A geek? Yes, I actually kind of am

Paulien Leeuwenburgh (44) followed the data & AI track at the Techionista Academy in June 2020. An intensive, but above all very fun and enriching period: “Since I completed the track I look different at myself, in a positive way.”

Tech skills versus Soft skills

After having worked in marketing and sales, Paulien was looking for another job for some time. She wanted to learn more about the tech industry and already knew a thing or two about programming, but much of it was still unknown territory. “The Techionista Academy appealed to me because it allowed me to learn skills that are reflected in many tech vacancies. I also saw that the program pays a lot of attention to “soft skills”: learning to present yourself, setting up a network. This is what I wanted to do.”

With 17 years of work experience, Paulien did not want to follow a full two-year training course, so the duration of the Techionista trajectory was perfect for her. “I chose the full-time variant, which lasts a total of 15 weeks. It is also possible to do the training part-time, it will take you 6 months.”

Back to school

After such a long time going back to school, what is that really like? “Intensive”, says Paulien. “I had to get used to studying full-time. Before I started I thought it was also quite exciting. I thought: “Can I still do it?” But in the end, I got everything I wanted from the training. I now master the programming language and can handle programs such as Power BI, Azure and Python.”

“Day in, day out, I was busy with self-study. In addition, together we attended online lectures, training courses, presentations and workshops for about one and a half days a week.”

‘Nerdy stuff’

She has to chuckle as she says, “A geek? Yes, I actually kind of am. Throughout the course, I felt extremely driven to learn new skills. With results. For example, after a while I was able to code: it’s great fun, to realize that you suddenly master something you once found so complicated. That motivates enormously.”

What also motivated was the group of women Paulien was in during the training: “Everyone was very nice. We were in touch via Teams and kept each other informed of our progress in the chat. We shared study material, asked questions and were frustrated when things didn’t work out. Every now and then we have a lot of swearing at each other. On the other hand, we also all cheered after a moment of success. It was a really good time.”

‘Techionista has a certain reputation, works with Microsoft and has high standards. Companies know what they’re getting when they talk to a Techionista student’

New job at Avanade

A few months after completing the training, Paulien was able to start her new job at Avanade, as a data consultant. “The training brought me what I was hoping for, in both soft and hard-skill areas. I was positively surprised, especially with regard to soft skills. Hard skills as technical skills you can – if you are willing to – also learn online. But to properly master the right soft skills you need real human contact and expertise.”

Soft skills that have stayed with Paulien the most? “Gaining self-confidence. Believe that you can really do something. I was practically new to the data world and therefore saw myself as a junior in the beginning, but the training taught me that I can bring a lot of experience. Skills that I have acquired by working with other people for 17 years: strong communication skills, which others do not have, for example. This realization made me stronger when applying for jobs: I no longer wanted to be hired as a junior, because I am not.”

Benefits of the course

Without the training, Paulien would never have dared. “I now have a different image of myself, in a positive way. I also have a more complete picture of what can actually be done within the tech industry. There are so many terms and professions: BI consultant, data analyst, data consultant, you name it. I learned to distinguish between the possibilities and was therefore able to focus more and more on what I actually really want.”

Another major advantage of the training is the involvement of interesting tech partners. “Techionista is in close contact with various consultancy companies. After completing the training, you will receive your own profile page on the Techionista website, under the heading “our students”. Companies look at this and based on such a profile they decide whether they want to get to know someone better.”

“Thanks to this option, companies know what skills someone has and can find someone specifically for their vacancy. Please note: following the training is not a guarantee of a job, but it does increase your chances considerably. Techionista has a certain brand awareness and high standards, so companies know what kind of meat they have in their tub when they talk to a Techionista student.”

Building a strong network

During your studies, you build up a large part of your future network. Something that Paulien regards as something special. “I recently posted a message on Linkedin, for example. Many of the responses I received to it came from people I met through the course: people I didn’t know two years ago. During the training a lot is shared and everyone is very open. That makes building a network easy.”

As a tip to other women who still hesitate to follow the Academy, Paulien would like to say the following: “Do it! Prepare for an intensive experience: it is not something you just add. But all the time you’re investing in now, will certainly pay off later, compared to how much you spend.”