Camilla Brizzi | Motability Operations
Camilla Brizzi, Full Stack Software Engineer, coding influencer/content creator on Instagram @breezycoder and 1:1 mentor for women & non-binary folks looking to switch careers. Is there anything this lady can’t do?
She is breaking the norm and challenging the status quo! The pressure of society tells us that we need all our s**t figured out by the time we are 30, in this refreshing interview Cami shares her story of how she fell in love with coding and quit her job as a teacher to pursue a career in tech at the age of 30. Don’t miss out reading this one, it gave us goosebumps!
If there’s something that Cami’s story teaches us the most, is to never let someone else's fears or age hold you back. You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to.
Camilla is truly a force to be reckoned with, firstly she is one of the coolest, most passionate people the tech market and is admired by all of us here at Women Rock. Her inspirational story of taking the “risk” to switch careers at age 30. Steph first met Camilla in 2022 during her job search after she’d completed a coding bootcamp, she was in the process of switching careers from teaching Science to become a professional software developer.
In true Cami style, it did not take her long to secure a job because she is amazing. Cami teamed up with SR2 to find her first Software Engineer role with Motability Operations in Bristol, a software company who are improving the lives of people living in allowance of the government disability allowance.
Outside of work, Cami has an ever-growing following on Instagram where she creates content to inspire other girls in tech make sure you follow her @breezycoder and she is now offering 1:1 mentoring to other women and non-binary folks who are looking to make the career switch.
We love you Cami, you seriously rock!
Your story will be one that will inspire so many being a career switcher after teaching science to school students for 4+ years. Could you share a bit about your journey so far and why you chose to become a software engineer?
Ciao! I’m so excited to be on Women Rock, thank you for having me ❤️
As a kid, I was known to ask a lot of why’s and capture unfortunate critters to force them under my rudimentary microscope. I left rural Sardinia - where I’m from - as soon as I finished school to study Forensic Science in the UK. The problem-solving element of it, combined with the prospect of making a real difference to the families of those people who could no longer speak for themselves, was what drew me to it. I loved my degree, did very well and proceeded to do master’s in Crime and Forensic Science at UCL, where I had the opportunity to do my own research on a case of potential miscarriage or justice, as well as deepen my knowledge of data science. The year I started my undergrad, the Forensic Science Service was closed and forensics got in the hands of private laboratories. Unfortunately, this meant that once I got my MSc, I became overqualified for most of the roles out there. A few months into application hell forced me to think creatively about my skills, which led me to become a Show Presenter at the London Science Museum. This inevitably caused me to fall in love with education, so I decided to train to become a teacher a year later, and then ended up teaching Science and A-Level Biology in a secondary school for four years after that.
How does all this lead to programming? Well, for various reasons, teaching wasn’t something I wanted to continue with forever. It lacked flexibility and work-life balance, as an example. Since covid, I started to feel more and more trapped and I wanted to be able to go visit my family more often than once a year. I picked up coding as a hobby, initially, like someone might get started on Duolingo. I worked through a couple of courses on Codecademy and I was hooked. I signed up for an evening course provided by Code First Girls, then signed up for another one, and handed in my notice a few weeks later. I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to learning to code full-time and I just had to take that brave decision then, before knowing how I was going to do that exactly. Luckily, I made it onto the amazing School of Code bootcamp, which is fully-funded, and in four months I gained the skills I needed to get my first job in tech. Less than a month after that ended, I was offered my current role as a full-stack Software Engineer.
Younger me never thought this would be my path. The only computer ‘lessons’ I had in school involved sharing a PC to play around with Paint and Word every few months. Of course, I had MySpace and - even better - I was an admin to one of the official My Chemical Romance 🖤 online fanclubs in Italy, which meant I dabbled in very basic ‘coding’, but unfortunately I used to think real programmers didn’t look anything like me. I know my career has been a road with lots of turns, but I honestly believe this has given me the confidence to challenge myself in ways I had never imagined, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s amazing to see that you’ve switched careers so successfully, there are a lot of people who would be really inspired by what you’ve done so far – what advice would you give to other women who are wanting to break into a tech career?
Don’t let your age or other people’s fears stop you. It’s funny how many people I have met in the field worry about having started ‘too late’, yet they are all doing brilliantly. Recently, I spoke to this girl in her second year at uni who was comparing herself to people who were coding since the age of 5. I couldn’t help but giggle, given my situation, but I made sure to reassure her that it really doesn’t matter. There is always going to be somebody better than you, but it’s not about that. It’s about working a job that makes you happy, and appreciating all of the fresh perspectives and other skills you bring to it. You may not have started when you were 5, but you have done so much more since then, and that is a real asset.
Cherish and learn to sell your uniqueness, and don’t compare your path to the one of others. I also would recommend to anone considering a career in tech to find a mentor who can be a cheerleader and help you out with practical advice as well as networking. I had two, and I am super grateful to them for giving me the extra boost of confidence I needed when started looking for a job. Finally, it’s always worth attending tech meet-ups. In Bristol, I went to the Women’s Tech Hub and Code Hub evenings soon after my first ‘Hello World’, and it was a great way to get rid of my preconceptions of what ‘tech people’ were like. Everyone was super welcoming and that played a big part in my final decision to switch career.
As a woman joining an industry that is predominantly made up of males and a lack of diversity, what has been the biggest surprise to you so far?
To be honest- and sadly - no surprises in the negative sense. I have always been a woman in STEM so I am used to experiencing some struggles in being taken seriously due to gender perception. I guess, I hadn’t realised fully realised quite how much male-dominated the industry truly is until I started attending tech events. However, I have been positively surprised by how helpful and encouraging the vast majority of techies I have connected with have been, both online and in-person, and I am very fortunate to have found a company that values me and has been incredibly supportive from the start.
I saw that joined the GirlCode family to offer mentorship to other girls interested in tech, could you tell us a bit more about that?
I love the GirlCode community! It’s a brilliant platform that I am proud to be and ambassador for, and with it I intend to do more to help other women succeed in tech. I have given CV and general career advice to a couple already, as well as other people I met through my Instagram page - @breezycoder. I’ve also been doing that on LinkedIn, and I am going to be mentoring a new career-switcher Junior at work from January. The coaching aspect of teaching was one of my favourite parts of the job, and I am excited to develop this further in my current role. Future aspirations include inspiring more young girls into tech through outreach work. If only I could have some extra days in the week!
What has been the best thing about becoming a software engineer for you so far?
It has to be the amount of learning involved! There isn’t a single day that goes without me feeling out of my ‘comfort zone’, and that is so exciting. I like to be challenged and I like learning new skills. There is a lot of context-switching - which can be daunting - but once you accept that you have to get it wrong first to get it right, you can start appreciating all the novelty.
In your opinion, why do you think there are so little women in tech roles and what could companies looking to hire more diversity do to change that?
For me, the low uptake of computer science degrees and tech roles by women has to do - in great part - with lack of representation in the industry. That’s why it’s so important that companies have a deep look at what they can do to retain the brilliant women they already have. Around 50% of women leave the field by the age of 35, so it’s not just about hiring more at entry / junior level - although that is very important too. Employers must support women throughout their career, making sure they can access and thrive in higher-paying and leadership roles, regardless of whether they are dealing with motherhood or are being affected by symptoms of reproductive health issues, for example. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of systemic sexism in tech, but I am hopeful that the younger generation will be inspired by the ever-growing talent pool of fantastic women in STEM, lots of whom are spreading the word through social media. That’s pretty much what drew me to coding in the first place.
If you could go back and give your younger self some advice what would you tell her?
Wear your skin proud, take up space and fight to get the help you need. I know it hurts now, but one day you’ll realise that none of this matters, and that your beauty goes far beyond your looks. Also, definitely don’t pick up smoking to chat up a boy! 😤
What is your favourite quote?
I really love this one by Italian Nobel-prize scientist and former senator for life, Rita Levi-Montalcini:
‘Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.’
Interviewed by Steph Jackson