Rebekah's Transition From Graphic Design to Software Development

A Co.Lab success story. Read more about Rebekah’s (COLAB7) story who landed her first software development role a few months after completing the program.

Azeezat Oyawoye
January 28, 2022

For nearly nine years, Rebekah had worked various roles in graphic design but wanted to try something new and challenging. She had always been fascinated by the healthy work-life balance that most tech companies offered but wasn’t sure if she could pivot into the tech sector due to the intense competition and technical know-how required to enter the industry.

The road to achieving her goal was definitely not easy but with a little help from the Co.Lab team, Rebekah was able to achieve her dream of working in tech! She now works as a software developer for RBC Ventures.

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A friend of hers introduced her to the world of front end development. They suggested it as a natural pathway into tech since she had many transferable skills from her experience in graphic design and desktop publishing. Rebekah decided to pursue this but quickly realised that there were gaps in her current skills and education. Over the course of two years, she took various online courses and built her professional network in the tech industry while working with a mentor to provide guidance on her self-teaching journey. This was all while working a full time job! As she taught herself about web development, she came to realise that she enjoyed coding. In particular, she enjoyed learning about the software development lifecycle which provided many opportunities for planning, organisation and reflection, the latter being something Rebekah placed great emphasis on.

“I really like the software development lifecycle. Every stage is planned out. You figure out all those tasks and you have that organised before anyone even goes to design or code. You also have time after that to reflect on what you liked and didn’t like as well as what you would have changed and that’s really cool”

After gaining sufficient knowledge about front end development to start building some personal projects, she started the job search process to transition into a software development role. However there was one huge obstacle; she was told over and over again that despite her impressive qualifications, she lacked experience.

“I was starting to apply to jobs and they would be like ‘you’re great, you’re awesome but you don’t have experience and this person does’ so I wouldn’t get hired. And I wondered: How could I get past this problem?”

This is where Co.Lab came to the rescue.

Rebekah needed practical experience and the idea of being a part of the Co.Lab program appealed to her. It was the only option that provided her the opportunity to work cross functionally with people in other technical roles, while working on a unique project of her team’s choosing. She also appreciated the fact that the courses were organised efficiently to provide an optimal and enjoyable learning experience. 

“Co.Lab was an opportunity to get the experience I needed in order to get to the next step which was getting a job”

By her third week, Rebekah came to realise that the Co.Lab learning experience requires immense hard work and study. This pushed her to develop four guiding principles:

  1. Focus on just doing your best
  2. Focus on one thing at a time
  3. Maintain the utmost respect for your team mates 
  4. Take care of yourself

By keeping these points in mind, Rebekah was able to successfully achieve her goal of building an interesting project that could help people. Zesty is a meal planning web application that helps people access unique and fun recipes to try out. In bringing this idea to life, a hurdle she had to overcome was learning to effectively manage her time since her teammates lived in very different time zones. This allowed her to further hone her time management skills since she had to ensure that communication lines were kept open and everyone was constantly on the same page. Having daily stand ups was key in her process, as it held everyone accountable and kept them on track. 

Rebeakah and the rest of the Zesty Team!

Another valuable experience was that she was able to work with other women in tech that matched her level of dedication, enthusiasm and drive. Her teammates were from different places which brought culturally diverse perspectives to the project. In addition, their shared identity as women in tech fostered a deep friendship that made working together very enjoyable. She was also able to grow her network of female professionals in tech; something that had been an important goal for her.

Zesty, the web project Rebekah created with her teammates

Shortly after Rebekah graduated from the Co.Lab program, she landed her current role at RBC Ventures. She attributes much of this success to the unique and guided practical experience that she received from Co.Lab. Her time at Co.Lab also allowed her to develop her confidence in a safe environment which made a big difference in her interviews during the job search process. To this day, Rebekah still utilises the four fundamental principles she created during her time at Co.Lab. 

“Having the experience helped but working in Co.Lab also gave me confidence in my skills as a developer and as a result of working in a team, I was able to feel more confident in interviews”

A word of advice

To people that are hoping to transition into tech, Rebekah emphasises that the switch can be scary and its better to acknowledge that from the start. Reflect on every interview as an opportunity to improve while learning from mentors in your aspiring field. For those who want to travel down the web development road like she did; she suggests starting small with the many resources available online for free. She also stresses the importance of being comfortable with making mistakes and the ability to reflect on them, since they are a part of the journey and a stepping stone to eventual success. 

Rebekah got the most out of her time with Co.Lab and you can too! Click here to learn more about our story and how we are working hard to get more non-technical people succeeding in tech!

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