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How this learner is launching her coding career with Google’s Summer of Code

Isabella went from having a non-technical background to landing a spot in Google’s Summer of Code (GSoC) program as a Front-End Engineer. She started learning to code in October 2020, splitting her time between Codecademy and taking classes as an undergraduate marketing major.

Six months later, she joined Google’s summer program, where she does front-end development for an organization focused on wildlife conservation. We sat down to talk with Isabella about her learning journey, her experience so far in the program, and what advice she has for aspiring developers who are just starting out.

Taking the first step

Isabella was a marketing major, but she found it hard to picture herself on that career path after graduation. When lockdown began and her classes went remote, she decided to take the opportunity to find something she was more passionate about. She discovered that something was coding.

While she knew that she wanted to learn coding, Isabella shares that she wasn’t sure what part of coding she would like the most. “I took the Full-Stack Career Path in order to learn both the front end and the back end, because I thought overall that was the best route I could take, just to find out which one I like the most,” she tells us. Once Isabella decided on front-end engineering, she continued learning from “mostly Codecademy, and some YouTube videos.”

At the time, Isabella was attending university in France, while studying remotely from her home in Ecuador. She shares that she would code during the day and attend classes late at night. “A lot of my classes were at 3 a.m. in the morning at nighttime. And then I would start coding in the afternoon. It was kind of intense, but I really enjoyed it,” she tells us.

Joining Google’s Summer of Code program

Once she had mastered the fundamentals, Isabella’s next step was to get real-world experience. To do that, she applied to the Google Summer of Code program, where students collaborate with an open source organization on a 10-week programming project .

The open-source organization that Isabella is working with is OrcaSound, which aids in the conservation and understanding of orcas in their natural habitat. “As a member of their front-end team, I’m going to completely redo the entire front-end of their website. And I’m working with the UX team to put the designs into reality. It’s a lot of open-source collaboration,” she tells us.

“A lot of the skills that I learned — React, CSS, HTML, JavaScript — would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Codecademy.”

We asked Isabella what she’s looking forward to most in the program. “I really do hope that OrcaSound can grow and be more known. Because the more people that know and that use the apps, who listen live for the orcas, then the more that they can help with their conservation and try to protect the animal. OrcaSound is mostly focused on the southern resident killer whale — that’s the official name — and there’s only 72 of that species currently. So there’s not many of them. I’m really hoping that I can make a difference, and the team can make a difference to try to help bring the species to a larger number.”

What’s next? Isabella shares that her next step is working at a startup as a Front-End Engineer. And she’s continuing to brush up on her coding skills. “I am revisiting the Codecademy classes and doing some of the courses again in the Front-End Engineer Career Path. It’s always good to go back and relearn things, so that you can do the best possible work that you can. Later on, I’d like to learn Typescript, or back-end languages like Python, so I can contribute more,” she tells us.

Advice on starting out

When asked what advice she has for aspiring developers who are just starting out, Isabella shares:

“Learning how to code is a very humbling experience from my perspective. It’s a complicated process, and you need to hold yourself accountable. At the same time, you need to be OK that sometimes you might not know the answers to everything. But just keep going. Find someone that can help you, whether it’s a mentor or a friend. Even someone that doesn’t necessarily know how to code, but can check out your projects and just give their perspective as an end user — if it’s a good project or needs some improvements. And yeah, just keep going.”

Have you learned to code and changed your career, or are you considering a career in tech? We’d love to hear your story! Join our Facebook group or head over to the Codecademy Forums and connect with us.

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Lillian Xiao

Lillian Xiao

Lillian writes about tech & engineering. She has a background in user experience design, and loves coding as a way to turn ideas into reality.

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How this learner is launching her coding career with Google’s Summer of Code
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