After a fast year of growth for Synap, we're thrilled to bring Hazel Normandale onboard as our first full time developer. Hazel has a lot of experience in marketing, but recently decided to change careers and get into web development. In this interview, she explains why she wanted to switch, why what she hopes to bring to the team, and whether she prefers tabs or spaces!


This is your first job as a software developer - tell us a little bit about what you did before then, and what made you want to switch careers?

I'd been working in marketing for the past few years, but started to feel like it wasn't the right for me long term. The parts I enjoyed most were tinkering with the website, and I discovered that even without any coding knowledge, I was pretty good at fixing problems and finding workarounds. I often worked with developers as part of my marketing roles, and when I realised that I could train to be a software developer in a relatively short period of time I began to seriously consider a career change. I taught myself some basic JavaScript and decided that this was the career for me.

You went through a programme called Northcoders, what was that like and would you recommend it to people?

Northcoders offer a 12 week intensive course, which takes you from a complete newbie to being ready for a junior development role. It was pretty full on but I would highly recommend it for anyone looking to start a career in development - it’s structured really well so you learn quickly without being overloaded, with the opportunity to just get stuck in trying out new concepts straight away. Making lots of mistakes is the best way to learn, plus it’s incredibly satisfying to see an error pop up and think, “I’ve seen that before and know how to fix it!”

What do you enjoy about development, and do you have any advice for people considering a career move?

People don’t always see programming as creative, but that’s what I love the most about it. During my course, it was interesting to see just how many different solutions people came up with for the same problem, as everyone has their own way of approaching things. I also love that it’s such an ever-changing industry - there’s always something new to learn.

My advice would be to not be put off by what you think you know about coding - you don’t have to be a maths whizz to be a good developer. Get started with things like Codecademy and CodeWars and you’ll quickly work out whether it’s something you could devote a lot of time to.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love playing board games, so you’ll often find me at board game club or playing with friends. I have a fairly big collection, and if someone asks me to bring a game or two I usually end up bringing 6 or 7 because I can’t decide!

I also like to get outdoors, whether it’s walking, running, cycling or even a bit of climbing.

Cats or Dogs?

I like both but I’m definitely a cat person. A couple of my friends have gone travelling for a year and I’m looking after their two cats, Eeyore and Xiao. They’re very demanding but too cute for me to mind!

Spaces or Tabs? 

Tabs? Perhaps I’m too new at this to have strong opinions about it!

Developers are in high demand right now, what attracted you to a startup as opposed to working in a larger company?

There's always security in big companies, but it can be difficult to see how your work is contributing to the big picture. With a start-up you can really see how your work is making a difference to the company and the customers.

With a small team, there’s also an opportunity to be involved in different aspects of the business, rather than being pigeonholed into a very specific area, which appealed to me.

What do you think or hope you can bring to the Synap team?

Determination, a love of learning, hopefully some good code! A strong desire to fix any typos that I see. I also plan on bringing some tasty vegan baking to the team once in a while.

What will you be learning and working on over the next few months? 

I’ll be learning as much as I can about the company, how we work and how everyone takes their hot drinks. A high priority is to get to grips with Ember, which is the JavaScript framework that Synap uses, and learning to find my way around the codebase. Hopefully I’ll be making a small contribution to it before Christmas!

Where can people find you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter . I also wrote a few blog posts about learning JavaScript while completing my Northcoders course, which can be found on Medium.