Got an established career but don’t feel completely fulfilled? It may be a good idea to start a project or business of your own. A couple of decades ago, this required physical assets, like office space or equipment, especially if you were working in an industry like fashion. Enter the Digital Age. Today, technology allows you to build a project or an entire business digitally, with barely any investment. That’s what Practicum graduate Isabelle Cuisset wanted more than anything: a career in fashion, coupled with something to call her own. After enrolling in the Practicum Software Engineer program, she didn’t just land a job in tech; she created her very own business! Here’s how Practicum helped her reach her goal.
Looking behind the curtain
Isabelle never thought she would be a software engineer. During her 20-year career in the fashion industry, she worked for many luxury brands, helping them drive product desirability and creativity while staying profitable. Isabelle loved what she was doing, but her job also involved commuting all over Europe. So, once the pandemic started, she decided to sit down and reflect on her future. “I decided, ‘Okay, let's stop this crazy life. I need to choose where I want to live and find a way to stay there’ [...] I also needed to own something, a kind of craft that I could develop where I could continue to learn day after day. And where I could enjoy working in a quiet space. I think at some point I was really craving that.”
Isabelle decided to launch a small fashion project with her friend, and began to discuss website ideas with designers. Unexpectedly, the talks compelled her to build it herself. “The more I [delved] into those conversations, the more I felt hooked by this new world and eager to discover more. I ended up doing our website myself on WordPress. That was the entry point [into web development].”
As the world of coding lured her in, Isabelle started checking out free online resources. However, she wasn’t sure about the direction or what she needed to know. “I thought that taking a bootcamp would be quite a good idea in my case,” she says. She considered in-person bootcamps, but they didn’t let students explore content at their own pace. So, she started searching for online ones, and came across the Practicum Software Engineer program. She checked out the reviews, which were positive, with people calling the program quite challenging. “I thought, ‘That sounds good, I'm gonna try that.’” So, Isabelle enrolled.
Enjoying the challenge
Going back to her studies after so many years out of college was challenging, but Isabelle needed that. She enrolled while she was between jobs, so it was pretty easy for her to immerse herself in her studies. She developed her study habits step by step. “It's the regularity that does wonders… I would wake up earlier every morning after starting the bootcamp. I started my day with a bit of coding [and that worked well for me].”
There was plenty to study indeed. At Practicum, all courses consist of two-week sprints, each of which has to be finished on time to unlock the next one. Each sprint includes theory, coding practice, and project assignments with strict deadlines. Isabelle could read and practice at her own pace, but had to submit assignments on time.
Each of her assignments were checked by professional code reviewers, who verified her code and gave her ideas on how to improve. “It has just made me learn so much, because it's not only about the theory, obviously, it's about the practice… For me, it enabled me to develop some new working habits that I never imagined.” Every other weekend, Isabelle logged on for live Zoom sessions with the program tutors and her peers, where they discussed the assignments they were working on. “The only common Zoom meetings we had were the live coding sessions, which are so valuable, and they're happening mostly over the weekends at times that worked for everyone and they're recorded.”
In terms of the material, Isabelle recalls it was helpful to get acquainted with the entire spectrum of software engineering. “What was great with Practicum is that you don't only learn the front end, you also learn the basis of the back end, and you can understand the full ecosystem of dynamic applications and how it works, and that was just actually amazing, because I had no clue before joining the bootcamp.”
Isabelle views the program’s challenging nature as an asset rather than a liability. “I think the difficulty of the bootcamp is actually linked to its biggest advantage, because we've got so much flexibility. When you take the program, you choose exactly your schedule of study: when you want to study, how much you want to study… And because you've got this flexibility, you've got to be very disciplined in your schedule to make sure you complete every sprint and every task in time. So, on one hand, it's fantastic because you can work whenever you want. But on the other hand, it's really challenging because you've got to really demonstrate a lot of drive and self discipline.”
Building a new dimension
A couple of months into the Practicum Software Engineer program, Isabelle received a part-time job offer in the fashion industry and accepted it. At the same time, she realized she didn’t want to stop at simply building a website for the project she had originally intended. Instead, her software engineering skills could be this project. So, Isabelle established her own [web design and development] studio that makes websites for independent consultants, artists and designers.
Now, Isabelle wants to be present in both industries. “I'm working part-time in fashion, at a director level. And then, the rest of my time—including the weekends because I love it too much—I work on my own business. I build websites for clients, and I'm also starting to find my niche, my true passion. I like working with artists very much, and going forward, potentially with galleries and more institutions of the art world. That's really what I enjoy a lot.”