Award-winning software engineer Faith Ida graduated from the University of Bath in 2019 with an MSc in International Development, Sustainability and Social Justice. She completed a CFGdegree with our partner Code First Girls (CFG) in August 2022 and now works as a confidence coach, ambassador and an assistant instructor for the organisation.
The CFGdegree is completely free and ideal for graduates who have recently completed their main programme of study. University of Bath students/alumnae have priority access to CFG courses using the affiliate code UPBAT.
Why did you decide to do the CFGdegree, given your background isn't in computer science?
I did my MSc at Bath in 2018/19. It was a really wonderful time of my life and I truly enjoyed the course.
At the time there weren't many entry level jobs available in that field, and these were also more limited for international students.
So I had to shift gear and look at other areas. I started working in finance at a company where I did auditing with consulting and that was lovely. But then COVID happened and I knew after COVID that lots of jobs would be at risk and many sectors would face challenges.
So I found myself thinking: what else could I possibly do and what else could I learn? I looked at what other sectors I could grow in.
During lockdown I started watching Python and coding YouTube videos and started attending hackathons. I joined lots of online communities, which is how I first came across Code First Girls. I met other women like me, trying to transition into the tech industry.
I then took a technical implementation consultant role in a company and it was whilst doing that that I knew I wanted to become a software engineer.
I continued learning, teaching myself, engaging with the technologies, languages, and programming and then I came across the CFGdegree. A friend told me that it was possible at the end of the CFGdegree to land a job with a company.
I applied for it, and luckily enough, I got onto the CFGdegree course and from there I was able to get a job with my sponsor.
Even though I changed direction from my Master’s, to this day, I still use what I learned from my studies every day, from my research skills to thinking about how we use technologies as a whole.
Which CFGdegree coding stream did you choose and why?
I chose the software engineer route, which was mostly focused on back-end. This builds your understanding of databases, so things like Python and SQL. It gave me an understanding of the different languages, functions, and how things work. That’s the area that I truly enjoy.
My pathway was that I would do back-end and then transition into blockchain engineering because they're quite similar.
To those who are unsure about which pathway to choose, I’d say try the CFG MOOCs first. They will give you a good introduction to different areas, like Python development, web development, and data, and help you discover what your preference is and what you enjoy.
They’ll give you a good feel for whether you’re a visual person, whether you like the front-end, if you prefer databases and working in the back-end, or if data is your thing.
You can also do some research of your own, online or from others who have done the courses. When you see someone on LinkedIn, don't be afraid to ask questions. People are always happy to help.
How did you find the application process for the CFGdegree?
The process is quite full-on, so be clear that you really want to do it!
The first stage is a problem-solving technical assessment. It was multiple choice, ten questions, and you get to pick the languages that you’re already familiar with.
If you pass the technical assessment, you move on to the next stage, which is a video interview, followed by an interview with the sponsoring company. This is an opportunity for you to tell them who you are, what you've done, and how you could contribute to their company.
After all that you hear whether you will go through to do the CFGdegree.
Through this whole process CFG provides you with a confidence coach. They help you through the interview phase, especially if this is your first role out of university, and give you guidance and support on how to answer certain behavioural or competency questions.
What did the CFGdegree course actually entail?
The CFGdegree I did was 13 weeks. The first half was like a foundation class giving you an overview of programming. You learn about SQL and the basics of Python and how it's used.
Each week you have an assignment that you have to submit. At the end of the foundation part of the course, you have a live assessment. Then from there you move into the pathway that you’ve chosen, for example full-stack, data, or software engineering. This is when your specialisation kicks in.
The classes were from 6.30-8.30pm, four days a week. You have Friday, Saturday, Sunday free to regroup, relax and do your assignments.
There’s a lot of support provided. You're assigned an instructor that you can go to if you have any issues, problems, or questions. You also have a lot of resources available and the CFG Programmes team as well.
The instructors understand that most of us are working full-time and doing the CFGdegree at the same time, so if you can’t submit your assignments or attend the assessment at a certain time, they will find an alternative for you.
What did you like about the course and what did you find challenging?
I really liked the instructors and the way they taught the course.
It was wonderful to get their own understanding of things. Also because most of them are currently working as software engineers, they're able to give you examples of how things work in a real scenario.
What was challenging was having to work and do the CFGdegree at the same time. If you work 9-6, you literally just have 30 minutes to get yourself together and then go into the class.
So you need to make sure that you're well organised and keep a good balance for yourself. If not, it can feel a bit overwhelming. It’s a lot to take on, but it’s worth it.
Apart from coding, what other skills did you develop through the course?
Another key skill that I've developed is problem solving.
A lot of the course requires you to problem solve, to think on your feet and be able to execute things quickly because you're in such a pressured environment. You're thinking about assignments, your course, your project, you're thinking about coding along as the teacher is teaching.
You have to be very alert, very aware of your surroundings, very observant, and be able to multitask.
What’s your take on the importance of coding and digital skills in today's job market?
I think they’re vital. What people don't understand is that with this skill of coding, you could do UX, UI, you could be a project manager or do data analysis. It gives you a platform to just keep on evolving and developing as you go on in your career.
Even now, I'm advancing my skills and my career. I'm currently moving from my role as a software engineer into more of a back-end / product owner related role. If I didn't have these skills, I don't really know where I’d be right now and I don't know if I my career would have advanced this quickly.
And if you're working at a company, you’re able to think critically about a problem and think of a solution to it yourself. You can start building something on your own.
So I think coding skills definitely add an edge. I wish I’d developed these skills earlier! Coding has built my confidence in so many ways.
Finally, what advice would you give to students interested in a career in tech?
It’s like any other job in that you have to know your pathway and what drives you. If you’re not motivated, a role in tech is not going to be as exciting or interesting as everyone makes it seem.
I think you also need to find your niche. What about tech or technology excites you? Are you excited by AI or are you excited by climate tech, green tech, fintech? There are so many areas.
Once you have that drive, it doesn't feel like a job!