Welcome to SheSight magazine, the platform where the resounding voices of women reverberate, igniting inspiration and uplifting women across the globe.
As we continue our mission of providing a space for inspiration and growth, we are thrilled to present an exclusive interview that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact. Today, we have the honor of featuring Stephanie Chiu, a remarkable individual whose journey epitomizes the strength and resilience of women in pursuit of their dreams.
With a degree in Chemical Engineering and an insatiable appetite for creativity and problem-solving, Stephanie discovered her true calling in coding after leaving behind the manufacturing industry. Despite lacking traditional credentials, she honed her skills as a self-taught software engineer, defying the odds and securing a coveted position as an iOS engineer in a top corporate organization, even amidst the challenges of a global pandemic.
Stephanie’s story stands as a powerful example of unwavering determination and tireless pursuit of dreams. Not only has she achieved remarkable success in her career, but she has also become a dedicated career coach, guiding others through the intricacies of the tech world. Through her insights, strategies, and personalized roadmaps, Stephanie empowers individuals to forge their paths in the industry.
As our cover personality for this month, Stephanie will be sharing her invaluable experiences and shedding light on the secrets to a successful career transition. Join Dr. Chandra Vadhana, the CEO of SheSight magazine as she unravels the layers of Stephanie’s incredible journey.
Watch the Live and Enthusing Interview available on SheSight’s YouTube Channel.
Dr. Chandra: Many of us, especially women, often feel apprehensive about pursuing a completely different career path after obtaining a specific degree. However, some bravely venture into such changes. It requires immense dedication, persistence, passion, and a willingness to embrace risk. Today, I am delighted to have a role model like Stephanie Chiu, who exemplifies these qualities for all of us to admire and draw inspiration from. So, let’s warmly welcome Stephanie as our cover personality for July 2023 and learn from her incredible journey.
Stephanie: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be on this platform and chat with all of you about my journey and my career change.
I’m sure people are curious about where you started and where you ended up. So please share more about your career transition and how it all began.
To provide some background, I initially pursued a major in chemical engineering in college. It wasn’t a field I was truly passionate about, but I had to choose a major before starting college. During that time, I realized that I wanted to start my own business, but I wasn’t sure in what field yet. If any of you are familiar with engineering degrees, once you commit to a major, it’s challenging to switch to a different one.
After completing my degree, I worked in various manufacturing roles. However, I found them to be unfulfilling and not challenging enough for me. I tend to get bored easily, so within four years of graduating, I had already gone through three different manufacturing jobs, which is quite uncommon for many people. Most individuals don’t experience layoffs, quitting, or extended unemployment gaps in the early stages of their careers, unlike me.
During my early to mid-twenties, I faced financial stress and learned a lot about myself while constantly moving to different cities for new job opportunities. In two instances during those three unemployment periods, I was laid off from my job. It was emotionally crushing for me because, like many of us, I tied my identity to my job and career.
The turning point came when I quit my first job unexpectedly. It took me eight months to find my next job during that period, which allowed me to explore different possibilities. I already knew from my initial job experience that manufacturing and operations were not the right fit for me. Even when I walked around the shop floor wearing a uniform, I felt out of place and lacked the creativity I desired.
Fortunately, I met someone who introduced me to people working in the tech industry. That’s how I got introduced to the tech world, using it as a starting point to figure out what I truly wanted to do with my life. It was a fast-paced environment that required adaptability.
That’s remarkable, going from someone who disliked the shop floor and wearing uniforms to becoming a tech entrepreneur and now coaching others to pursue software engineering roles. Your career transition is inspiring, but what’s even more inspiring is the impact you’re making by helping others enter the software industry. So, at what point did you realize that you wanted to focus on career coaching?
When I got laid off for the second time, I finally mustered the courage to make a mental shift and commit to securing a software engineer role. I was determined to do whatever it took, even if it meant working odd jobs. In 2019, I decided to pursue software engineering, and throughout 2020, I dedicated myself to learning how to code, building projects, and applying for jobs. It was a challenging journey as a self-taught coder, even with some mentorship. I realized there was a lack of relevant information online, so I made a promise to myself that once I landed my first job, I would share my experiences and provide valuable resources for free on my Instagram. This decision led me to start coaching others, as I saw many people facing similar struggles. It felt fulfilling to help others navigate their career transitions.
Your personal experience of facing challenges without guidance and then deciding to help others is truly remarkable. Now, let’s talk about your transition into your first software engineering job. How did you approach it? Did you have any referrals?
My journey into getting my first software engineering role was different from the traditional approach. I didn’t rely on referrals or online applications. Surprisingly, the hiring manager found me on LinkedIn. In 2020, I realized I needed to manipulate my LinkedIn profile to attract the right recruiters and hiring managers. Previously, my profile was tailored to a production engineer or operations manager, which didn’t align with my goals. So, I conducted experiments and made changes to my profile to show up in search results for software engineering and iOS engineering. This approach allowed me to be discovered by recruiters, even during a period of layoffs and hiring freezes. I received direct outreach from large companies like Amazon, Snapchat, PayPal, and Doordash, which gave me fantastic opportunities. That’s how I secured my first job in the tech industry.
It’s impressive how you were able to attract recruiters directly and secure opportunities. Now, let’s discuss the significance of networking in career building and how you, as a career coach, provide that support to your clients.
As a career coach, I fulfill both coaching and mentoring roles. Through coaching, I ask thought-provoking questions to guide individuals rather than providing direct answers. As a mentor, I offer support and assistance when needed. My coaching program includes group sessions where participants share their projects, and I guide coding challenges. I aim to teach people how to think like engineers, equipping them with problem-solving skills. Networking plays a vital role in career building, and as a coach, I provide support to my clients in making valuable connections.
You mentioned that boot camps may not always provide sufficient support in resume building and LinkedIn optimization. On the other hand, some individuals opt for a computer science degree, believing it will guarantee a job, but often they face challenges if they lack relevant internships or apprenticeships to showcase their value. Is that correct?
Whether you’re self-taught or have a degree, the key is to focus on practical experience and projects that highlight your skills. This can be done through personal passion projects or client projects. It’s about demonstrating your ability to contribute to a company’s goals and showing that you have the necessary skills and knowledge, regardless of your educational background.
In the current job market, are there ample opportunities available for software engineers, especially for those without a formal computer science degree?
The demand for software engineers continues to be high, and there are indeed plenty of opportunities available, even for individuals without a computer science degree. Many companies are shifting their focus from solely looking at degrees to assessing candidates based on their practical skills and experience. They want to see how you can contribute to their organization. While having a degree can still be advantageous, it’s not always a prerequisite for getting a job in software engineering. What matters most is your ability to showcase your expertise through projects and demonstrate your value to potential employers.
That’s encouraging to hear. For someone who is considering a career transition into software engineering, what would be your advice on the best approach to navigate this field successfully?
My advice would be to start by exploring your interests within the software engineering field. Consider what type of projects or areas of focus excite you the most. This could be web development, mobile app development, AR/VR, or any other niche within the industry. Begin learning the basics of the programming languages and technologies associated with your chosen area of interest. Numerous online resources like Udemy or YouTube tutorials can provide a starting point.
Once you have a foundational understanding, start building your projects to gain practical experience. These projects will not only help you solidify your skills but also serve as a portfolio to showcase to potential employers. Additionally, networking and connecting with professionals in the field can be beneficial. Attend industry events, join relevant online communities, and leverage platforms like LinkedIn to build connections and learn from others.
And finally, consider seeking guidance from a career coach or mentor who can provide valuable insights, help optimize your resume and LinkedIn profile, and guide you through the job search process. With the right combination of skills, projects, networking, and support, you can successfully transition into a software engineering career.
Suppose I have no prior knowledge of software engineering. How would you guide me and assist me in learning to code?
When someone is new to coding and has no prior knowledge of software engineering, I usually recommend starting with free or low-cost resources like websites such as Tome.com or Udemy. These platforms offer a wide range of courses, and I suggest choosing one highly rated by other learners. This is a great starting point for beginners.
If someone is aiming to pursue a full-time job in software engineering, I advise them to focus on completing about 20 to 25 percent of a coding course to acquire the foundational skills and grasp the programming language themselves. Once they have gained these fundamental skills, they can begin building their coding projects.
This is where my role as a coach and mentor comes in. By creating their projects, individuals can apply what they have learned from tutorials and courses and gain a deeper understanding of coding concepts.
I consider myself a bridge between what boot camps typically offer. I guide individuals in building their projects and provide insights on project optimization, resume development for career changers, and even assistance with code reviews and salary negotiations.
My methodology revolves around being personable and understanding individuals. I aim to uncover the root causes that may be holding them back, often related to mental hurdles. I assist them in enhancing their confidence, thinking outside the box, and adopting an engineering mindset. Many individuals struggle with setting concrete goals and executing their ambitious dreams. However, I prioritize motivated individuals with discipline as the foundation for my assistance. Once I see their commitment to coding and daily learning, I consider them a great fit for my program. The program is divided into four phases.
The first phase involves building a passion project, which encompasses everything from planning and design to bug-solving and beta testing. I address the gap between self-taught learning and transitioning to a job. I cover topics such as interacting with UX/UI designers, understanding the role of a product manager, and learning effective communication. Confidence building is crucial, so I encourage participants to share their projects, communicate their progress, and discuss challenges faced. This helps them gain confidence in articulating their ideas during interviews. The subsequent phases focus on LinkedIn and resume development, mock interviews, and salary negotiations. My methodology emphasizes establishing a solid foundation through project-based learning.
What inspires me, even more, is your dedication to helping women transition into this field. Can you share some success stories of women who have made this transition?
Let me tell you about one of my recent clients, who truly inspires me. She is a mother who had to drop out of college while pursuing a computer science degree due to responsibilities. She worked odd jobs until she discovered coding and attempted self-learning. Eventually, she found my page on Instagram and reached out to me. When I reviewed her projects, I noticed her skills were excellent, but her lack of confidence was hindering her job prospects. Many of her challenges stemmed from mindset issues and a lack of support. She would often get demotivated and stop looking for jobs. Once we started working together, I pushed her to step outside her comfort zone. That’s what I’m here for—to provide support and guidance. As a result, she made progress and regained her confidence.
It’s a global phenomenon Stephanie, where women face low confidence and imposter syndrome when it comes to taking leadership roles. That’s precisely why we want to showcase figures like you to inspire others. Could you tell us more about your company and how people can contact you?
With Road to Tech, I provide free advice on platforms like Instagram and other social media. I also run my coaching program, “Hired,” where I help individuals land interviews and secure jobs without relying solely on online applications or referrals. If anyone is interested in reaching out, they can visit my website at www.roadtotech.com. They can also contact me through Instagram at @theroadtotech.com, or simply fill out the contact form on my website. I’m always available and will respond as soon as possible.
What is your vision for Road to Tech?
My mission is to show people that they can break into the tech industry without depending on formal institutions. I want to emphasize that it is truly possible to achieve success through self-learning.
You are truly inspiring, and I want to thank you once again for sharing your story with us.
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I’m grateful to be able to share my journey and insights with SheSight’s readers and viewers.