The International Pursuit of Coding
How Florence Nway braved being an international student to bridge the gap between education and workplace.
When Florence Nway decided to take on a Full-Time Web Development program at RED Academy London, she faced a few more challenges than most of her classmates.
Firstly, she had just moved from Singapore to England two weeks prior, and English was her second language. And secondly, she was leaving a good job to pursue a career she had backed out on years ago.
And that’s what makes Florence’s success story, filled with perseverance and determination, that much more inspiring.
Mind the gap
Florence’s move to London was primarily for love. She had just married her husband, a British citizen, and London was where they decided to take root. But while settling into married life was exciting, Florence wanted to take this big life change and run with it. She was ready to make a career for herself in computer science, the subject she had studied in university years ago.
Back when she earned her computer science degree in her home country of Myanmar, pursuing a career in technology had been very intimidating. It was (and still is) a male-dominated industry, and Florence wasn’t sure she was smart enough to stand out.
Besides that, Florence’s education had given her a lot of theoretical knowledge, but no practical context to back it up. The gap between university classroom and IT department at an actual company felt huge.
So when Florence landed a job as a GM’s personal assistant in Singapore, she happily accepted. “At that time, Singapore was very popular among young people from my country,” she explains. “Everyone wanted to go there to study and work, including me.”
At the age of 20, it was her first time living away from home, and the transition was jarring at first. But it turned out the culture and people in Singapore weren’t too different from back home, and she adapted quickly. “There was even a big Myanmar community, so I didn’t need to worry about food,” she said cheerfully. Speaking broken English was the norm for all mixed-language speakers there, and so she was in good company.
Testing the waters
After years in her job as a PA, she had gotten very good at it. So good that the job became rather easy—and boring. “I was lacking any real challenges,” she says. “I wanted to improve myself, and I was eager to learn more in the profession I studied in university.”
The discovery that she still enjoyed programming made the leap out of her comfort zone that much easier when it came time to leave her longtime job and move to London.
How to bridge the gap
Before she could begin her career in computer science, Florence felt like she needed to get the right training to bridge the university-to-workplace gap.
Many people would balk at the idea of learning a complicated subject such as programming in a language other than their mother tongue. But for Florence, coming across RED Academy London and its small classroom sizes was encouraging. It meant more opportunity for personalized learning.
Beyond that important point, RED met her other criteria, too. It was in a central location. The class syllabus covered all the curriculum she wanted to learn in a short period of time. It provided hands-on experience with real clients. And she was even allowed to pay her tuition in instalments.
Upon enrolling in the Web Developer Professional program, Florence noticed she was the only international student. But rather than being discouraged, she found a great support system around her. “My instructors were very nice and they understood my situation,” she insists. “They spoke slowly while teaching me, and they took care of each student until we had a clear understanding with the lessons.”
In fact, Florence has nothing but good things to say about her experience, despite a language barrier in a subject that makes most people sweat.
“The thing I liked most was that we could have detailed feedback on our projects.”
“Moreover, we were able to have one-on-one meetings with our instructor to get suggestions and discuss our progress.”
At home, when she found her studies particularly frustrating, Florence would ease off a little and find some distraction. “I would take a break and do some household chores, or do some of my hobbies like practicing yoga,” she says. “Whenever I overcome issues, it gives me more confidence and satisfaction.”
The confident job search
With the goal of being workplace-ready after the program, Florence was excited to get the opportunity to work on soft skills she could use in her job search. “We had a PPD (Personal & Professional Development) session every Wednesday, which was really precious time for us,” she says. “This session taught us how to build up our confidence.”
Having a mentor in the job search was another resource she was thankful for. “RED arranged for us to have one-on-one sessions every Wednesday with a career coach,” Florence says. “It was very valuable for me. I got lots of advice for my CV and learned interview techniques.”
Whether it was RED’s career coaching techniques, or Florence’s coding prowess and personable charm that got her a job less than a month after graduating, we’ll never know. But one thing we know is she is far too modest. “I was selected in my first interview and got an offer within a month, thanks to RED ‘s CV preparation session,” she says. “I didn’t apply to many jobs, and only to those relevant to my career.” Though, Florence does accept the part she played in winning her employers over. “I strongly believed in myself, and did the interview very well and confidently.”
Feeling at home
Three months into her job as Junior Front End Developer at Clear Channel UK, Florence is loving the challenges being thrown her way on a regular basis. “I get the chance to learn many things while I am working on a project,” she says positively. “My day to day activity is all about learning coding and getting involved in team projects.”
Florence feels at home in the company, with its multicultural and global outlook, though she still stands out in the gender department. “I am the only female developer among more than 20 male developers in the company,” Florence notes.
But her worthiness of such a role is no longer a question in her mind. She carries a lot of responsibility on her shoulders every day at one of the UK’s leading out-of-home media owners. “I work closely with back end developers to build the applications and softwares,” she says. Though she had it in her all along, she finally found a way to bridge the gap between education and workplace.
“Thanks to my intensive training at RED, I can now apply my knowledge and skills that I learned into my career.”