How I Went from Translator to Engineering Apprentice in 7 Months

7 minutes

Learning to code so that you can land a job in tech can feel daunting. That’s why we’re sharing inspiring stories from Codecademy’s community — to show how people like you (yes, you!) can embark on a learning journey and end up with a totally new career. We hope these stories serve as a reminder that there’s no single path to a more fulfilling work life. 

Today’s story is from Lizzie Gardiner, a 29-year-old Engineering Apprentice, living in West Yorkshire, England. Read more stories from Codecademy learners here — and be sure to share your story here. 

Why I chose to learn to code 

“About a year ago, I was reaching a point where I wasn’t really enjoying working as a translator anymore. Being self-employed has its own challenges, no matter the role. But I also wasn’t enjoying the translation industry itself. I had a friend who also did a linguistics degree, and she was now in cybersecurity. She was talking to me about it, and I thought it sounded really interesting. It seemed like there was actually quite a lot of overlap. 

I thought I would give coding a try and see what I thought. That’s when I came across Codecademy. Before signing up for any of the paid memberships, I did some of the free lessons. I thought, ‘I can see myself liking this.’ 

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I did the quiz on Codecademy where it matches you up based on your skills. Since I was saying I had an analytical mind, it pointed me towards back-end development with Python. When I decided to take coding more seriously, I looked into it a bit more and read in many places that HTML and CSS are good starting points. So, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll leave Python for now and move on to that.’ 

I initially signed up for the Full-Stack Engineer career path and got about halfway through. Then I thought, ‘I’ll be done in half the time if I only focus on front-end,’ and I could start looking for jobs on that basis. But I’m still very interested in back-end development, so I’m planning to complete the rest as well.”

How I made time to learn 

“I think I was quite lucky because I was self-employed, which meant I could work coding into my day. However, for the first six months, I was doing translation work as well. I love lists and planning, so I kept track of everything in a spreadsheet. I monitored how much time I was dedicating each day, and I projected my completion date based on that pace. I think it’s helpful to have a goal and know what you’re working towards. 

I tried to code every day, and it helped that I enjoyed it. Even if I was doing it in the evening, it didn’t feel like a chore because I found it fun. That’s a big thing: if you’re forcing yourself through it, that’s probably not a positive sign. I think the ‘little and often’ approach is effective, and building the habit is key.” 

How I saved up money to switch careers 

“I was trying to decide between a paid bootcamp and Codecademy. Bootcamps are really expensive because you have to pay for them and you can’t work at the same time. I was adding up all my savings, wondering if it was even feasible. I had already done a little bit of Python and liked how Codecademy worked, so I thought it seemed like a no-brainer. I could do it in my own time, and it was a much smaller cost. 

At first, I was a bit wary because there wouldn’t be a tutor, and I would be on my own. But with the forums and everything, I ended up being very happy with the decision. Cost-wise, it might not be an easy option for everyone, but compared to bootcamps and other options out there, it’s much more accessible.”

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How long it took me to land a job 

“I realized that a lot of the new-grad schemes are advertised in November with a closing date in December, and they start the following September. I probably missed the boat on some of them because the deadlines had passed. However, I decided to apply to some anyway in November, even if I didn’t feel quite ready yet. Towards the end of December and into January, I started taking it more seriously. I focused on looking for things I was interested in and worked on my CV.”  

I always thought I hated networking, but I realized it doesn’t have to be a scary thing.

Lizzie Gardiner
Engineering Apprentice

How I got in the door 

“I was in a mentoring program for women in tech, which included weekly Zoom meetings. We were matched up with mentors, and there were talks by women in tech on various topics. This program provided a chance to connect with many different people. One of those people shared a job advert on LinkedIn, and that’s how I found it. So, networking is key.” 

Want to learn about tech organizations for women in tech?

Check out this list of organizations helping girls, women, and non-binary folks break into tech.

How I nailed the interview 

“It was quite an informal process, actually. First, it was just a CV and cover letter submission. Then there was the first interview with the hiring manager and one other person. It was very much like a chat, discussing what you’re like as a person and some basic questions about your background, but it wasn’t very intense. 

The second interview was with the head of IT and other department heads. There was a small technical test, but it wasn’t the data structures and algorithms stuff I’d been practicing. It was like a take-home test in that sense, as we could plan it in advance. They seemed more interested in how we thought rather than a specific answer. Everyone who got hired had very different answers. There were also some interview questions as part of that.” 

How I evaluated the offer 

“My main criteria were: Is this somewhere where I’ll still be able to learn? I’m still quite new to this, and I don’t want them to expect me to know everything immediately. I’ve only been learning for a year, and there’s so much to tech.  

The fact that [the platform Pega] was something new was cool because I could try out this low-code system and see what it’s like, which appealed to me straight away. The key one was being able to keep learning and having support, whether that’s a specific mentor or a structured training program. That’s all worked out, so it was quite an easy yes. Also, being a small company feels nicer because you can know everyone, rather than being just one person among a huge crowd.” 

How day one and beyond went 

“There are eight of us who started at the same time, and we’re still in the initial learning phase. Most of us have a coding background, but Pega is a new language or system, so we’re getting our heads around that. The logic element is still there, and the problem-solving aspect remains, even if the actual syntax and way of doing things are different. 

It’s been really good. The job is fully remote, which is convenient — even though when you’re learning something new, there are benefits to being in an office with people. With screenshare and other tools, everyone’s very willing to help and chat. The culture is great.” 

What I wish I knew before I started learning 

“I’d say definitely practice the technical interview prep. It’s great that interview prep is part of the [Codecademy] career path. I did one, but I hadn’t appreciated how different they are from the rest of our work. It’s definitely worth practicing those as much as possible. Even if you have loads of stuff in your portfolio, it doesn’t matter if you can’t pass the tech test, as you won’t get the chance to show anyone your portfolio.  

Other than that, networking is crucial. I always thought I hated networking, but I realized it doesn’t have to be a scary thing. In my head, it was always about going to events in person and trying to sell yourself, which didn’t appeal to me. But a lot of networking I’ve done has just been connecting with people on LinkedIn and chatting with them. I found that many people are willing to offer help, especially women in tech, because there’s still a disparity. If you approach someone who’s been through it, they’re often willing to offer advice. I wouldn’t have gotten this job without networking because it was only because someone shared it.” 

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