Lucie Höhler


Rails Girls Berlin “Wall of Fame”

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

 


 

Sometimes, it feels like I’m getting paid to solve puzzles! Which is great. Programming is creative, requires an eye for detail and gets me in this state of mind where not a lot things can distract me. Also it opens up a way to work together with others on a task that I never experienced in any other kind of work. It’s like thinking together.

Name: Lucie Höhler
Job: Junior Frontend Developer at bitcrowd
Website: luciehoehler.de
Twitter: @autofocus

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

After school I found it really hard to figure out what I wanted to do as a job or career. A lot of things interested me and so I ended up studying film and media theory in a combined mayor as well as German and children’s literature. It was very interesting for sure, but in the end you’re left with a big variety of possible “something something media” job paths, and many of those are quite crowded with a lot of people battling for too few interesting jobs. Most are not well paid and depend on connections and ambitious self-promotion. Not my strong suit. I worked in media education, basically explaining internet to parents, and afterwards as an online editor in the public sector – a quite boring job I mainly took because I wanted to live in Berlin.

But it was already at that point that I realised that I’d much rather leave that career path altogether and start over. And I knew deep down that I’d love to be able to program and had thought about it for years since computer and internet had always been a big part of my life. I just didn’t know how and where to start.

How did you get to know about Rails Girls Berlin?

I think that must have been via Twitter, a retweet or blog article maybe. Being active on Twitter, getting to know more and more people there from a geek/tech/feminist scene (mostly, but not exclusively from Berlin) played a huge part in me deciding to finally move to Berlin and finding out more about people who went into tech jobs without having studied computer science (something I deemed impossible for a long time). I then went to a Rails Girls workshop in Hamburg in summer 2013, it was my first coding experience ever!

Why did you join the workshop and what was your impression of it afterwards?

I joined out of curiosity, in search of a starting point that would ignite some change in my life and of course with the thought in mind that I wanted to find out if it was actually possible to learn coding for real as a self-learner. There was a woman giving a lightning-talk at that workshop who had done just that – it blew my mind! This talk seemed to have way more impact on me than the rest of the workshop, even though I was incredibly impressed how this could all be organised for free, food, tutoring, rooms, just like that.

Had you any previous programming experiences before?

As an online editor I had some basic understanding of HTML and had also fiddled with our CSS file a bit – but looking back I know: it was really very, very basic…

How did you continue learning?

At first I didn’t. With a full time job and some side-projects I didn’t find any time to further get into learning. I tried to take a (paid) class in which we would do a Rails tutorial with a tutor for four weeks, but I soon realised I won’t find enough time in my current life situation.

What was the biggest obstacle during your learning process?

At first: to actually start. I never thought of this as something I could do as a hobby or something to play around with in my free time. I thought of it as something I want to do “for real” pretty much from the start. It took me another couple of months (after the Rails Girls workshop) to finally make the decision that I’m going through with this. I could arrange to work part-time (which was really very lucky) and gave myself a year where I would do my old job in the mornings and learn in the afternoons to get to a point where I could apply for developer jobs. Of course that led to more big obstacles: finding the self-discipline to stick with that. Enduring the time where you are convinced you will never-ever get it. Doubting yourself all the time and still keep going…

When and how did you decide to change your profession?

As I described, it was basically my starting point. But of course that doesn’t mean I was convinced it would work out! I guess I just didn’t really had a plan B apart from… realise I have to give up, look for something else to do. And I really didn’t wanted that.

Were you afraid of that step? If so, how do you think about it in retrospective? Was there a reason to be afraid?

I was quite afraid. I was afraid I would be too old, I was afraid I wouldn’t understand enough, I was afraid I wouldn’t get a job, that people will look down on me without a computer science degree and much more.
Looking back most of it has vanished or changed: Yes, with now being in my mid-thirties I’m often older than other beginners and also than many of the experienced developers I work with. But it’s a fact that most people don’t care about and I very early on accepted that I just have to live with (and that it’s not that big a deal). As for not understanding enough, struggling or not knowing something: it happens all the time, and in programming / learning to code, it’s unavoidable. Experienced programmers will tell you that it keeps happening to them, and even if you don’t believe them (I never did), I’d say it is another fear that you just learn to accept and deal with.
Thirdly: getting a job, at least in Berlin, was not a big problem – even though I might have been lucky. It is just the right time to take that step, since developers are needed. Why not enjoy and use an opportunity for once. And for the fact that people will look down on you as a lesser programmer without a degree: there will always be people like that, and of course studying computer science will give you a deep level of knowledge that is hard to reach for a self-learner. That is something to just accept and move on. There’s enough space and need for all kinds of developers out there.

What do you like the most about your new profession?

Sometimes, it feels like I’m getting paid to solve puzzles! Which is great. Programming is creative, requires an eye for detail and gets me in this state of mind where not a lot things can distract me. Also it opens up a way to work together with others on a task that I never experienced in any other kind of work. It’s like thinking together.

What is your advice to women who want to learn coding?

To have patience and courage and to not get intimidated by the sheer amount of knowledge and all those people who seem to know more. Find others to team up with or to mentor you. Focus on what’s right ahead of you and always look back at what you already learned and be proud of it!

Your extra question from Tam Eastley: What advice would you give to beginners who are looking for jobs in the field?

It’s an old story, but networking helped me a lot when I was looking for a job. I got to know some people via twitter, then attended tech meetups, got to know them, and ultimately they would ask around on my behalf or directly at their company if there were any openings for beginners. But if this is not your style, don’t worry. Be honest about what you know (and don’t), and don’t downplay your abilities. That’s sometimes hard for me too, I admit it. So it’s very helpful to have a little project where you can demonstrate what you already did. Learning code by yourself is already impressive and it shows that you can and want to learn more. People who don’t see that this is a great ability by itself are maybe not people worth working for anyway. 

 

 

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