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From Book Publishing to Developing for the ROM: Juno Grad Kait Sykes' Journey into Tech

September 23, 2020

2 min read

Written by Sennah Yee

Wishing your job had more room for growth? Kait Sykes was feeling the same way before her career change into tech with Juno’s Web Development Immersive Bootcamp. Today, she works as a Digital Developer and Designer at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum)! Read all about her journey into tech below - and how you can do it, too!

The beginning of Kait’s journey into tech is a familiar one - playing Neopets as a kid and blogging as a teenager.

“I’ve dabbled in HTML and CSS in that sense for most of my life — I started getting better at it when I started a book review blog in university because I thought it would help start my career in book publishing,” she says.

Kait's dream career in book publishing came true - she worked as a Production Coordinator for the publishing houses House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books, managing 80 print books a year. She also took care of ebook creation and QA, typesetting, and digital asset management. While Kait really enjoyed her job, she found herself at a crossroads.

“I became more established in my career, and I began to realize how hard it would be to continue stretching a book publishing salary in Toronto,” she says. “And because the industry is so small, it also became hard to see growth opportunities and imagine my future.”

Kait began exploring her options, and a career in web development seemed like a promising and reliable path where she could thrive.

“Web development felt like a natural fit — I was already hands-on with code in my day job, so I took a Ladies Learning Code (now Canada Learning Code - also founded by Juno’s Founder and CEO Heather Payne!) course to understand the nuts and bolts of what I was doing a lot better.”

Kait had a blast! The mentors at the Ladies Learning Code workshops were Bootcamp grads from Juno (then known as HackerYou), and had great things to say about their experience. Like many of our grads, Kait decided to enroll in Juno’s part-time Web Development course to learn the foundations of web development, and to make sure coding was a good fit before investing in our full-time Web Development Immersive Bootcamp.

Student Stories

About Kait’s Journey

  • Previous Education

    Master's Degree in English Literature, Trent University

  • Before Juno

    Production Coordinator, House of Anansi Press/Groundwood Books

  • After Juno

    Web Developer at TickTrade Systems

  • Currently

    Digital Designer and Developer

    Royal Ontario Museum

After learning the basics of HTML, CSS, and responsive design in Juno's part-time Web Development course, she applied for Juno’s Bootcamp in 2017, and was accepted! Over 9 weeks, Kait learned core front-end concepts and applied them while building stunning projects for her portfolio. She felt confident investing in Juno because of the support, the Student Outcomes, and the curriculum. “Talking with Heather and other folks on the Juno team before applying, I already felt supported in my decision to change careers, and I felt way more confident investing the time and money knowing I had a team to help me navigate a new industry. I also felt really welcomed and supported by Juno’s environment,” Kait adds.

There are so many female developers and Juno staff in the community - which was important to me coming from a book publishing background, which can be really female-dominated - and the Juno community is also really diverse.

After graduation, Kait landed her first job in tech working at a company that sold a technology system for foreign exchange trading and payments. “I was so relieved and excited," Kait says. "I read the email offer while walking downtown in the summer and sat on a cinderblock on Portland Street to call my mom and then my best friend!”

Today, Kait works as a Digital Designer and Developer at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum), working with a small team to maintain and create their website and other digital properties, such as on-site digital signage and e-communications. Kait also spends her time on content architecture, UX, and content strategy, and on an as-needed basis, helps train staff on their CMS (Drupal 7), basic HTML, and web accessibility best practices.

“It feels like the perfect marriage between my web development skills and my background in the arts,” she says. “Recently we’ve developed a new initiative called ROM at Home — it’s part of a larger goal to develop richer content for the web, which we started with online magazine content. I really enjoy getting to work on projects like this because my team sees it through from ideation to launch. We develop a content strategy, design, and develop, and then make adjustments iteratively as we respond to how users interact with the final product.”

“I also worked on an iPad project for our Dior exhibition that was a lot of fun — each dress in the exhibition was accompanied by an iPad with detailed photographs and related information, documents, and quotes. That’s not something my team does all the time and it was fun to work on something more hands-on and interactive.”

When asked if she had any advice for those looking to get into tech, Kait talks about her choice to enroll in a bootcamp as opposed to college or university:

"I’m very happy with my decision to do a bootcamp vs. going back to college or university for a degree," she says. "Coming from a situation where I'd already been working for a couple years, I was not interested in going back to school for another college or university degree that would require me to be back on a student budget for years at a time. It wasn't really feasible financially, and I also didn't want to commit that much time to a career change when I already had a university degree."

Kait also brings up the importance of a strong Career Services Team like Juno's: "I felt like the lack of dedicated career/job hunting support was one of my biggest issues with previous university and college degrees I had done, so Juno's focus on support through the job hunting process was a massive factor in my decision to do a bootcamp."

Speaking of job searching, Kait shares some words of wisdom for those on the hunt: “When you’re job hunting it can be hard to find the motivation to keep working on side projects — I’d suggest following your interests, whether that means learning a new language or CSS trick, or building a project around a topic or passion of yours. In my experience, it really does pay off to try and reach out directly to hiring managers and dev leaders when you’re applying at a company. I always try to do this when applying to a job and it usually leads to a direct response from them and an opportunity to set up an interview or informal chat.”

What inspires Kait? A wonderful feeling we know at Juno all too well!

I always feel inspired when I’m working with someone learning to code. How inspired and confident they feel when learning something new and the joy and satisfaction they feel when their code works is so rewarding, and helps get me excited to tackle new languages and projects.

After working in the industry for a few years, Kait continued her learning journey at Juno, completing our part-time Full-Stack Development course to round out her dev toolkit with back-end concepts. "It was very hands-on, which helps you implement your learning right away on-the-job," she says. "I'd highly recommend the course to those interested in leveling up their skills."

Kait hopes to learn more UX design skills, and could see herself working towards a management position in the future. We're excited to see what she'll work on next!

Feeling stuck at your job?

Tech may be for you! If you're looking to launch your career in web development like Kait, download our free guide to Kickstarting Your Tech Career to get started:

Download Free Guide to Kickstarting Your Tech Career

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