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Alumni Stories: From Publishing Creative to Front-End Developer

July 24, 2019

Blog — Student Stories Alumni Stories: From Publishing Creative to Front-End Developer

4 min read

Melissa Carter

Content Marketing Manager

Carolyn McNeillie just celebrated her one year anniversary at TWG, a software company based in Toronto. She was hired as a Front End Developer after completing HackerYou’s nine-week Web Development Immersive Bootcamp in the Winter of 2018.

Before becoming a Web Developer, Carolyn had a number of different jobs. From working in an art gallery, to painting murals, to teaching people how to make ebooks, to art director, to marketing, Carolyn tried it all.

“Web development is my third career. My undergrad at OCADU was in painting, and I really didn’t know what to do with that."

"I worked in a local art gallery and did some odd jobs including painting murals and an internship in the conservation department at the Guggenheim in Venice, and that’s how I scraped together a living for a handful of years. At that time in my life I used to read at least one novel a week, and I got into my head that I’d like to work in book publishing, so I went back to school and then I did that in a few different capacities for nearly a decade.”

It was when Carolyn had her first child and her family moved to Hamilton that she realized she needed to make a change. Though she was passionate about the work she was doing, her priorities had shifted and she knew that she needed to find a career that would give her the energy, the time, and the security to sustain her growing family.

“Anansi was my dream publishing job. I felt really passionate about the books we produced and it was such an honour to get to work with them and I savoured the experience, but I also knew that eventually I would move onto something new."

"Publishing has thin margins. There are long hours fuelled by love of the work and not much money. I’d managed to work my way to Director of the Marketing Department but I wasn’t taking home a huge paycheque and I knew there wasn’t a lot of room left for me left to grow. In 2015 I had my son and my priorities began to shift, and then in 2017 my family moved to Hamilton. The commute was long, and I was beginning to run out of the energy I needed to sustain the work — not to mention I missed being able to read whatever I wanted just for myself. That was when my husband and I knew I was ready for a career change.”

When Carolyn decided it was time to search for something new, HackerYou and Web Development were already in the back of her mind.

“About 10 years ago Heather Payne tweeted out an open meet-up that turned into Ladies Learning Code which grew into Canada Learning Code and HackerYou — I went to that meet-up with a couple of girlfriends of mine. Over the years I keep watching the whole project grow and take new forms, and it was always in the back of my head — ‘that’s what I will do next.’ ”

“At Anansi one of the projects I ran was spinning up our new e-commerce site which was built on Shopify. I was always jealous of the developers we hired - I really wanted to do their jobs. I took a couple of weekend Shopify workshops offered by HackerYou to get a better foundation for project management, but I wound up loving the actual coding so much, once I’d taken that class it was just a matter or time.”

It wasn’t long after that Carolyn applied for HackerYou’s Web Development Immersive Bootcamp and, as you might have guessed, she was accepted. Carolyn spent nine weeks learning the complexities of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, and React, and graduated with the skills, portfolio, and support she needed to land her first job as a developer.

“I remember the feeling of being just totally immersed in Bootcamp and having no idea what would come after. I was so scared at the time, but I shouldn’t have been."

"HackerYou has such an incredible support system that continues on after classes are done. There is personalized resume guidance and career counselling that continues until every single willing student is placed. And due to a reputation built on the strength of the community and previous grads, companies routinely reach out directly for referrals through which some of my classmates found great jobs.”

It was through one of HackerYou’s signature Bootcamp events, a tech speed-dating type event known as Industry Day, that Carolyn made the connections that would lead to her current development position at TWG.

“Through referrals and contacts I made at industry day I got to interview with a number of really cool companies doing fascinating things, and before I knew it I’d accepted a position as a Front End Developer at TWG — just a five minute walk through Graffiti Alley from the HackerYou campus.”

A year later, Carolyn is still at TWG working in a role she loves, and finally has the work-life balance she was dreaming of in her previous careers.

“I just recently celebrated my first anniversary at TWG and I couldn’t be happier."

"I love the work, the pace, and my colleagues. I’m constantly challenged and constantly learning on the fly with an awesome safety net of support and mentorship. Like HackerYou, TWG has a strong focus on creating an inclusive community which is reflected in the diversity of people I’m surrounded by, but also thoughtful details like a dedicated prayer room, a dedicated nursing room, unlimited personal days, and an inclusive work-from-home policy that has been invaluable to me as a parent with a young child and a baby on the way.”

For those inspired by Carolyn’s career change and thinking about making their own leap into the tech industry, her advice is simple: “Take a couple free online classes, go to one of the free workshops at HackerYou and if you enjoy it, take the leap. There are so many opportunities in this industry and so much support. If you bring an interest and a willingness to work, there’s a career here for you.”

Learn more about making a career change through our Web Development Immersive Bootcamp by clicking below.

Learn More About Bootcamp


Carolyn McNeillie is a Front-End Developer at TWG and a graduate of HackerYou’s Web Development Immersive Bootcamp. Take a look at Carolyn’s portfolio here.