From Dance to Tech

“I’d reached a point in life where I craved more stability.”

Image of Rebecca Fennelly
From Dance to Tech

Rebecca Fennelly was ready for greater stability and a new challenge to get her teeth into. So, when the stars aligned for her to take an intensive retraining course, she grabbed the opportunity. Here's how she overcame soaring stress levels, and imposter syndrome, to create a new career that fits.

What work were you doing previously?

I was a professional dancer.

I worked in West End musical theatre, musical feature films and on UK / international tours.

What are you doing now?

I'm now Junior Software Coach at _nology.

I coach students through a 12-week web development course to become junior web developers.

Why did you change?

The showbiz industry is wonderfully exciting, but very uncertain. 

With unsociable working hours and years of being on the road touring, I really did miss my loved ones.

I’d reached a point in life where I craved a little more stability but also really wanted something fresh and exciting to get my teeth into.

I'm always looking for my next challenge and am happiest when I’m learning and developing.

When was the moment you decided to make the change?

I'd been for a taster session with _nology and loved it.

But with work commitments and being self-employed, I really struggled to see when I would ever be able to block out 12 weeks of my calendar and devote them to retraining. I never thought I’d get to do the course.

Then the COVID-19 lockdown happened.

Are you happy with the change?

I am so happy.

And busy. Very busy learning and developing. That makes me happy.

What do you miss and what don't you miss?

I miss performing.

Performing is and always will be a huge passion of mine. For me, the buzz of being on stage and performing for an audience is such a joy, but the upsides to the career change outweigh that for me.

The new challenge has pushed me further than I thought I could go, on many occasions, and the forever developing nature of the tech world will only mean this continues. It’s definitely keeping me on my toes.

I have more time to spend with my friends and family in the evenings and weekends, and my shift has inspired me to build a long and happy career for myself. It feels like I have a new lease of life.

How did you go about making the shift?

I did one of the free coding taster sessions available with _nology (which are now being run online), and from that I enrolled on a 12-week intensive course from May through to August this year.

There was no better way to spend a locked-down spring / summer!

What didn’t go well? What wrong turns did you take?

I often found myself getting super-stressed on the course, which is quite unlike me.

I’m someone who doesn’t like to leave tasks with loose ends, and I'm a bit of a perfectionist; yet with the fast pace of the course it was impossible to finish every task or to completely understand each concept as soon as it was taught.

I'm really impatient with myself and my development sometimes; I have to remind myself not to be too hard on myself. I wanted to do my best and get the most out of the training, but it was crucial to keep calm and put my trust in the coaches and the course.

Once I tried that, I actually learnt and enjoyed the process a lot more.

Post-course, I’m admittedly still working on that. I’m often reminding myself that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?

I was fortunate that I’d been able to save up some money from previous employment to fund my course.

I’m so grateful I had the funds there to do that.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

I’d trained all my life to dance professionally, and it was where I felt confident and comfortable in my ability to perform well.

Being able to perform to a high standard is so satisfying and really gave me such a buzz. The most difficult thing about changing career for me has been going from that, to experiencing the daily bouts of ‘imposter syndrome’ and, more often than not, feeling out of my comfort zone.

The feeling of not being anywhere near as experienced as others around me can sometimes make me feel unworthy of my position, or slightly embarrassed, but I try my best to turn this into inspiration rather than comparison-itis.

Most days I can do this successfully, but other days I need more of a talking to!

What help did you get?

When I was worried, I spoke to the coaches on the course who provided me with the advice and encouragement I needed.

Reaching out and talking things through always helps me.

What resources would you recommend to others?

There are so many brilliant coding resources online.

A part-time online course will soon be available at the _nology website, but until then some other good online resources are Udemy, TeamTreehouse, Coursera and Codewars.

Medium and W3 Schools are both a constant reference for me too; they’re fantastic.

What have you learnt in the process?

Although I set out to learn about web development, I've also learnt so much about myself.

I've learnt to trust that, in the end, resilience and perseverance will deliver results.

No matter how big or small those results are, you have to take those moments of encouragement to spur you on. At some point you will have a ‘eureka’ moment and suddenly the hard work is so worthwhile. Patience is key.

What do you wish you'd done differently?

I wish I’d had a bit more exposure to the basics of Javascript prior to the web development course.

It was so different to anything I’d ever seen before, so a little knowledge before would have really helped my confidence and development in it I think.

What would you advise others to do in the same situation?

I’d advise anyone to go for it and take the plunge.

The web development course was the best decision, providing me with the knowledge and skills needed to land that first job in a very different industry. The structure the course provided gave me momentum and a sense of security that I could flourish in.

As long as you're willing to give it your all, you will always come out with a huge amount of new knowledge and skills that are not only crucial for the tech industry, but so transferable to other sectors too.

Having this course as an addition to your CV makes you all the more attractive to potential employers, showing your drive and commitment to such an intense course.

For career changers in general, my main piece of advice is to always hang on to the main reason you are doing this, the ‘why’ that drives your urge to change career. This way you will remain authentic to yourself and you’ll be drawn to opportunities that will make you happy.

Thanks to our friends at _nology for this story. To find out more about their 12-week software developer programme, visit nology.io.

What lessons could you take from Rebecca's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.