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“What you think, you become” An interview with Hannah Hawken aka The Duracell Bunny!

Hannah is a Junior Developer with Hero Health. From our first conversation, I loved her energy and passion, and the more we spoke, the more I knew we had to interview her for Women rock! Her journey from Durham Grad, to Le Wagon Bootcamp to Junior Developer with a start up was so inspiring… Here is her story!

Firstly, Let’s start with your journey into Tech – how did you go from Modern Languages to Computer Languages? (GREAT uni btw – Durham!!)

So, my journey into Tech was the product of a touch of adversity in my life, as I found myself unsatisfied in a Business Development role at one of the top International Law firms in Paris amidst the Gilets Jaunes protests back in Autumn 2018. I was on my year abroad as part of the 4-year Modern Languages degree I was pursuing at Durham University in French, Spanish and Italian Literature. One weekend when I flew back to London from Paris, I sat next to a girl who I began chatting to and she shared that she was halfway through Le Wagon in Paris. Her explanation of the coding bootcamp filled me with an energy that I had been missing while stuck at my desk in front of Excel spreadsheets. I figured that coding would be a better option for me, especially with my linguistic capability; if I could learn 3 languages why not 9 more in 3 months? After extensive research into Le Wagon, I applied for the January 2019 batch in Bordeaux – fresh start necessary.

What was it like at Le Wagon? They have a great reputation! And in France too – tres bien!

My interview went really well, and I proved that my fluency in French would not hinder my ability to immerse myself in code at all. I had a 20-hour ‘exam’ on CodeAcademy and 60 further hours of preparation work to complete alongside my time in the mountains skiing over Christmas and New Year. This amount of coding in advance of the bootcamp was crucial, both to lay the foundations for my understanding of the different languages we would cover – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL, ActiveRecord, Ruby on Rails – and to make me aware of the dedication. The days were long; 8am until 6pm if there was not an evening event. In the first 3 weeks there were multiple evenings that I flopped into bed skipping dinner, as my head just needed to disconnect from French, code, new people, a new home etc. I was lucky to have found a wonderful friend of a friend who took me in while her daughter was living in Australia, and she became the French mother I needed to have a giggle with as I found my feet and had renewed energy to cook with her. The most important factor of my integration anywhere is sport, and I thoroughly enjoyed running along La Garonne (the river) for an hour over lunch when at Le Wagon, and taking my new found friends on crazy-long 90km cycle rides to the beach or around the Saint-Émilion vineyards at the weekends. The highlight of Le Wagon was the buddy system, which ensures that you feel comfortable and bond with each individual in the batch, as you are paired together and complete the challenges with someone new each day.

Tell me about Hero Health!? How have the first 5 months been? What are the best bits of being a developer there?

Hero Health continues to bring me such joy that I forget the Coronavirus pandemic even exists. It could not have come at a better moment, as I was in discussion with my now boss and the founder of the healthcare startup just as Coronavirus kicked off in March 2020, incidentally a year after my graduation from Le Wagon. The lowest moments that I had within a largely uncharismatic team in Paris have made me more conscious of how happy my friends at work here in Oxford make me. We are only 7, but each one of us has an irreplaceable presence in the office and each other’s lives – HH ski trip is already being planned! ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’ in line with the Hero Health stash, visually exhibiting our tight-knit working relationship.

What do you reckon are the biggest barriers for Young Women to choose tech as career?

Even though I am aware of the practice, I have a way to go to reach the same speed and autonomy as the other 4 developers at HH, I am driven to continue and proud to be one of the 2 women/ladies/females/girls in the team – we often debate our label. I am a great believer in the greatest barrier being the individual themself when entering a new workspace; should they have the confidence to approach a male-dominated working-environment with a mentality that changes the story in their head to make them feel empowered to often be a minority and not threatened by the insecurity of standing outside of the majority then they have every chance of success and fulfilment.

One of the best parts of working in tech for me is the respect I am shown for perhaps having a different manner of approaching problems and situations.

Any programmes/charities etc that you’d recommend or promote to encourage young Women to get into tech? (except Women Rock… of course haha!)

If women have the interest and motivation to learn to code, get on and start the online courses with CodeAcademy and look into the available hackathons that will help their network too. Start by proving to yourself that you enjoy working in tech, and then you should never have to prove that to any future employer; if they do not appreciate this quality then they are not the colleague to work with. 

What do you do to switch off? I noticed you were super athletic at Durham – Cheer, Rowing and XCountry!

Coding for 8/9 hours a day requires serious physical activity to help my body catch up with the pace my mind runs at. I cycle 50km to work and back or run for an hour before/after work in order to disconnect from work-thoughts and adjust my eyes to time off the screens. While at Durham for my undergraduate degree, I represented the University for Rowing, XC running and athletics, Cheerleading – for which we placed 2nd at Nationals – and in my final year, triathlons. Each sport involved at least 5 and up to 8 training sessions per week, so I consider my training schedule pure pleasure and can avoid ever feeling the competitive pressure now.

You’re a big skier like me! Any plans to go soon?

Skiing and snowboarding over the winter months will be a big reward and head cleanse from a full-on year of degree completion, move, new job, new team amidst a global pandemic. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity and support Hero Health offer me.

What’s the long term dream, if you have it planned out?

It would be hard for my long-term dream not to concern the company’s success. I hope that chase 2 of our growth our fruitful and enjoyable. I am equally passionate about leading one of my own businesses to great scalability and success. Stay tuned.

Thanks so much for speaking to us Hannah, keep rocking! #womenrock

By Emily Lewis 

A voice for diversity in tech <3

I: @womenrockbristol

T: @womenrockbrstl

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