As part of our Tales in Tech series we’ve been catching up with members of our tech community to share the journeys, lessons learnt and advice that has helped them through their careers to date.

Ana Sampaio kick-started her career in software engineering over 8 years ago, having completed a Computer Science degree back home in Portugal. After working with both backend and frontend technologies and finding a love for JavaScript, we placed Ana in her current role as a Frontend Developer back in 2019.

Ana took us through why React is her framework of choice, the female role models she looked up to in her career who encouraged her to ‘dream big’, and her advice for anyone experiencing imposter syndrome.

Tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to become a Developer:

I’m Ana. I’m a Portuguese Developer and Team Lead currently living and working in London. Unlike most of my colleagues and friends, becoming a Developer wasn't part of my initial plans. After I finished uni I wanted to start working right away so I took part in a bootcamp to train as a Web Developer and 8 years later, here I am!

What inspired you to study computer science at university?

I was very influenced by my father who is an Electronic Engineer. I wasn't sure what I wanted to study at university and unemployment rates among young people were historically very high in Portugal. It would tend to take a few years after finishing uni to get your first job, and it wouldn't necessarily be paid or be in your area of expertise. My father had always been a visionary and he knew that computer science would be a good investment and there would be lots of demand for work - and he was right!

What do you think makes the technology industry a great industry to work?

Technology drives innovation. We have astronauts flying into space and self-driving cars all thanks to technology. It has an enormous impact on society and how people live their lives, and it can also change people’s behaviour for good. For example, online shopping has never been so important during this pandemic. Another funny example is the Netflix series the Queen’s Gambit. It tells a story about a chess prodigy in a world led by men and it has influenced lots of people to start playing chess around the world. Not long ago we were limited to watching what our national tv channels had and now through technology we have access to streaming platforms that enable us to watch whatever we want at our own place, from anywhere in the world.

Have you ever had any role models or mentors that you’ve looked up to in your career?

Yes definitely. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook was probably my first role model. Her tech talk, 'Why we have too few women leaders' back in 2010 really resonated with me, and also Brené Brown who is an author and Ted Talker. She talks about vulnerability which I found such an interesting topic because people usually don't admit their vulnerabilities, even though it’s inevitable if you want to grow.

I also have informal mentors who are people in my circle that care about me and who want me to thrive - my partner, my manager and some colleagues at work, I'm extremely thankful to have them around me.

Do you think there are more female leaders in the tech scene over the last few years, have you seen a positive movement?

Yes definitely. It’s been 10 years since Sheryl’s Ted Talk and I feel a lot has changed. For example we have our first female VP of the United States, Kamala Harris. 10 years ago I don't think that would have been possible. There's been a big drive to address the gender imbalance in leadership which is great to see. However I do feel leadership is still dominated by men. Things are moving in the right direction and it will become more balanced over the next few years, but we’re still a long way off.

Have you got any thoughts on what more we need to be doing to make leadership teams more balanced?

Having role models is key. Kamala Harris’ speech was very empowering and spot on - “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Having women in leadership roles is definitely the key to empowering other women to achieve and dream big.

What is it about React that makes it the technology of choice?

React is a JavaScript library and over the past few years it has stood out from other frontend development frameworks. Nowadays in any web application, user experience is a crucial factor. If user interfaces are poorly designed, then it lowers the chances of an application succeeding. If we put lots of effort into enhancing user experience through powerful interfaces, then there’s a better chance that the users will love it and will use that application. So, building rich user interfaces is key nowadays and React makes it much easier to build high quality, enriched user interfaces through something called declarative components. React was designed to provide high performance thanks to its Virtual DOM, which is super important for user experience. From a Developer point of view, it is a fairly easy technology to learn if you know HTML and JavaScript very well already. It’s also open source and actively maintained by Facebook which means there are new versions with improvements coming up, so there are a number of reasons why it's become so popular!

What steered you into frontend developing as opposed to other areas of engineering?

I started as a Backend Developer and then had the chance to do a project that required both backend and frontend, so I was able to try both sides. I enjoyed the frontend because I found building what users would actually see was really rewarding. I felt I could contribute a lot to the user experience more than if I was on the backend side of things. I also did it as a strategic move, I was hearing a lot about how JavaScript was the future and I wanted the opportunity to learn it.

What have been some of the highlights throughout your career? 

An interesting moment of my career was when I became a Contractor. Having my own company and doing my own accountancy every month really made me grow as an individual. But being self-employed has its strings attached, it’s great but also a bit scary. It gives you flexibility and freedom but on the other hand it gives you less stability, so it can be stressful not knowing where you might be in the next few weeks or months.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a Developer? 

Imposter syndrome might be something that you’re experiencing and that's normal. It will probably be around for a while. I would say be curious, strive for learning and do what feels right for you every day. Consistency is important and time will do the rest. You’ll become a better version of yourself every day and eventually you’ll become that Developer that you were aiming to be a few years ago.

What are some of your favourite tools or resources for upskilling and keeping up to date with technical developments?

I like Twitter to keep me up to date and also YouTube and egghead which is an online course platform. Two Developers I’ve been following recently and have learnt lots from are Ben Awad and Kent C. Dodds.

Do you attend any meetups? Are there any that you’d recommend? 

One thing that I love about London is how many meetups there are every day. I would definitely recommend React.js Girls London. During the first lockdown I attended an online conference called Lead Dev. It's usually hosted in different cities every year, but they did a fully online edition this year because of the lockdown. With everyone working remotely, I was keen to find out how Developers and Managers of other companies were dealing with it and what they're doing differently, it was really insightful.

What would you say to anyone considering a career in technology? Any advice or words of wisdom?

Career opportunities in technology are endless and there is a huge spectrum of roles that you can choose from, from Engineer to CTO. It’s a big ladder to climb but it’s possible and these days there are plenty of roles at great companies that are trying to revolutionise how we live and make a positive impact in the world. So definitely take a chance and find out more, it’s a great environment to be part of.

A huge thank you to Ana for taking the time to share her journey into Engineering with us. Raising some really important points about how female role models and mentors are crucial for inspiring the next generation of Engineers and leaders in tech.

If you’ve had an interesting pathway into tech or are working on an exciting project you’d like to share, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and share your story with our tech community.

Want to receive the latest from our blog directly to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly highlights newsletter here!