netherlands and the globe. I accepted the job offer six weeks after I completed my course and, with my first pay check, earned the money back for what it cost to do the course. Although I didn’t have a background in computer science or anything similar, combining a marketing background with technology helped me to stand out from other applicants. Seeing as there’s still a shortage of digital skills in marketing, it placed me in a really unique position.

Not only did I earn the money back that I had invested before I had the time to miss it, but learning technology skills has changed the way I feel, my own opinion of myself, and improved my quality of life. I now have a significant understanding of technology – something that I use in both my work and writing – plus I have the confidence to apply for jobs I wouldn’t have even considered before. Learning to code was an amazing experience, too – it was like nothing I have ever learnt before. Overall, I know that putting myself in a financially uncomfortable position and dedicating time to learning about tech helped me achieve a big dream of mine.

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