Getting to Know

Getting To Know Ana María Benites Rodríguez — Software Engineer at solarisBank

. 5 min read . Written by ACELR8
Getting To Know Ana María Benites Rodríguez — Software Engineer at solarisBank

Ana was hired in July last year for the Junior Elixir Engineer role at solarisBank. Originally from Peru, she has made drastic changes throughout her professional career and has taken a few courageous moves that led her to move to Berlin and starting a career in programming, from scratch.

Her success was noticed by Grace Hopper Celebration where she was invited to speak at a panel in Florida. She is an example of courage, determination and success. We talked with her about how she entered the programming world and the advice she would give to people that might also be interested in following the same path

What did you study?

I studied Business Administration in Austria. I worked for more than five years in the business sector (from mining and sales to the hospitality management sector). When I went back to Peru, I started collaborating with Women in Tech – Peru who gave guidance for women that wanted to get into the tech field. It was more to give women the option to have a first contact with the tech field.

How did you find out about this group in the first place?

I was already interested in tech from the consumer side. I was using the newest gadgets and wanted to find out more about how they work. I attended a few conferences and got to know about the group through people there. I found this world super interesting but didn’t go too deep into coding. They had a few classes for coding mainly during the weekend and I started attending them. I really liked the idea of using tech for good and I got deeper into it, mainly out of curiosity. This organisation was teaching young girls to code to give them this option at the beginning of their lives. So I wanted to get into it and even started teaching. The greatest thing was that the group believed that the best way to learn is teaching, it was a constant learning experience. I thought: “How can I teach if I don’t know much myself?”. But they were really nice about it and I learned a lot. We did a Python class and I learned and found it super interesting. I decided to search for opportunities abroad and that’s when I found out about work opportunities in Germany for software engineers.

Why did you decide to move to Germany?

I started searching for opportunities abroad and I visited a few embassies in Lima. I learned that Germany is offering a Job Seeking Visa and I could move to Berlin and stay 6 months looking for opportunities. I knew that Germany and especially Berlin was a technology hub so it was perfect.

How long after your first contact with coding you decided to move?

One year. I had online courses for that year. I completed freeCodeCamp and another focused on Python. I didn’t have a plan, I just wanted to get closer to the subject so I started learning everything I could and slowly started getting closer to the tech community. I was also volunteering on a meetup group. At this point, I started searching and saving money to come over. The idea was to move and do a 3-month course and dedicate the next 3 months to finding a job. It could’ve gone wrong of course! I came to Berlin and did a coding bootcamp of 3 months called Spiced Academy. I didn’t know anyone in Berlin and found out about the camp where I learned HTML, CSS, Javascript, NodeJS, and React. We created 5 projects that would work for our portfolios and started looking for jobs.

How was the job search after 3 months of the bootcamp?

It was actually quite difficult. No one wanted a fresh Junior Developer. Usually, Junior Developers have already some working experience with internships or working student roles or at least coming from 5 years of a computer science university. I was applying everywhere without even thinking about it. Many rejected me. I had one offer for a gaming company that used JavaScript and at the same time, I received another offer from a language learning application. They had a plan of training Junior developers together internally. It was a great opportunity for developers that weren’t coming from a computer science background so I decided to go for it. It was a great program and I was fortunate enough to find it! I went for it even though it was paid less. After 6 months the Senior Engineers would evaluate our progress and decide if we would get a permanent contract. Here I had to start learning Ruby and transitioned to more backend programming. I learned about algorithms. I stayed for around 11 months with this company. It was a learning experience for all of us and I learned a couple of things such as working in a tech environment, learn how to work with senior engineers and about agile processes. It was a cool experience for being the first one.

How was your experience in your first programming job?

It was really hard because things were new. I worked with frameworks such as Angular for the front-end and Ruby for the backend — both of which I had never used until that point. I had to learn a lot. I was working full-time and would study more at home after work. For me, this was not a problem because I enjoy learning. In the end, tech will always be about constant learning, so it’s also about having that trait. I really enjoyed learning Ruby and learned also team dynamics being a part of a real agile development team. I had never done standups, sprints, retrospectives, and it was a pleasure to learn.

What advice would you give to people thinking about entering the tech world? How should people with no education in programming get a chance to have their first steps?

Something I would recommend to everyone is being a part of the community. Since Peru, I’ve been volunteering with groups and even now that I have a full-time row I also volunteer. Here, even before finding a job, I helped mentoring and teaching coding to a group of women in a group called REDI School of Digital Integration, we started a Digital Women Program which took place on Saturdays and we taught Python to new developers. At this time, I needed a community. Being a part of the groups was crucial for me to start programming and learn in a unit. Above all, I was able to see that I wasn’t alone. We all were learning by doing and relying on each other. Being given the challenge to teach the little that I knew, was also very important because I had a bit of pressure to learn quickly to be able to transmit to all other members. It’s been one year and a half that I’ve been in this group and I loved it!

Tell us about the Grace Hopper Celebration. How did that come about?

I wanted to give back to the community so I joined the community and I am currently the project leader of an online project that has the goal to help women and underrepresented groups to break into tech by teaching them different programming languages and offering mentoring. I was invited this year 2019 to the GHC2019 to talk in a panel about education, communities, and leadership. The conference had over 24k women from all over the world. We had a motto for this project: it doesn’t matter where you are and which economically situation you are, you will be able to connect with mentors and stay strong on your path on learning how to code. The objective is to give people a chance to find an entry-level job in the tech industry.

Which personality traits you think are needed for people trying to come into the programming field?

Curiosity and will power. I personally believe that in this life, the moment you stop learning you start dying. I’ve seen many women that are curious about tech but never start because they either don’t have support, don’t have a mentor or get bored without the support of anyone. Don’t stop, reach out to the community and commit to your dream!