Owning your development: Supply Project Manager to Frontend Engineer
Today we sit down with Laura Puyol Rigol, Supply Project Manager turned Junior Frontend Engineer, on how she turned her coding dreams into reality.
When I joined GetYourGuide in January 2016, I wanted it to be my second university, a place where I could put my knowledge to the test and continue learning new information and skills. I planned to gain exposure to 2 or 3 different departments and discover how a business works and what areas brought me joy.
I started as a Customer Service Representative on our Customer Service team. Then, less than a year later, I was hired in the role of Supply Operations Executive before eventually being promoted to Supply Project Manager in April of 2018. While I was happy in this role, an old dream of mine kept resurfacing: a dream to code.
A passion for technology
I’ve been passionate about technology since I was a kid, curios about how things work and keen to understand. I thought a lot about studying computer science in high school, but I wasn’t good at math. So, I was advised to pursue the economics and social sciences program instead of the technical path.
I was quite discouraged, but I figured I didn’t have the right mind for that type of work. So, I focused on learning everything else.
Then, years later when I joined GetYourGuide, we talked a lot about concepts like a growth mindset and grit. These concepts are fundamental to our culture, and they taught me that everything is possible as long as you’re willing to invest enough time and effort. My interest in technology was still strong, so, alongside my work, I enrolled in an online coding course.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed trying to combine the online course with my full-time work and ended up failing. This experience really made me doubt myself — could I really do this?
Soon after, I was talking with one of our Engineers in Zurich, and I told him I was interested in learning how to code. He told me straight away that if I had an interest, I should go for it. Hearing someone tell me my dream was possible served as a turning point. I decided then and there I would learn to code, no matter what it took. So, I started doing research: I met with more engineers at GetYourGuide to learn about their roles, their tech stack, and their career path. Little by little, I started piecing together what my future in tech could look like.
Building my support network
About a year later, I told my manager, Ignasi. He was very excited for me and incredibly supportive. We immediately sat down and created a roadmap outlining my potential transition from Supply Operations to a more technical role. After saying it out loud, I started getting pretty nervous. This wasn’t my own secret passion any more. Now I had a network of people who would hold me accountable.
My next step was to reach out to one of our Directors of Engineering so I could learn more about our tech organization and strategy and let him know my plans. He suggested that I speak with Eva, our VP People.
Talking with Eva was super helpful because she had gone through a lot of development in her career, and she knew how feasible it would be to transfer within GetYourGuide. I wanted to stay at GetYourGuide because I was passionate about helping customers and loved our culture. People do change positions and departments fairly often, but a jump from operations to tech was rare. Nevertheless, she encouraged me to continue on my path. I had the support I needed; now it was time to pick a program.
After researching different bootcamps in Berlin, I reached out to one of our Senior Frontend Engineers for his recommendation. He recommended IronHack. IronHack offered a 9-week full-time program that would take me from beginner to Full-stack Engineer. With a little bit of excitement, and a lot of nerves, I enrolled.
Upon enrollment, I began the 60-hour pre-program coursework. I completed this pre-work while still managing my full-time role on the Supply Operations team. It was a big undertaking, but served as great preparation for the program itself, not just in terms of subject-matter, but also in workload. Finally, in early 2019, I took a sabbatical and began my course at IronHack.
Completing this course was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The work felt so bizarre and foreign. I worked 12 hours a day on average, 6 days a week, and, along the way, there were many moments when I felt like I couldn’t make it work. During these periods of self-doubt, the coaches at IronHack helped a lot. Even though it was hard, I had a strong team of cheerleaders, I loved the work I was doing, and I was determined to achieve my goal.
Towards the end of the program, I reached out to the Recruiting team at GetYourGuide to find out what sort of opportunities I could apply for with my new skill set. Steve, one of our Tech Recruiters, informed me there were no Junior Engineering positions planned, but he promised to speak to the Engineering Directors. After that conversation, I was dispirited, but I knew I should still pursue my dream even if it couldn’t be at GetYourGuide.
Steve came through on his promise and spoke to the Directors. Given my background in Supply Operations, they determined the Supply Tech team would be the best fit. Luckily, the manager of that team was onboard with interviewing me.
Since I hadn’t completed a technical interview before, I didn’t really know what to expect or how to prepare. There was a lot on the line. I didn’t want to lose the future at GetYourGuide I had been hoping for. I was nervous leading up to the interview, but once it began, my interviewers made me feel comfortable.
After days of waiting for the results, I finally got a call offering me the role of Junior Frontend Engineer role on the Supply Tech team. I was so happy and so proud of myself. It felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Years of wanting and months of working all came rushing to my head as I quickly blurted out, “YES!”
Along the way, there were some key factors that helped me turn my dream into reality. I want to share these tips with anyone looking to do the same:
1. Get uncomfortable — be ready to face your fears
If you’re afraid of something, maybe that fear is a sign you have to do it. Telling people about my plans was uncomfortable, working with new technology was uncomfortable, asking for help was uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been willing to leave my comfort zone.
2. Be ready to work your butt off
When thinking about pursuing a different path, assess whether your interest is so great that you’re actually willing to sacrifice your personal time to make this thing happen. If it’s not worth missing a night out, a holiday dinner, or having to lug around your laptop on vacation, maybe it’s not the right choice.
3. Ask for help and involve people in your journey
Tell people about what you want to accomplish and involve them in your journey. Get advice from different people: senior level, those within the industry, those who have pursued a similar path, friends, and family. This will hold you accountable while also equipping you with a team of cheerleaders to whom you can turn for words of encouragement or advice.
4. Trust in the process and believe in yourself
Grit is the key word here. The end point can be very far away, but you have to trust you will get there even when it seems impossible. Around week 5 and 6 in the bootcamp, I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was at this moment I needed the most grit. I let go of my doubts, I trusted my instructors, and I just kept pushing. The hard work eventually paid off.
5. Once you decide you want to change, plan your next steps and set deadlines.
Without deadlines, you might continuously postpone taking the jump, skip necessary steps, or lose structure. Deadlines should be realistic but quite ambitious. They should incite action. 3 years is a timeframe, not a deadline that will keep you moving.
My new role
In May 2019, I officially became part of the Supply Tech team. As I sit at my new desk in my new team working on completely new tasks, it’s hard to believe that just a short time ago I didn’t think any of this was possible. Not only have I achieved my dream of becoming an Engineer, but I’ve also fulfilled what I set out to do when I joined GetYourGuide: I learned about different sides of the business and I discovered what brings me joy. I’m so grateful to GetYourGuide, to everyone who encouraged me along the way, and to myself for not giving up even as the workload increased and the concepts became more challenging. This experience has taught me that achieving the unexpected doesn’t require natural talent, but rather an ability to be open to learn, open to fail, open to try again, and open to other people’s support along the way.