Anita Jaszewska – Stop wondering about things, start doing them!

Rails Girls Berlin “Wall of Fame”

This a series of interviews with women, that have successfully made their way into coding.
Check out their stories, get inspired!

Meet Anita who switched from working in the financial field to a developer position at Brandnew IO, with the help of Rails Girls Berlin. She won one of the prizes at 2nd Berlin Geekettes Hackathon in October last year.

„I made my choice sitting in front of a bar, having a beer, with those people who inspired me so much. The only thought I had was: If they could do it, I can do it as well!”.

Hi Anita , can you tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.

I came to Berlin over two years ago for a short trip and just stayed here. I just really loved the city. Before that I was studying Finance in Wroclaw, Poland. At the same time I was working for one of the banks there. But I didn’t enjoy it enough to think about it as my career path. In Berlin I started to get to know the startups world and developing my general interest in technology. I was managing a small company in the city, but it was still not “it” for me.
Personally, I love travelling, enjoy yoga and believe in karma.

How did you get to know about Rails Girls Berlin?
During a meeting about women in IT, I met Dajana, one of the organizers of Rails Girls Berlin workshops. Not having a clue about software, maths, engineering or anything related to computer science was a factor that nearly made me not pursue it, but gladly she managed to convince me to attend one. The image I had about programming was extremely daunting, but I did apply and then showed up. Good for me!

Why did you join the workshop and what was your impression of it afterwards?
Apart from curiosity, there was no particular reason for me to come there. I think I applied because I like trying new things and didn’t have any plans for that day. Additionally, the atmosphere seemed nice and friendly, even the instructions how to install required pieces of
software. So the only effort for me was to wake up on Saturday morning.
After those few hours I spent on learning the basics of Ruby on Rails, I was all excited. Opening a magic black window called terminal and then seeing functional little website that you build with your own hands, typing, is an absolutely amazing feeling.

Have you had any programming experience before?
Nothing at all. I think I just remembered from computer classes in school how HTML looks like. And I was a perfectly happy user of Windows (obviously).

How did you continue learning?
After first workshop, I didn’t. A couple of months later I saw a Facebook post by Rails Girls Berlin about a “follow up” meeting, and I applied. The general idea was to meet up and continue learning about Rails, so I did and kept programming as a hobby. It wasn’t until 2 months later that it all shaped up to become a major life change. During my third Rails Girls experience I met three coaches, whose stories astonished and inspired me.
The following weeks I met many people from the community, took part in conferences and workshops. Few girls and I were meeting to “nerd out” together and learn. A friend of a friend, Lukasz Lazewski, CTO of Brandnew IO and my current boss, was helping us. The group started to grow and attract new people. It all went super fast, but the main lesson for me was starting my internship with Wimdu. Frankly, before that, I had very little knowledge about programming.

What was the biggest obstacle during your learning process?
Even though programming itself is not that hard and complicated, knowledge about systems, computers and tools can be challenging. For the first couple of months it was almost my daily work routine to have lunch at my desk while watching online lectures about computer science just to catch up on the essentials. I still need to learn a lot, but it’s getting much better. The second biggest obstacle is connected to the first. Not having any IT background, my learning cycle was very intense, I was literally all the time exhausted.
But it was all worth it. I remember my first week of internship, sitting in the meeting room with seventeen programmers where I could only understand every second word of what they were saying. Seriously, it was like being on another planet. But with time I started understanding more and more, including the jokes, yay!

When and how did you decide to change your profession?
It was in May 2013, after the third Rails Girl workshop I attended. Later on, coaches and students went out to have some drinks. I made my choice sitting in front of a bar, having beer, with those people who inspired me so much. The only thought I had was “If they could do it, I can do it as well!”.

Where you afraid of that step? If so, how do you think about it in retrospective? Was there a reason to be afraid?
I was terrified. Excited and determined, but terrified. I handed in my notice at work and had 6 weeks to find something else. I started to look online for internship offers, but under requirements there was always something like: “Computer Science degree or last year student”. My initial and huge enthusiasm cooled down at this stage, but It didn’t stop me from sending CVs, and finally I joined the Wimdu team. It turned out they just needed someone committed and willing to learn. After the first internship, many doors opened for me. So after all I had my soft and safe landing after experiencing some serious turbulence.
Summing it up, it was a crazy decision and could not end very well. On the other hand, I was sure I want it and I will get it. Jumping into deep waters just forced me to make it happen. And I’m still proud of myself, that I was brave enough to do it.

What was your biggest achievement in programming so far?
It was definitely winning one of the prizes at 2nd Berlin Geekettes Hackathon in October last year. Even though the app we tried to create with my friend over the weekend did not work at all, people liked our idea and mockups we presented. The prize itself was for best use of the sponsors’ API, and we were very surprised to get it. For both of us it was amazing experience, especially that it was our first time we joined event like that.

What do you like the most about your new profession?
There are few things that make me absolutely love programming. Working on projects and feeling that you have achieved something is great. It might sound funny, but sometimes it’s like having god’s power – you make something out of nothing.
The other thing is the constant learning process. My job teases my brain a lot and that feels great.
Plus, the most important thing for me – freedom of work and workplace. My goal is to travel around the globe and work as freelancer.

What is your advice to women who want to learn coding?
My decision was indirectly inspired by a friend who told me around one year ago: “Instead of thinking about things, start doing them. If you only think, you waste your time because in the meantime, you would already know if you like it or not and would learn something valuable.”
So it’s my piece of advice: Stop wondering about things, start doing them.

 

We thank Anita for helping us to inspire more women to get into coding and wish her lots of fun with RoR. If you want to tell your own story, please get in touch with us.