Interview with: Jane Kotovich

I thought: ‘I can at least try, I mean why not?’
Written by
Published on
November 7, 2022

I thought: ‘I can at least try, I mean why not?’

The first thing you notice about Jane is her warmth. She radiates positivity. She is one of those people determined to not make you feel stupid. Like a lot of people at SwiftFox, her curiosity for the world extends far beyond her job description.

A bit of backstory…

Born: Jane was born in Latvia.

Studied: A bit of everything. And I mean everything. But formally she studied Marketing and Management at the Peter The Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.

Fun fact: Jane studied German for 3 months in a Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in St Petersburg. She did this to prepare for a masters’ degree in Germany. However, when her main reason for going fell through (she planned to work as a snowboarding instructor in Germany) she left to Indonesia.

Indonesia: She planned to holiday in Indonesia for 3 weeks but stayed for seven years.

Work in Indonesia: Jane was Head of Operations at Endless Summer Surf Camp and Surf Schools. This was a big job. Each hotel had a surf camp, and she was responsible for all the operations chain of Endless Summer Surf Camp and Surf Schools. She also learned Indonesian and went surfing every morning. Note we are on 3 languages now.

Finding developing. Jane undertook a series of courses to keep her brain busy – and found developing.

We’re going to start here – but if I ever write a biography, it will be of Jane.

First, important question: Do you prefer ‘Developer’ or ‘Engineer’?

Engineer. I mean, it just sounds cooler.

Did you always want to be an engineer?

No, not at all. My mum suggested it when I was young, but I didn’t listen. I mean I was always into computers. I was good at photoshop and when I was 7, my processor died. So, my friend gave me a new part, and I opened the box, and unscrewed the old one and put in a new one. But it was really easy! It just sounds crazy.

What mindset do you need to become an engineer?

It’s not about developing; it’s about resolving the issue. You have an issue, and you need to resolve it.

How do you think you’ve fostered this mindset?

In Russia, at school or at university you don’t select the subjects. But you have fixed subjects and not all of them you like, some subjects were outside of my understanding, and I didn’t like them, but you still have to decide how you’re going to work through problems.

So, you remove all this anxiety and stress. And this anxiety and stress is usually what people have when they start developing. Junior developers often think, “oh I don’t know anything.” But no one knows anything. You have to get this mindset where nothing is impossible. That everything could be resolved. It’s just a matter of time. You have to go step-by-step.

It gives you an ability to handle things when you’re scared, or where you don’t like it, it gives you an approach to know how to handle these situations. This ability to find information too, I think it helps. Lots of girls from Slovenian countries they used to have the same system in school in their countries. I know multiple who have made a career as a developer. Not one, not two. But many.  Not sure if this is related, but it is interesting.

How did you stumble on developing?

I like to study; I was always looking for courses. I was doing some psychology and management courses as well. I like to keep myself busy and keep my brain evolving. I didn’t want to be a waitress forever.

That is how I somehow found this SS HTML course online. I was really surprised because I’ve never been that into maths, but this course took my breath away and I thought ‘wow, this is so crazy, this is so fun.’

Had you ever done anything like that before? What appealed to you about learning to write code?

Photoshop really helped me. Because with CSS it’s exactly the same. That’s a struggle for most people but all the layers being similar, it really helped me. Oh my god, I never imagined before that I’m able to write codes, like for real. I can make a simple website, a really simple website but wow – I could not believe it.

I had no prior experience- it was a completely new skillset. After exploring CSS and HTML, I was amazed by the creation moments that that could happen. I never imagined I was able to write code, like for real. And here I am writing something – I could make a simple website.

“To me, writing code was like drawing and filling in a colouring book.” – Jane
Introductory course

I did a 5-week online bootcamp course through INCO with 35 other students. This went through the basics. It gave me an understanding of the different layers of coding language. And that’s what’s amazing. With the frontend you can play more with the colours and things like that. With the backend you’re free to do whatever.

What made you choose to do the 3-month course?

There was a bootcamp for data analytics as well as the development one, so I had to choose. Because I loved the data side too. I love analysing data, but with web development it feels more like creating – more flexibility.  (Note, SwiftFox’s mission is to democratise data, so think Jane has found a pretty good fit).

The bootcamp course was more selective. It introduced us to lots of things. It was free as well. They were giving you lots of information, but a lot of the learning was self-led, and you had to do a lot of research. They were giving you assignments in:

  • WordPress
  • CSS
  • HTML
Was the course hard?

You needed to have more free time. Lots of people had other jobs. For me, I had this waitress job so I could easily juggle it around. I could work nights. It was easy. I mean it wasn’t easy, I worked 7 days a week. But it was easy because I could afford it, I can at least try, I mean why not.

After bootcamp – I realised I didn’t have a thorough knowledge. I knew things generally. I applied for some internships but I couldn’t get any.

The course I found made me really fall in love with Javascript. Around that time, I realised you had to have packages, you needed to know certain things if you wanted to be a frontend developer or a backend developer. I found on Udemy they have lots of courses online. I did 8 or 9.

What would you say to someone who is looking to get into developing?
  1. Not to be scared. The fear of failing is the biggest thing. Not even trying something because you’re scared to fail. And for women, that’s even more important. Being a developer is not as hard as everyone says.
  2. Believe in yourself. Start with smaller steps. First, you have to understand what you want to do frontend or backend. You can try some general courses. And, don’t just read, do free writing as well.
  3. There are a few things you have to know:
    – You have to know Javascript
    – You have to know HTML
  4. Dont forget to upload your projects on your GitHub page! Work on your projects and you will definitely find something.
We have some jobs going at the moment, what is your advice for someone applying to work at SwiftFox?
  • Be yourself. I would say this in general but be yourself.
  • When you fail, don’t stop. Just go again and again, I applied for lots of jobs and there was nothing for a while, and then I had four job offers at once.
  • Go with what you feel. And, if you have a feeling that you have to be there – go with it. When I was deciding on jobs, I had an offer with a bigger salary, but it just felt better with the team here (at SwiftFox).
  • Ask questions. Tim Eddy mentioned this one too. For the people applying, as questions. Everyone has different things they want from their company. Understand what your questions are and ask them.
  • Connection first. Great connection in development is even more important than knowledge.
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