Unlocking Potential: Felicia’s Journey from Design to Software Engineering

Unlocking Potential- Felicia's Journey from Design to Software Engineering

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Naturally creative with a flair for problem-solving, Felicia Fel has taken a cautious but determined approach to her career.

Initially set on becoming a comic book artist, Felicia, qualified in 3D animation from Media Design School, embarked on a journey to find the perfect career. A couple of roles later, Felicia discovered her affinity for design.

After experiencing the technical limitations of this work, Felicia sets her sights even higher, landing on the software engineering program with the Institute of Data.

Felicia recently landed a dream role as a front-end developer. We recently caught up with Felicia, eager to congratulate her on her new role and to learn about her transition from designer to front-end developer and the part the Institute of Data played in her journey.

1. How did you first become interested in tech?

I’ve always loved drawing. Growing up, I was either drawing or playing in the sun outside. Becoming a comic book artist seemed like a good fit and a natural progression for me.

After qualifying in 3D animation, I worked as a 3D generalist at several studios in Auckland. I was employed as a contractor, which I found quite tough, and while I enjoyed the work, I didn’t feel as rewarded as I expected.

At that stage, I decided to make the switch to design. After working in design for a few years, I found myself frustrated at not being able to code. I was relying on WordPress and using plugins that didn’t produce the kind of finish I was after.

I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving, and I became curious about how to work it out myself.

I noticed the kind of projects the software engineers were getting involved with where I worked, so I decided to give it a go myself!

2. What motivated you to do a course in software engineering?

As a kid, I was always interested in tech and how things were put together. I mucked around a lot, hacking Android phones and modifying my computer.

Studying tech seemed like a natural extension of this curiosity. I was a bit nervous about investing my own money, so I took advantage of a free course offered by the New Zealand government.

In the free course, we touched on HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript, which was very surface-level. It became clear I needed more in-depth knowledge and skills to get the job I wanted.

After finishing the free course, I decided to invest more in a career in tech. That’s when I found the software engineering program at the Institute of Data.

I first saw the program advertised on Facebook. I noticed it was partnered with the Auckland University of Technology, which gave me more confidence because of the university affiliation backing the program.

I also had a great conversation with the student success team. They were really friendly, supportive, and accommodating. They explained everything, and that built a sense of trust. So I decided to go for it!

3. How do you remember those first few days or weeks of the program?

At first, I found it intimidating because I felt like I lacked knowledge compared to other people. I also found it intense, focussing and absorbing all that new information!

There were eleven of us in the program and a range of personalities. Initially, I found it quite challenging as the class was big but the one-on-one time with our trainers was invaluable, and I found the assistants to be really helpful and reassuring.

I found that the most important thing to do is do the projects on your own!  By focusing on a problem, you can apply what you read to a real-life situation.

Applying your knowledge to a real-life scenario lets you see how things connect.

4. The Institute of Data provides a lot of resources to students. Did you utilize any of these resources during the course?

The breakout room is really useful because of the time with the assistants. Access to a dedicated assistant was incredibly helpful, as they could focus on my specific questions.

We did a lot of group work, and I found everyone in the class environment super nice and supportive. It was helpful to be placed with people who weren’t outside my scope.

I found the placement for group work with others around the same skill level worked well, taking the pressure off those who needed a little more time.

5. How did you find studying remotely?

Because I wanted the freedom to travel during my breaks, studying remotely worked really well for me. Like everyone, during COVID, I couldn’t travel and visit my family in Indonesia.

It was important to me to be able to have the flexibility to travel, so the remote study worked with my schedule.

6. Tell us about your capstone project.

When I was browsing on the Internet, I saw a community page on Facebook. The page functioned specifically for vet locums trying to find and coordinate work.

As far as I could tell, the vet locums were limited to this Facebook community for finding jobs, so I wanted to create something useful and helpful.

For my capstone project, I created a job board for New Zealand veterinarians. I wanted to make a public website where vets could post their skills, qualifications, and specializations.

I wanted to create a space where people requiring certain services could see clearly which vet was most suitable for their particular job. I also included the facility allowing clinics to contact vets directly, speeding up and simplifying the process.

The capstone project was intense and stretched my time management skills. The environment was really positive. I found my trainer, classmates, and assistant all excellent. They were all so accommodating and supportive.

7. Tell us the story of how you landed your first job.

I had been in contact with a company since I first embarked on my new career in tech. Because I’d kept in touch with them after I’d finished the program, they were delighted to take me on.

The good news is I completed the online coding test and got the job!

I work as a front-end developer and also help with some of the UX design of the product. At my current job, they like my previous experience and the fact I can code well.

We learned React in the Institute of Data program, which has been very useful. I’m using a new framework called Next.js – it’s basically a framework on top of React.

8. What do you enjoy the most about working in the industry?

I like problem-solving. I like pulling things apart and then putting them back together. And it’s the same with coding.

It’s interesting to me how I can make a big difference after changing a few lines of code.

I also like automation.

I want to make things as easy and as automated as possible.

9. How do you feel that the Institute of Data program prepared you for working in the industry as a professional?

I found the Insitute of Data program more in-depth than any other program. Other programs don’t teach you the back-end, or they don’t teach you SQL and non-SQL databases.

The Institute of Data program was so thorough it gave me confidence.

When I did the coding test for my job, I was confident I would do well because of the content I covered with the Institute of Data program.

The course gave me the foundation and the confidence to say yes to the job, which I may not have had otherwise.

10. What guidance would you give to someone applying for jobs after graduating?

Go for it! Don’t overthink it. Ensure you’re prepared, but don’t be put off by job descriptions. If you haven’t fulfilled every aspect they’re requiring, apply anyway.

Keep an open mind about the company and know that you won’t match all the requirements for every single job. But just apply, apply, apply.

Being a software engineer is about building and problem-solving. It’s a lot more creative than you might imagine!

Tech is fun! It’s an industry that’s constantly changing. With tech, there’s room to experiment and be creative.

Just remember, you don’t have to know everything. You can learn as you go. Be adaptable and be a problem solver. Learn how to learn. That’s the most important thing.


If you’d like to learn more about a change into software engineering and finding your ultimate job, you can book a free career consultation with one of our course advisors. They specialize in roadmapping your path so you can reach your goals faster.

You can connect with Felicia Fel and follow her professional journey on LinkedIn.

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