New country, new career
Growing-up Tayla Brown always had an interest in designing and developing apps, but never dreamed she could make a career out of it. After taking some time out after high school to think about what she wanted to do, she took the plunge and signed-up to study a Bachelor of Information Technology with Open Polytechnic.
Now, set to graduate early next year, she is already working as a part-time web developer for a leading digital marketing agency in her home town of Timaru and says the sky’s the limit in terms of her future career opportunities.
Not everyone knows what they want to do after finishing school and Tayla says she felt the pressure early on to decide.
“During my last year of high school there was a huge amount of pressure to go to University and know exactly what you wanted to do. And personally I didn’t know, so the first two years after I worked in a café.”
Tayla says she always had an interest in IT, but never thought she could get a job in the field.
“Growing up I was always interested in the digital front-end aspect of IT – what the user sees – including designing and developing apps. I would always go into Keynote (a presentation app) on my laptop and design my own website and different apps."
“I also used to love watching documentaries on Mark Zuckerberg and things like that. But for some reason it never really clicked for me that I could actually get a job doing something like that.”
However, the moment she heard about the Open Polytechnic Bachelor of Information Technology online programme, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I never really wanted to go to University and get this huge student loan, so when I heard about how Open Polytechnic offered courses online and saw they did a degree in Information Technology – I thought this sounds perfect for me. I applied, started studying three years ago and haven’t looked back. It’s been fantastic and I’ve realised just how much the degree covers and really enjoyed every part of it.”
While studying Tayla has been juggling working part-time at The Warehouse and also started a new IT job at the start of the year.
“I managed to score a part-time web developer job at Sky Media in Timaru. They took me on, even though I was still finishing my degree and said – if you can do this, you’re hired!"
Sky Media specialises in digital marketing and opened up an office in Timaru a year ago.
“They develop and design companies websites through WordPress. They also do google ads, social media and SEO to help companies get noticed online. I handle their data through Google Analytics and generate reports for their clients. I also do part-time website developing for them."
“I really like working for smaller start-up companies, like Sky Media, as it is more personal and you can get involved in lots of different areas, more than say a larger corporate may offer.”
Tayla says the company has been really supportive of her while she studies and there are added benefits to studying while working on the job.
“They have been really supportive of me studying which I appreciate. It’s been really handy too as a lot of things that I’ve learnt in my course, I can bring to work. Like they asked if I knew anything about Google Analytics and I said well actually I’ve just done an assessment about it – so I was able to do it for them. I was also able to go back to my course material and read over it again. So learning and then being able to apply it directly has been great.”
Tayla says her overall future goal is to move overseas to gain more work experience and hopefully become what is known in the industry as a full-stack developer.
“A full-stack developer is someone who can do the front end and the back end. The front end, which is what I enjoy the most, is the design and what the user sees. And then the back-end is like the database side of things."
“Obviously this can be a lot harder as you have to learn so many more languages than if you were just specialising in one area, but it gives you more options at the end.”
With so many opportunities on the radar, Tayla says she feels like she is no longer limited in her ambitions.
“I’ve learnt so many new skills from this degree and my outlook on life and the opportunities out there has widened so much. I used to think I was always limited. I always thought I could never achieve this and that. Now that I’ve nearly finished my degree I feel like I could do anything. It’s given me so much motivation and confidence in myself. I’m motivated to keep going and learn new skills throughout my future career."
“And as a woman in a predominantly male industry, it makes me want to work harder and prove myself that little bit more. I can do the job just as well, if not better.”
Tayla says the best part about online distance learning is the flexibility it offers.
“The flexibility is amazing – you’re not restricted to anything really. I would say that you do need to have good time management skills and be self-motivated though.”
Tayla credits her years of rowing at school as the reason she has managed to balance working, studying and other personal commitments.
“I used to row during high school and I got my time management skills through that. You need to be self-motivated as well. That has really helped me personally. Generally I like to keep busy and even at the moment while working two part-time jobs and studying, I am doing a boot camp on the side.”
When it comes to the online learning platform, Tayla says she found it easy to use.
“I had a great experience with iQualify, the online learning platform. It’s just so easy to use. All the information is there, all your past courses, assessments and results – all easily accessible. With having all the course content there, you can also go back and review any material you want to at any time.”
Tayla says the support provided by the Open Polytechnic staff was a constant throughout her studies.
“I always found that if I reached out to one of the academic staff they would get back to me really quickly. They would also often send YouTube tutorials or examples if I couldn’t quite understand a certain topic, like coding, to give a better understanding which was handy."
“Also, there are talk channels on every course, where the course leaders make regular announcements – and they have different areas such as general questions and assessments where students will post in their own personal questions. And either students or the Course Leader will reply back. So everyone can get in on the discussion which is really great.”
Tayla says she would definitely encourage people to take up studying online.
“I would say that Open Polytechnic has so many courses available and the support is amazing. Even though it is online, you are always going to find support, either from the academic staff or the other students. You can reach out to the customer service team too and they will help with any issues you have which is absolutely amazing. There is no stress behind it at all.”
And when it comes to the Bachelor of Information Technology, Tayla believes it will give graduates the confidence and skills to work in a number of areas.
“I think the IT degree in particular is amazing – you’re getting such a broad range of different coding languages – the front end, the back end, web design, learning how to make apps, the database side of it – it never ends. Which is great because you actually find exactly what you really enjoy – and what you are the best at.”
I never really wanted to go to University and get this huge student loan, so when I heard about how Open Polytechnic offered courses online and saw they did a degree in Information Technology – I thought this sounds perfect for me. I applied, started studying three years ago and haven’t looked back. It’s been fantastic and I’ve realised just how much the degree covers and really enjoyed every part of it.