On the Path is an interview series with CodePath's student community, highlighting our students' stories, accomplishments, and journeys to become software engineers.
When Sydney Varner was a rising junior at Georgia State University majoring in Computer Science, she participated in CodePath's SITE program, learning full-stack web development and gaining 1:1 mentorship from the engineering team at Workday, a leader in enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. After completing CodePath's program, Sydney received an offer from Workday as a Software Development Engineer Intern, which she completed in the summer of 2022.
This conversation with Sydney gives a glimpse into what it's like to learn web development with CodePath, and how it launched her tech career through an internship with Workday.
Tell us about your background. How did you first become interested in computer science?
When I was younger, my mom always encouraged me to get into Tech because the industry was growing rapidly. She signed me up for an event with an organization called Black Girls Code. I went to the event, and they taught us a little about web development; that was my first exposure.
After that, I wasn't necessarily interested in tech, but I knew I liked web development. It was interesting, but I was more interested in the art and design of it. For a while, I decided to become a Graphic Designer or an Animator. But then my junior year of high school, I took a digital design class. I learned UX/UI (user experience/user interface) design and web development. That's when I officially became interested in web development; I liked that you can involve art and design, and I love designing interfaces. From there, I decided to take an AP Computer Science class as a senior in high school and that Computer Science would be my major in college.
What are your key takeaways from the experience of learning Web Development through CodePath?
It was cool to learn how to adapt to new technologies. The CodePath program was great; it was also very rigorous.
In the first four weeks, we were introduced to new information daily from our TAs and instructors; I had to adapt quickly to new things. I realized this was an essential skill because it helped me with the summer internship. I also learned to be bold and ask people questions because learning new technologies is challenging. Sometimes, you feel like, "Oh, I don't know this," or you should pick it up faster, but it just takes time. That was a perspective I gained.
We had a capstone project that we worked on for the last six weeks of the program. I worked with a small group of two other people to build a whole website in that timeframe to present at the end. I learned how to organize the work and communicate with group mates when working on a technical project. For example, if I'm stronger at the front-end UI, I should work on that. And if somebody is stronger with the back-end code, they should work on that. I learned about the different elements of being a developer.
In the program, we had regular stand-ups--meetings to discuss what we worked on with other developers. I learned a lot that I will use in future opportunities, like in my internship with Workday.
Did anything surprise you about the program? If so, what?
It was just very unique. I liked the environment a lot. We had labs every day and weekly assignments.
It was more about learning than getting everything done and rushing to turn something in.
Also, the people who organized the program, the TAs, and the instructors were very kind and encouraging. They made it an excellent environment for me to learn. It didn't feel super stressful or like their expectations were too high. It felt like they just wanted us to learn and have fun.
What made you decide to apply and enroll in the CodePath SITE program?
The class I took in high school was fundamental web development. It only involved HTML, CSS, and making basic web pages. I wanted to learn more.
CodePath offered an in-depth [learning] opportunity; we made full-stack web applications. It involved creating a back-end, an API, and a front-end to work together while using cutting-edge technology that I hadn't used before.
How did the program affect how you think about a career in Tech? Did it show you anything you didn't already know?
It showed me that there are many different personalities of people that are in Tech. People are kind.
It also showed me that it's normal to have impostor syndrome. Everyone is learning. Everyone is trying to grow and do their best in their tech career. It opened my mind to the fact that I may have strengths or weaknesses, but everyone does.
In my internship with Workday, I realized that being a developer is a lot about talking to other people and gathering information about how to do something together. It's only sometimes sitting at your computer and coding away. A lot of it is looking things up, finding references, and figuring out how to solve the problem.
What are you working on now?
While I can't share much about what I'm working on (due to security reasons), I can say that I'm a Software Development Engineer Intern.
I am using a lot of the technology I learned with CodePath. At CodePath, I learned about React and rest APIs–when you make specific requests to gather or store information from a website.
Simply put, I'm applying the skills (I learned at CodePath) to what I'm doing now.
What would you tell someone considering applying to CodePath's Web Development course pathway or SITE?
I would say, "Do it because it's a cool opportunity, and you have nothing to lose." I recommend CodePath's courses because they're free; I wish I had known about them sooner. With my pre-internship, CodePath chose kind people as TAs and instructors.
It is a warm environment, and you grow and learn even if it can be challenging.
There is a growing demand for web developers, and CodePath offers multiple programs in this discipline, including our Web Development courses and our Summer Internship for Tech Excellence (SITE) program, a paid work and learning pre-internship to help prepare college sophomores for professional internships.
Students enrolled in CodePath's Web Development course receive invaluable experience building and exploring websites' layouts, functionality, and interactivity from scratch. By the end of the course, students will have the knowledge to build fast, responsive websites with a personalized user experience.