Welcome to our interview series, where we introduce you to developers of all levels from all walks of life. Prepare to be inspired!
Today we meet Geneviève Fournier, a woman who decided – in her 40s – that she didn’t want to be an executive assistant anymore. She taught herself to code and now lives a life of freedom as her own boss!
You are your own boss! Tell us about your company.
I’m a tiny web agency specializing in custom web design and branding.
I work with one fantastic partner for everything design, but what I really like to do is to code.
As for now, I craft websites with WordPress and Genesis.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Every day is different!
I work from home with my 11 year old large black German Shepherd mix. She’s my best friend and right now, I like being able to manage my schedule so we can go out together during the day (mental health, yeah!).
Being my own boss IS something that means I need to prioritize time management: accounting, sales, follow ups, copywriting, design, keeping up with different industries, customer service, networking… oh! And did I mention code?
To be able to stay sane, I work in blocks of hours. Or I reserve full day to one purpose, make it networking or follow ups or coding.
Since coding does not take as much time as I wish everyday, I am aiming to be a front-end dev consultant for firms and/or companies.
I sometimes miss teamwork, but I also like my freedom. Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll find the perfect team who loves dogs and settle?
Can you tell us about how you got into code, and why you chose this career path?
I’m 43. Three years ago, as I was probably having my mid-life crisis, I kept questioning myself about what I used to do for more than 20 years: executive assistant, admin, manager, and such. I just was not into that anymore. I never really questioned myself before and one day — since I’ve always been a self-taught person — my friend told me it was possible to learn to code online (freecodecamp, Lynda, etc.).
So, while still working as an executive assistant full time, I started to learn to code during my free time. But it was not love at first sight and I put it aside until a couple of months later, when I wanted to put my photographs online. So, I was looking for a platform such as Wix, SquareSpace, etc., but I was not satisfied with them at all since it felt like they lack flexibility and, actually, all websites kind of looked the same to me.
Then I found WordPress.org and since I like challenges, I also fell in love with Genesis framework and its quality and “freedom”.
But when I took some CSS and JS classes and coded from scratch, I went crazy (in a positive way)! Coding felt so good. I did not know it was possible to love doing something so much! This was definitely the beginning of my new life!
I started crafting websites for my friends and family and, actually, I never had the time to build my own photographs website!
In spring 2018, when something a bit sad happened professionally, I seized the opportunity and began coding full time. And now, here I am, self-taught and autonomous with my own little web design agency! Everything happens for a reason.
You changed careers in your 40s. Some have said that there is ageism in the industry. Have you encountered that? If so, how did you overcome it?
As for now, it’s the complete opposite: people want me to design their websites and I do not have to do a lot of prospecting.
Also, over LinkedIn, I keep getting nice offers for nice jobs.
Actually, since I am thinking about joining a team to learn more and concentrate on coding, perhaps I will face that ageism problem. Hopefully, my 20 years as an admin and manager will come to help!
One thing I keep hearing about, though, is that women in web development are the trend, plus I live in a bilingual country and guess what? I speak and write in both official languages. Fingers crossed!
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Did anyone in your life think you were crazy for making such a big change? If so, how did you handle criticism from others?
We always find people projecting their own fears on us. Don’t listen to them. Listen to yourself. And sometimes, you also must not listen to yourself (when fear takes over).
One of my most characteristic features is resilience: it helped me all the way up to where I am today. Resilience is my key. What other people think about my decisions does not concern me, but I do listen to them. We never know!
When I took the decision of making this huge life change, nobody was surprised, and all the doors keep opening as I make my own way to web dev. There were difficulties, but no walls. I think it helped me a lot to be sure I was on the right path. My own path.
I hope everyone finds their own key and their own path, too.
Being a woman in many industries is always harder than for men. Don’t give up!
What skills from your time as an executive assistant have been helpful in being a developer?
Organization skills. Logical skills. Understanding fast what other people want.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Seriously, I feel sooo great when I solve a problem and find the proper way to code: you can hear me sing out loud!
What is the biggest advantage of owning your own company? The biggest disadvantage?
The biggest advantage would be freedom.
Free of any other people’s stress (except clients’), freedom to manage your own schedule, free of choosing what’s to be done and how. And you choose the projects you want or not want! And to be with my dog is a huge asset. Freedom is definitely the biggest advantage.
The biggest disadvantage would be money and lack of teamwork.
I never know exactly what’s going to get in my bank account every month, so it’s kind of stressful, even if it’s always OK. Also, working alone is sometimes a disadvantage since developing as a team makes you go way further than coding alone.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in code?
Be respected as an equal team member. I am speaking about salary and gender.
What advice would you give to a woman in her 40s or 50s who is nervous to take the leap into code and a career change?
“A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm.
It is not as wide as you think.”
— Joseph Campbell
Quick fire round
When I can’t solve a bug, I…
google it! Or ask a fellow senior web developer.
My favorite programming language is…
Dream company to work for…
would be one who respect their employees (respect implies many aspects). And definitely one who likes dogs at work!
If I had unlimited resources, I would develop…
In 5 years time, I want to…
be an amazing front-end developer.
Your favorite quote…
“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
– Joseph Campbell