Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Monica Graham

By Academy Xi

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Following a lifelong urge to go deeper with tech, Monica’s Front-End Web Development skills prove it’s never too late to learn something new.

Throughout a career in nursing and aged care, Monica worked with tech whenever the chance arose. Find out how the Front-End Web Development course helped level-up her tech capabilities and prove that age is no factor when it comes to developing new skills.  

Can you tell us about your career before you started with Academy Xi?

I registered as a general nurse back in 1984 and worked for a long time across different areas of nursing. By 2012 I was a general manager in aged care and running seven teams. I was the subject matter expert for lots of the programs and delivered the training when we added new applications to our systems.

Prior to 2012, I did a stint of about eight years in Canada. While I was in Canada I also started studying web design. It was the old style of web design and didn’t involve coding. Instead, you were given a page and you added features. It was fun, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I was working as a nurse as well as raising children, and balancing it all became impossible, so I stopped the course.

After my General Manager role, I worked as a contractor to implement a Home Care program for an Aged Care Provider. That included implementing an application called Procura which is used to onboard clients. I realised how much I enjoyed that portion of the role and wanted to learn more.

More recently I started working with Cancer Council WA. I needed to backpedal a bit and get some sanity back in my life. I’ve been a support coordinator for three years and it’s part-time, which I’m loving.

I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try and do something with my passion for IT. The Academy Xi Front-End Web Development course was the first program I found that I thought I could achieve without having to do extended months of training.

How did you become interested in front-end web development?

I’ve been interested in IT for a long time now, although I never got into it when I was younger. My dad brought back one of the first home computers in the days when colleges had those massive hard drives. It had MS-DOS and all we could do as kids was play tennis! That was my first foray into computing, but I didn’t do much past that because it wasn’t really used in schools back then.

As soon as I started looking into web design with my work, it completely captured me. I loved feeling like I was doing something that had an end product. I guess that’s why I made sure I was front and centre with the new applications at work; I enjoyed being part of an outcome that was user friendly. With front-end web development, I can work in the background and present to a consumer what I want them to see and have it be super functional. It’s a satisfying process.

If you picked one highlight from the course, what would it be?

Honestly, I loved every minute of it, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one aspect. But if I had to pick, I’d say the first project, when suddenly all my coding actually did something.

I also got super excited when we were completing the second project and I managed to get everything working properly. I showed my son-in-law all my coding and he couldn’t believe how intricate it was. It felt like a real achievement.

Can you tell us more about the projects you worked on?

The first project involved building a responsive website that worked on a standard computer as well as smartphone. My website was based on an online baking business that I’m in the process of setting up.

The second project involved producing an interactive wedding invitation. As you’re typing your coding on one side of the page, the wording pops up on the other side.

At the time of the second project my daughter had her newborn, so I was trying to help her with that while working three days a week and studying. It got a little stressful, but the achievement of getting everything done was awesome.

How did you find working with your coursemates and mentor?

My mentor Kruti was really receptive and easy to chat to. She put time into everybody and gave us all the support we needed. After the live sessions, if anybody was struggling with anything, she would stay behind and talk to whoever was left.

As well as our mentor, we picked things up from each other. Everyone was really good at sharing links and resources in the course Slack channel. If anyone had a question, they could drop it in there and they’d get lots of input from people in the class.

I was one of the oldest on the course, but I never felt my age in the group sessions, even though on the screen I looked older. Everybody treated one another the same. I think the mentor really set the tone - she was so patient and forgiving of any mistakes. It created a safe environment and made learning a whole lot easier.

Monica Graham

What was it like studying a tech course later in life?

For me, it was handy to have had previous experience working with different applications. Plus, I’d spent a number of years working in areas where consumer interface is extremely important. Having an appreciation for the user definitely helped.

Honestly, I felt like my age had no impact on how I engaged with the course. It was different to anything I’d ever done, and lots of people – young and old – were in the same boat.

I had all sorts of doubts that I was not going to be able to do the course, but so did everybody else in the group. Some people had more time to work on it, so they improved in leaps and bounds, but everyone still got to that same point. In the end, we all graduated together.

Monica Graham

Why do you think it’s important to break down the age barrier in tech?

It’s important because a lot of older people probably feel like they’ve done their time. They might believe that it’s going to be too hard to learn, or that the young people are just going to think they’re too old and too slow to pick up the skills. Throughout the course, nobody ever made me feel like that.

What I did find is that in the areas where I lacked confidence and thought “I just can’t get this”, as soon as I put it out there, everyone else was saying “I’ve been finding that tough too!”. Lots of people were struggling with exactly the same things, and age had nothing to do with it. Just because people are young doesn’t mean that they have any more prior knowledge.

Are you keen to get into the tech industry?

I love my job and what I give to people as a cancer support coordinator, but I also love working with the computer. While I was completing the course I’d be eating dinner or sitting on the couch and doing research. I’m so content doing that. Maybe further down the track I’ll want a new challenge in my career. I know I’d enjoy working in tech, but maybe my husband wouldn’t appreciate it – he’d probably get way less attention!

Do you have any plans to do more tech training?

When I first looked at Academy Xi I was considering doing the Software Development course and learning to work with the front and back-end. I’m working and running a little farm, so if I did do that I’d have to make sure I’ve got the right amount of time to devote.

I’m satisfied that I can do what I need to do for now. I have a solid basis of skills, which means I can add to what I’m able to do by myself. Further down the track I might choose to do a bit more training – I’ve still got plenty of years left for that.

How’s the online bakery business coming along?

We moved into an old farmhouse and the oven broke down before Christmas. We’ve decided to replace the oven and upgrade the whole kitchen at the same time, which will really help with the business. Hopefully everything will be up and running by the end of June.

As for the website, it’s still taking shape. My niece does branding and marketing and she’s building a brand for me. We’re part way through that process, but once I get the branding I can get really in depth with the website. I’m looking forward to making sure everything works perfectly.

Is there any advice that you’d give to someone interested in studying front-end web development?

I’d say “go for it”. It’s a fantastic course that’s so well run and you’ll get so much out of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, if it’s something that you’re interested in, just do it. You’ll never know if you can do something until you try.

I would say it’s important to make sure you’ve got the time. If you want to maximise on the course, you’ll need to do your own research and put in a good amount of practice.

Even if you find that a web development career isn’t exactly where you want to be, you’ll still come away with a new skill-set that the average Joe doesn’t have, and it can be used across so many different job types.

I’m so glad I chose to do the course, because I came away with exactly what I wanted. For me, it was all about finally doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. I feel like I’ve proven that it’s never too late to learn something new.

If you want to boost your career and enhance your tech capabilities, Academy Xi Front-End Web Development courses give you all the practical skills needed to write and maintain code for user-friendly, functional and easy-on-the-eye websites.

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