We sat down and had a chat with girl coder Tea Pei Qi, from Nanyang Polytechnic, who clinched the Gold Medal at World Skills Singapore 2018, beating out 15 other competitors from the various polytechnics and ITE. In this gruelling skills competition spanning 3 days, competitors must not only possess an aesthetic and creative eye for design, but also be strong coders, implementing specific coding specifications, design and integrate third party tools and platforms, develop databases and debug their websites.

Pei Qi went on to do us proud – representing Singapore in international competitions such as ASEAN World Skills 2018 and Guangzhou Invitation Competition before heading to Kazan, Russia to participate in World Skills International 2019. Faced with stiff competition from 31 other competing countries, Pei Qi emerged victorious placing fifth place and earning herself the Medallion of Excellence, awarded to competitors who meet the high level of skills mastery in each trade.

 

Why did you decide to learn programming, and how did your interest start?

My interest in programming started back in primary school when I had to build a website for a school project. We had to use a website builder, Google Sites, but after the project was submitted, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up Googling “how to build websites”, which led me to tutorial resources like Codecademy.

Apparently, my 11-year-old self liked the idea that typing “a few different words” could produce vastly different results (that’s for CSS), so I continued my programming journey with Codecademy.

However, I took the next four years to complete the HTML & CSS tutorials in Codecademy, mostly because I cared a lot about my grades in secondary school and thus spent a lot of my free time studying.

 

What was the greatest challenge in learning coding or IT in general?

The greatest challenge would be learning the basic concepts, such as loops. Once you master these concepts, it’s easy to pick up a new language, as the basic usage of every language will cover these concepts.

After mastering the basics, advanced concepts like Data Structures and Algorithms will be tough, but doable.

 

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of picking up coding/programming?

Just go for it! The more you delay, the bigger your fears become. There’s a ton of resources and communities online to help you get back on track, so don’t worry about getting lost on your programming journey.

 

You were 1 of only 2 female competitors in a 32-competitor trade – Web Technologies. In the web development industry, it is also generally male-dominated. Was this much of an issue for you, and do you have any advice for girls who are nervous because of this?

It did affect me to some extent, both positively and negatively. Historically, the medallists of Web Technologies trade have all been male, and that motivated me to work harder to try to change that reality.

However, there are times where doubt got the better of me and I’ll think, “Why, exactly, do the males keep winning?” and just mope about the entire situation.

Looking back, it was silly of me to mope, because I wasted valuable time that could’ve been used for resting or training. And that’s the advice I want to give – any second you spend focusing on other’s progress and achievements is a second that could be used to further your progress and achievements.

So don’t be nervous about being the only female. Focus instead on honing and mastering your craft, because ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters. Also, from my experience thus far, most of the guys in the programming field are nice, and they treat their female counterparts as equals.

 

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to work for a year after graduating from polytechnic before pursuing computer science at an overseas university!

As for my career as a web developer/software engineer, I’m still undecided between freelancing or being employed full-time.

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