École 42 Piscine, women in tech, shecodes, womensday
Chiahan Chi, Front-End Developer at La Javaness.

An equal world is an empowered world. In celebration for International Women’s Day of 2021 with the theme #ChooseToChallenge, TechOrange interviewed four women forging innovation and technology about the challenges they met and adventures they took.

Chiahan Chi transitioned into a Software Development Engineer after two years studying at a free, private computer programming school – École 42 (or School 42) in Paris without prior knowledge in computer science. 

Now working at a French startup called La Javaness as a front-end engineer, she keeps a co-written blog in mandarin to share information on École 42 Piscine. I invited her to share how she went from holding a bachelor’s degree in architecture to becoming a coder. 

There are no teachers at École 42, you have to self-learn! (with your peers)

Whitney: Hi Chiahan, you studied at École 42 and transitioned into a front-end engineer, could you share with us your experience?

Chiahan: Yes, I had no prior experiences in coding at all. I began my study at École 42 which is a completely free computer programming school, three years ago. The school targets people without coding background.

I think the best thing about this school is that they don’t help you graduate and they don’t teach you, as a matter of fact, there are no teaching faculties, they provide you with a good self-learning environment instead

What’s good about this is that you are trained to learn on your own. In some computer programming schools, they’d help you graduate, but after landing a comfortable job, graduates might stop learning which is not a good situation for a programmer unless your work is very rigid because we must constantly learn to keep up with new technologies.

You have to push through the study on your own with your peers and a strong will.

However, you have to push through the study on your own with your peers and a strong will. At my lowest, I often burst out crying at school because there’s a mechanism to drop students who don’t meet the criteria at certain checkpoints which at times stresses me out

Whitney: How does the gender distribution look like at École 42?

Chiahan: I’d say roughly 85 men to 15 women? During my first year there they had a new CEO who wanted to encourage more women to pursue a tech career path. She changed all the displaying art pieces into successful women’s pictures and more profoundly, she secured a number of spots for women to register to increase women enrollments.

She thinks coding suits women for many reasons

Whitney: How was your tech journey like as a woman?

Chiahan: I think it’s a great fit for women to code. To be honest, I think it’s a women-friendlier field than in the architect industry. Because coding really requires being careful, and it’s not labor work, so I don’t see why women can’t do it.

It suits women well, we are careful with equally the same level of cleverness as men. Especially the working time is flexible, so I think it’s a pity if women don’t enter this field!

Whitney: What was your biggest frustration?

Chiahan: It was during my studies at École 42. Sometimes I’d wonder if I can really learn everything? Am I really capable of coding? There are so many things to learn that I constantly doubt myself.

It is in the realization of things actually becoming harder when you think it’s hard, realizing it’s all in my head. When an issue is just an issue, it is simple. If you stumble upon a problem, fix it, when you encounter the next, solve it.

It’s really just a matter of time.

Anyone can learn to code

Whitney: So I feel you think there’s no hard line drawn between computer engineering and softer skills?

Chiahan: Yes, maybe because people tend to imagine engineers being very hardcore and technical like a high fence that women might feel intimidated to step in but the apps I’m developing are also designed for users! 

Solving problems via computing brings me solid achievements because the feedback is immediate and the problem is clearly defined. I feel the technology environment here broadly speaking has… a more human sense in it?

For example, my manager likes art, so when he spotted my interest in art, he asked me what art exhibition I have recently visited even though I was applying for a software engineer position.

Whitney: Do you have some suggestions for women willing to step into coding and have a career transition like you? 

Chiahan: I think we rarely say to women who are planning to switch careers, “hey, why not learn to code?” Maybe we should break this stereotype…

Why do we rarely say to women, ‘hey, why not learn some coding?’

My suggestion is if you want to achieve something by coding, you will be very motivated to learn it. Don’t tangle up your mind into thinking about the complicated steps, tackle and learn them on the way. 

Anyway, I feel everyone can learn to code.



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