Vanessa Sue Smith


From Restaurant Management to Building an App for Premature Babies

Name Vanessa Sue Smith

Current Frontend developer at Axakon

Graduation February 2021

Vanessa, originally from Panama thinks of herself as an energetic and colorful person. “I love gathering with friends and meeting new people, but also enjoy spending some me-time reading or watching series. I have a background in the food industry, so during my time off I enjoy discovering new cafés or restaurants, or hosting dinners and cooking for friends”, Vanessa says. She has a degree in Graphic Design and used to work in restaurants in Belgium due to her great interest in vegan foods. That’s also where she met the friend that would eventually take her to Sweden. “Once in Sweden, I had the opportunity to work in 100% vegan restaurants, focusing on sustainable and organic produce, which was a dream come true. I took on higher positions, becoming a Kitchen and Restaurant Manager.”

While Vanessa enjoyed working in restaurants, she felt a need to reconnect with her creative side. Vanessa did her research on learning frontend development and found Technigo because it suited her that the bootcamp was conducted in English. “The fact that it only lasted 6 months got my attention”, she explains.

Technigo also offered a Career Coaching Program as part of the bootcamp which was interesting to Vanessa. “I’d been working as a Chef, so I was in need of guidance on how to present myself to potential employers as a beginning developer, how to build a portfolio and online profile, help networking and meeting valuable contacts for the future.”

Building a female-focused final project with Technigo

Together with her bootcamp team, Vanessa built a log-app for premature babies as her final project. “It was my classmate Sofia who approached me to work together on this idea. Sofia has experience working as a neonatal ICU nurse where she used to write daily log books for premature babies who did not end up immediately under their parents' care. This time of separation can last from days to weeks, so data recording during this time is important and crucial. This log book was originally kept in paper format, so our goal was to create a digital version where this data can be stored more securely and which parents can carry on later on.”

Vanessa says that the project felt very meaningful to her and she was glad to build something that could make a big difference in women’s lives. While they found planning the project challenging at times, it went smoothly overall.

“We took the time to plan everything out as detailed as possible. We had a draft of what we wanted to show in the frontend: landing page, different sections, etc.; which helped us determine what we needed from our Backend: which endpoints, what type of data and how to structure our database.”

Having everything planned out this way made it possible to start coding from day one.

They had four weeks to complete the project, so they worked on a weekly planning basis with clear goals for that week and advanced goals in case they had some extra time left.

Gender equality, the missing link to better tech products

“Not having more women involved in the development process is a huge missed opportunity”, Vanessa says. Having women in the team will give you a broader input. Women have a different perspective and experience the world in another way than men. Their input will make products look differently.

Products might end up being more innovative, appealing to a broader audience and being much more compatible with already existing users, because the team developing the product is more diverse and takes into account more opinions. “It’s a bit hard to put into words, but I truly believe having women on a team brings up a special, fun twist that reflects on the products and which I think people appreciate.”

What companies can do to support women in tech, especially frontend

“When considering a company’s profile, it definitely makes a difference when I see a good amount of women as their employees (extra points for women in management positions).

I think the responsibility falls on both of us: women and companies”, Vanessa says.

While she says it’s on the women to become competent and great at their craft, develop the skills and keep building upon them, it’s also important to be confident and go after those positions: “even if our profile does not match 100% what the company is looking for, apply and create that opportunity for us.”

But companies must give women a fair chance. “In my experience here in Sweden, I do see more and more companies making an effort to have more women on board”, Vanessa says. It’s important that once women are in, companies maintain an environment where they feel heard and appreciated.

Vanessa’s goal: a career in frontend

“My goal after the bootcamp is to start a career as a developer. I want to land that first job which opens the doors for me into the tech sector”, she shares. She wants to keep learning and figure out what to specialize in. “I have a growing interest in Backend development, so hopefully my job allows me to dig deeper into that area.”

Vanessa says she received a lot of support during this career-change journey, so she wants to give back. “I am very community-oriented, so I would like to help out other women who also want to take the leap and start working in tech.”

Just a month ago, Vanessa landed her first job in tech, as a Consultant Developer at Axakon.

“Since the very beginning of the recruitment process, Axakon has been incredibly supportive and welcoming. Fun fact, I am actually the first person they hired who is not fluent in Swedish, since one of the company’s goals is to be more diverse. Ever since I started all communications have been switched or translated to English which has made me feel really included and valued.”

Vanessa works on a project which is compatible with the tech stack she learned at Technigo, so she has been able to start contributing really fast. “Every single thing I learned during the bootcamp has been put to use.”

Learning a new job is demanding, especially this being her first job as a developer, but it has been rewarding. “I keep learning new things everyday and becoming better at the things I already knew.” Vanessa found the job via her Technigo career mentor, Mimmi. Mimmi also supported Vanessa in building her portfolio and training for interviews. “Her help meant so much to me during this whole job hunting process. It was super valuable having someone experienced give me some feedback and some good guiding pointers.”

Thanks, Vanessa!

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