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Software Engineer

Anna Wijetunga

Before she ventured into tech, Anna Wijetunga spent several years teaching kindergarten and exploring various other posts thereafter. Eventually, Anna joined Teachable as a customer education specialist and was introduced to software engineering. She developed much interest in this new and exciting field and decided to go all in.

She quit her job at Teachable in 2019 and joined Flatiron School for the full-time Software Engineering course. Cut to the present, Anna has found a career that she won’t outgrow, moving through the ranks—from holding a junior developer role to becoming a senior engineering manager. She shares her story here.

Tell us about your background. What were you doing before attending Flatiron School?

I worked for almost a decade as a kindergarten teacher and dean. Then, I bounced into wellness coaching and personal training for a few years. My son was born, and I wanted to stay home with him for a year. When it was time to look for a job again, I found a customer support position at the ed-tech company, Teachable.

What motivated you to explore a new career or upskill in your existing field, and why did you decide to pick this program?

Ever since leaving teaching, I found myself hopping from job to job. I was always looking for a place to stay longer, but I kept hitting ceilings. When I worked at Teachable, I was introduced to software engineers and coding, which opened my eyes to a new and different possibility.

Choosing Flatiron School became the obvious choice because a friend of mine had graduated from there, and the school offered me the location and schedule I needed.

How did you finance your education, and what were some of your biggest considerations when making this choice?

My family and I had so many conversations about what this decision would mean—attending a bootcamp and not making money for about six months. Based on all of Flatiron School’s jobs reports, I knew I could get a job as a software engineer after their program. And that meant, eventually, I could earn back the money I spent on the bootcamp. I’m a saver, so I dipped into my savings and worked my tail off to get that first dev job.

What did you like about the program? Are there any highlights that stood out to you?

I never doubted that what Flatiron School was teaching was what I needed to get a job. The curriculum started with Ruby, ended with Javascript, and I learned three frameworks altogether. I loved that I had a large cohort of people to learn and study with. I was grateful to technical coaches and educational coaches, too. The coaches helped with the emotional and mental load.

How did you fit the program into your schedule?

Flatiron School was my entire schedule. The bootcamp was full-time for me—it definitely took over my life. I worked a full work week, learning, and studying. I often sacrificed late nights and weekends. I kept telling myself, “This is only temporary,” and it truly was.

Can you give us any examples of projects that you worked on during the program?

Every month/module, we had to produce a fully functional app using the language and framework we’d just learned. For example, at the end of our final unit, I had a week to produce an app in JavaScript using React. So I created a to-do tracker called Evergoal. [It was] so stressful to build something in just a week, but I felt like I’d produced the most amazing thing in the world by the end.

Do you have any advice for someone considering this program?

Be ready to commit fully. Bootcamps can be expensive and they are time-consuming and very stressful. You really have to work your tail off to learn at such a fast speed. But if you’re sure, you will not regret what happens next. Your life will change in ways you could never dream of.

Did you find a job after the program?

Yes, I found a new job [as a junior developer].

How did the program support you in finding a job?

At the end of the program, I was paired up with Ben, my career coach. He was my rock and my cheerleader during my job hunt. He met with me weekly, and we’d review my job hunting tactics for the week prior and evaluate the best next steps. I can safely say that Ben was a huge part of me finding my first dev job—he also never let me give up on myself.

Was the job search process different from what you expected?

I didn’t know much about the job search process…But Ben taught me what to expect and how to best prepare. Technical interviews were very new to me and they freaked me out. After a few real interviews and a lot of practice ones, I did eventually feel like I got the hang of it. Although, I never stopped being very nervous.

How many companies did you interview with? How did you choose which one to work with?

I interviewed with three companies in total, but only one of them offered me a job. It was a very easy “yes”. I got the sense during interviewing that they were excellent humans who really cared. And they were willing to take a chance on a junior dev. I also appreciated the really short interview process. After each interview, they got back to me within days.

How are the skills you gained from the course useful in your current career?

I got my first dev job as a frontend developer. My foundation in JavaScript was exactly what I needed to get started. More importantly, thanks to Flatiron School, I knew how to learn quickly, which helped me fly. At my first dev job, I needed to learn how to use Vue, and I also learned how to write tests for the first time—all of which I learned on the job.

What do you think is different about your life now versus before the program?

Three big changes happened post-program, and I’m so grateful. I have the flexibility I always wanted, being able to spend more time with my family. Working remotely helps but working for a human-first company helps even more. Also, I’m in a career I won’t outgrow and I have confidence in myself again.

What do you find fulfilling about your current line of work?

Over the past few years, I went from junior dev to mid-level dev to software engineering manager, which has significantly changed what I find fulfilling. As a developer, I found it fulfilling to complete tickets, build new things, and fix bugs independently. It took so long to get to that point. But now, I feel much more fulfilled when my team finds success, and I love removing blockers to help them get there.

What do you enjoy about working at your current company? Are there any specific perks you enjoy?

The people. Hands-down, I work with the best people in the world. They are human-first. They care about you—the human—before you, the employee. I feel it every day. Yes, we all work hard, and we do get our jobs done, but we also care about the person behind the work.

Do you have any job search advice for someone considering a career in your field?

Talk to people in the field. Talk with me, if you’d like, or talk with people doing what you think you want to do. Ask questions, be interested, and keep your mind open. And probably [the] most important [thing], keep being brave. Don’t ever let fear stop you in your tracks.

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