Career Success Story: From Technical Writer to QA Developer at WeSpire

Stereotypes are hard to kill, but Meredith Davies is working to crack the code.

Technical writer-turned-developer at WeSpire, Meredith Davies launched her programming career in our fall 2014 web development course. While in the program, Meredith made it a personal mission to address the gender gap in tech, spearheading an event that celebrated women leaders in the innovation sector. She is an upbeat and spirited woman, an expert communicator, and anything but a tech cliché.

I caught up with Meredith to learn a bit more about her experiences at WeSpire and her advice for new developers.[bctt tweet="How @notoriousMKD pivoted her career to become a #developer @goWeSpire."]

How long have you been with WeSpire?

I’ve been at WeSpire since January 2015, and my official job title is QA Developer. Working on the QA team, my primary responsibilities are to help find and fix bugs in our app and occasionally write code for features.

What skills are most key to doing your job well?

My phenomenal supervisor, John Carmichael, likes to stress that when he is hiring, he looks for candidates who are smart and can get stuff done, which is a huge reason that he hires the folks coming out of Startup Institute. I think being self motivated, flexible, and a team-player are keys to success in any role at our company. For QA, it helps to pay attention to detail and to be eager to learn, and also super hilarious.

Describe a “day in the life” in your role.

Oh gosh, this is tough. A “day in the life” varies so much depending on what we’re working on at the time. Some days, I’ll spend most of my time testing out a new feature that our developers have deployed. Other days, I’ll spend most of the day working on code either by myself or pair programming with one of the senior developers. On Mondays, our office has an all-hands meeting to make sure all of the different departments know what’s going on across the board, and on Fridays we have a retro meeting/group lunch where we give feedback and kudos to each other.

What’s most exciting to you about being a developer?

The more I learn to code, the more empowered I feel to create whatever future I can imagine for my life and to influence the future I hope to see in our world.[bctt tweet="The more I code, the more empowered I feel to create whatever future I imagine - @notoriousMKD"]

What's the biggest challenge in your role?

I’ve never worked in a startup before, and I’ve found it to be true that our processes change fairly rapidly. It can sometimes be challenging to switch gears so quickly, but I think our pace typifies the mindset of not letting "perfect" be the enemy of "good enough and done."[bctt tweet="#Startup pace typifies the mindset to not let perfect be the enemy of good enough - @notoriousMKD"]

Tell us about your interview process. What should candidates expect in a technical interview at WeSpire?

First, there is a phone screen to find out if the candidate can talk about code, what she likes about it, a general skill range, does this person sound like she would be fun to work with?, etc. One of the most important factors is coachability, which includes how well the candidate can give and receive feedback. During the code test, the candidate is asked to build something on her own and then extend it in several major ways during a live coding session. The best advice I can give about this technical portion of the interview process is that the process isn’t intentionally intimidating, and the interviewer wants to see candidates succeed and be helpful. The more communicative a candidate is if she runs into trouble, the better. Candidates are not expected to know everything, and no one wants to be scary or make the interviewee feel nervous.

Additionally, there is a lot of emphasis put on the cultural fit at WeSpire, which is why we’re all best friends forever.[bctt tweet="Candidates aren't expected to have all the answers—communicate your roadblocks, says @notoriousMKD"]

What advice do you have for people who want to launch web development careers?

Start now! Work on building something that interests you! Build for fun. It’s certainly helpful to work through a book or a tutorial online for learning reasons, but make your focus building something that you’re engaged in. One of the most amazing aspects of web development is the support of the community—developers almost always eagerly want to help you and share their knowledge! [bctt tweet="The web dev community is amazingly supportive + eager to share ideas, says @notoriousMKD"]

Did your time at SI prepare you for your work at WeSpire?

SI definitely helped me gain a better understanding of how a startup functions and how the expectations are aligned. It was a really nice transition between the types of companies I have worked for in the past and working for a startup.

What was your favorite part of your SI experience?

My favorite part of my SI experience is the network that I built through it. My roommate and I met at SI, and I absolutely wouldn’t be in the job I am today had I not attended SI. The people involved with the program—in your cohort, in the alumni network, the staff, guests and teachers -- are all wonderful and hard working and special snowflakes.

Any advice for students enrolling in our web development course?

I would encourage students to have a couple of goals in mind going into the program, or to set a couple of goals very early on, and focus a large part of their efforts on reaching those goals. There is so much going on at Startup Institute all the time that it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed and like you couldn’t possibly get all of the stuff done that is being asked of you, which is true, but that’s not the point, so you should make it your own!

To learn more our web development training program and how Startup Institute can help you to launch your software engineering career in a startup, download your free web development course guide.