A behind-the-scenes look at the people who make us great.
Welcome to the second instalment of the Cogent Crew series, where we’re inviting you to get to know the people who make Cogent what it is.
This month Courtney sat down with Nadia to hear about her journey to becoming a developer, what she loves about teaching and the surprising similarities between programming and dress making.
Name: Nadia Vu
Time at Cogent: 1 year, 4 months
So Nadia, tell us a bit about you…
Well, I’ve been at Cogent almost a year and a half now which is very exciting and I’m a developer on the team. I’ve worked on four projects in my time now at Cogent and they’ve all be really different. Some of them have been at big companies, some of them have been smaller companies but I like the fact that I get a lot of variety. Variety is the spice of life!
Do you have a preference though?
That’s tough because I’ve loved them all for very different reasons and they all come with their own different challenges. I just enjoy that I get to do both because sometimes it’s nice to be in a small company where everybody knows each other, but it’s also nice working on bigger problems and bigger companies. Some projects I’ve really loved because they were technically challenging and then other ones because I was working with really, really amazing people.
Is that what attracted you to working at Cogent? Or was it the ice cream freezer?
How did you know it was the ice creams? No, the best thing about working at Cogent is definitely the people. It’s fun that I get a lot of variety in the projects I work on, but the people at Cogent are what really makes me enjoy my work, because at the end of the day these are the people that I come back to. These are the people that offer me all the support. These are the people that are always there for me.
That’s definitely my favourite part. Everybody has such weird and wonderful backgrounds and skills. We’ve all got our own little stories to tell. I love hearing about them. If I’m working onsite with one of our clients, I also get to meet a lot of interesting people there, but every time I come back to the Treehouse — our headquarters — I chat to someone who I haven’t seen in a few months and I learn something new about them all over again. It’s great!
How was your journey like to becoming a developer?
I think I’m very lucky because for me it was a fairly short journey. It was about six months between starting to learn how to program and getting my first programming job. My very first interaction with programming was from clicking on an online ad for Code School, which is an online platform to learn how to code. I found it fun, so kept going back and eventually found a couple of local Meetups to go to, and one of them was about how to install Ruby on Rails on your computer.
At the time I didn’t know what any of this was but I thought “Yeah that sounds like something I need for my computer, right?” So I just turned up and everyone there was so lovely and kind. They showed me how to install this programming language on my computer, then a bit later I went to Rails Girls, where they taught me how to build my very first Rails application and that day was so amazing. I made some new friends and I guess you could say the rest is history.
Is this your first career path, or were you doing something else beforehand?
I wouldn’t say it was a career path but I worked in marketing and sales, and for a while I also worked as a design assistant making wedding and bridesmaid dresses. For a long time I really thought I was going to stick it out in fashion and design. I really felt that was where I was going to end up but I guess life takes us to funny places and here I am.
Wow, that’s totally different!
Yeah, they’re quite different, but there is actually a weird similarity as well. When I’m programming, I’m trying to take something from the real world and turn it into code that can then reconstruct it over and over again.
Sometimes it reminds me of pattern making, in that you take a 3D body, try to flatten it out to 2D so that you can create a pattern that you can then sew back up to make a 3D shape.
If you do a really good job with your pattern, your dress ends up fitting the 3D body and the pattern can be replicated over and over. It’s similar to if you’ve modelled your code correctly and then apply it to the real world, it matches what you were aiming to build.
That’s a great analogy actually. Would you change anything or are you happy you did that first?
I kind of wish I’d started programming earlier so I could skip that part about trying to figure out what I wanted to do career wise. I was interested when I was around 14, but I never pursued it because I didn’t understand the world of programming and nobody around me was very technical. So I think if I could go back in time and give myself advice, I’d say start programming earlier.
And you’ve started teaching now?
Yes, I’m still in the pretty early stages of my career, I’d say my second great love behind programming is teaching people how to program. I really enjoy teaching and spend a lot of time mentoring Rails Girls because it was so life changing for me. I’m always saying at these events to just keep trying and find yourself a good mentor that will help you along the way.
There are a lot of people out there offering help and wanting to share all their knowledge, you’ve just got to find them.
My hope from teaching and mentoring is that if I’m very lucky, I’ll help somebody out along their journey in the same way I was helped on mine.
So what’s next for you?
I want to keep developing my skills as a developer and keep teaching, but I also want to do a little bit of travelling actually. I haven’t done a lot of travelling in the past, so I’m hoping to see a few corners of the world.