Jodie Banner

My transition into tech: an unconventional career journey

Jodie hanging out in York
Jodie hanging out in York

Hi, I’m Jodie, an Associate Cloud Security Engineer at Immersive Labs. My journey to this role wasn’t a typical one, but has been very enjoyable and has given me a breadth of experience to draw from in the few months I’ve been here. In this post, I’ll share my journey to date and the skills from my former life that I draw on most frequently in my current role. I hope it helps you to consider your own strengths and how they can help you transition into tech.

I started out studying arts and humanities subjects at university, including an MA in English. I also completed a grad scheme in managing projects in higher education that took me to universities around the UK. From there I got a job as Student Experience Officer at the University of Birmingham. While I really enjoyed the job, it didn’t feel like a career with a clear progression path. I wasn’t really interested in pursuing other roles in higher education professional services. But then I heard about Code First: Girls.

Their Introduction to Web Development course seemed like an exciting chance to learn how to build my own website. I was unsure about applying at first, as I didn’t think I had the technical background or experience. A friend that had completed it assured me it was beginner-friendly and that all you needed was motivation and enthusiasm. I was successful in gaining a place, and was soon heading over to The Economist in Birmingham one evening a week. Everyone there was supportive and I gained confidence as the weeks progressed. Our website ended up winning a competition and we received positive feedback all round. Over the duration of the course, I realized that the skills we were learning could be built upon and taken further. Through people I

Jodie in the yellow hat, waving while mid open water race!
Jodie in the yellow hat, waving while mid open water race!

met at The Economist, I heard about the School of Code – a free 16-week full-stack Bootcamp. Long story short, I got a place and decided to commit to learning how to code full time. The School of Code took me from having very little cyber knowledge to getting a job as a Junior DevOps Engineer for a cybersecurity company that specialized in the maritime industry. A year later I joined Immersive Labs as an Associate Cloud Security Engineer in the content team.

I’ve found that building labs is a fantastic way to consolidate my own understanding of different cloud security topics. It requires me to thoroughly understand specific aspects – essentially becoming an expert in these areas – so that I can write comprehensive and high quality labs for our customers. The skills I draw upon most from my humanities and project management background are:

  • Critical thinking: Being able to critically evaluate cloud and cybersecurity resources so the information I cite in labs is up to date and accurate.
  • Writing: We have an amazing Presentation QA team that checks the tone and grammar of our labs before they’re released, but being able to clearly articulate complex topics when putting labs together is really handy.
  • Attention to detail: There are lots of parts in the lab build process. Being able to scrutinize technical details can really speed this up. Being able to spot a missed closing bracket can save a lot of time!
  • Prioritization: In this role, I can be asked to deliver an entire series of labs. This means spending time thinking through how to best plan the series, which labs are prerequisites for others, and therefore which need to be written first.
  • Managing deadlines: Sometimes labs need to be delivered by the end of a particular sprint. Being agile often means being adaptable, but it can also mean the ability to manage your own workload and meet deadlines wherever possible.      
  • Teamwork: Being able to work on labs as a pair or in a small team is also really valuable as it provides the opportunity to learn from teammates.
Jodie about to run the Birmingham Half Marathon
Jodie about to run the Birmingham Half Marathon

Immersive Labs has given me great opportunities for developing new skills and ideas. The company-wide Hackathon and 10% Time are excellent initiatives that I’ve already been able to join. They give employees the chance to work on innovative ideas to help the company grow further. Having the chance to take a step back from the day-to-day and get creative about how the company achieves its goals during the Hackathon was great fun and a chance to bond with people I might not normally get to work with. Every two weeks, 10% Time allows us to work on something totally different that may add value to our product. I can also collaborate with anyone across the company and it’s really exciting to have total agency over a project.

I hope this post has helped you to see that anyone can find their route into tech, no matter what your background is. A computer science degree isn’t necessary for success in a tech role, especially with the support of an employer like Immersive Labs. You can continue learning and developing all the time, as well as work according to your strengths. If you’re thinking about making the move in cybersecurity, it’s worth thinking about what your strengths are and how they could help you to kickstart your new career path. Good luck!