My Tech Journey - Maria Situmbeko

My Tech Journey - Maria Situmbeko

Happy New Year, Happy New Year friends! wishes you a healthy and prosperous New Year! May you have the energy and joy to work throughout the year for your goals!

We start the year by talking with Maria, one of Tupu's mentees. Maria has also joined Tupu's dev team to create an app and make the experience on Tupu's platform even more enjoyable and faster.

If this is your first time hearing about if you wonder what the name stands for, means "grow" in Hawaiian), it's a non-profit initiative to offer free mentorship to women, people of colour, and LGBTQ+ in tech. We welcome mentors and mentees from all tech areas.

Now, let's find out more about Maria's journey in tech.

What do you currently do for work?

I'm a software developer with four years of experience.

What is your educational background?

After high school, I taught myself some basic code and took a boot camp in 2018. I didn't attend college or university until November of 2022 when I enrolled at the International University of Applied Sciences in Germany.

When and how did you get started being interested in programming/tech industry, and how did you learn?

Before getting into programming, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. But after completing high school, I started contemplating whether that was the right path for me. It seemed like medicine would result in me doing one thing for a long time, and that was never the kind of person I was. I like to do multiple things, be fluid, go in and out of my different interests at will, and find myself doing something different after a while, and medicine seemed rigid. I talked to my parents about my career doubts and they agreed that medicine as a field would end up being very rigid for me. My Dad, who is in tech, suggested I should experiment with some form of tech career, noting that tech was more fluid as I could be anything, anytime, anywhere, and that sounded amazing to me. I looked at how he worked and marvelled at how he could work from anywhere in the world right from our living room, work at his own pace, and was never doing the same thing all the time. That made me start researching things about code and computer science, and I began to shadow my Dad and became his work assistant. That resulted in me seeing my first block of code. I don't remember what I was doing, but I think the code block had to do with integrating Google maps to a website. What I do remember is the code made so much sense to me. Every line looked like a building block that, when complete, formed this beautiful project. It was then that I believed I could be a programmer. I installed a coding app on my phone that taught me some basic HTML and CSS. A few months later, while out on an errand, I came across a building with a sign out in front of it that read 'Hackers Guild'. When I went in to see what this place was about, I found out it was a coding boot camp and was taking new applications. It's almost like the stars were aligning themselves for me to take this on as a career. I mean, how often does one stumble across a boot camp? And how often does one stumble across a boot camp that just so happens to be taking new applications right at that moment? I applied for the boot camp, got accepted, and officially started my tech career. In addition to HTML and CSS, I learned JavaScript and could make cool things happen on the web. It only went up from there.

Which books/online courses/websites were helping you the most on your journey? Resources like W3 Schools, Stack Overflow, and Free Code Camp were crucial in my journey, especially when I was still a beginner. Tech articles from sites like also expanded my knowledge.

How has mentorship played a role in your tech career?

Mentorship helped me learn a lot about my approach to finding jobs, as well as maintaining good relationships with my manager, and having healthy attitude to work. I now feel more confident in the steps I take to advance my career.

What do you wish you had known when you started your career in tech? What advice would you give your younger self?

I wish I had been more confident and put myself forward more. I would have avoided a few bad jobs (with terrible pay and treatment) if I was just more confident in myself. I also wish I didn't think that working all the time and doing more than I was expected to at my job would make me a better employee or better at my job. It just made it easier for me to be taken advantage of and made me get burnt out much faster. The advice I would give my younger self, and others starting out, is don't be afraid to speak up and ask for what you deserve, whether that's better pay, better workplace treatment, or time off. I would also advise my younger self to look after herself more. She should take breaks because working all the time isn't good for her. Let her invest in things outside work like personal projects, hobbies, or simple relaxation and self-care.

What would you recommend to someone who is interested in starting with coding/designing/managing, but doesn't know exactly where to start?

It can be challenging to find where to begin since there is so much out there and I don’t think there is one piece of advice that applies to everyone. But one thing I would advise is to be a consistent learner. If you want to get started in coding or designing look for beginner tutorials that show you where to start. Take a beginner course, free or paid, on the field you want to enter. Once you think you have a basic idea of what you want to do and where you want to begin, start to build something because constant tutorials will get you nowhere. It doesn't matter if you think what you create is bad, you're learning and you need to start from somewhere. It also helps to learn and build in public to let others see that you are learning something new. Post your learning progress on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn and use appropriate hashtags for reach. Start to code or design something simple and share. The constant act of building and trying and failing or succeeding will help you get better as you learn more and more. And doing this in public helps put you out there and creates a public resume for anyone to look through. Finally, go easy on yourself. Don't be afraid of not being good enough or not understanding things quick enough. Learning can be a slow process, but you will get better. Just put in the work and believe in yourself.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? What are you curious about?

In my free time, I love to work on coding personal projects. If there is something I have always wanted to experiment with that has never come up in my work like a programming language or framework, I like to explore and practice it. Outside of code, I use my free time to learn the guitar, binge-watch shows on my watchlist, play video games, or work on my writing. Lately, I'm curious about game development. Making small games, even just for myself, is something I would like to explore with more time.

Why did you decide to sign up as a mentee for**? What has your experience been?**

I decided to sign up as a mentee on because I was feeling stagnant in my career. I did not know where I was headed and needed some advice on how to level up. I had a great experience because I was paired with an amazing mentor who gave me amazing tips on searching for remote jobs, salary negotiation, and maintaining a good manager/employee relationship. Taking the step to seek mentorship was the best step I ever made.