Becoming a Programmer: A Journey from Siberia to NYC

I met Yulia Barannikova at a hackathon last in December of 2015 where the two of us worked on a team to develop a peer-to-peer wealth management platform in 48 hours. The platform allowed novice investors to replicate portfolios of fund managers they were matched with based on personal pairing algorithms for Pearson correlation.

This was right as my co-founder and me at Felix Gray were gearing up for our soft-launch, and Yulia quickly became an early adopter. Along with her serious skills in programming, she had a seriously amazing story. From growing up in Siberia to becoming the first female graduate of an NYC-based FinTech bootcamp, her journey intoFinTech is an inspiring testament to what one can accomplish when dedicated to keeping their eyes on the screen and learn at all costs. Read on to learn more about Yulia's story :)


"My journey towards becoming a developer was winding but rewarding. I was born in Siberia, Russia. Growing up I really enjoyed mathematics and my secondary school had a pretty intense math program. At the age of 16 my parents sent me to Canada. While attending high school in Toronto, I had to face adult life and get used to living on my own and unfortunately did not spend much time pursuing my interest in math. When it came to picking a major, I decided to choose Finance what I thought would be a good fit for my analytical mindset.

After my third year, I transferred my studies to New York City. One of my motivations back then was the fact that NYC is the world’s financial capital, so I thought there were more opportunities for me in the city. I kept studying Finance and decided to spend a summer working at a hostel in Puerto Rico. I remember when I was there, I Googled postings for remote jobs and they were all for writers and developers. I thought that I definitely could not write and would never become a programmer since it was too late/difficult/not for me.

Traveling is my biggest passion and it is what I believe contributed the most to all aspects of my life including career. Every time I travel, I learn more about myself, meet incredible people, become inspired and get an idea of where I want to be headed in life. After Puerto Rico, I went couch-surfing around the States. When I was in San Francisco, I ended up staying with someone who worked in tech (surprise, surprise!). It was my first time meeting a lot of programmers and I was surprised by how much they enjoyed what they did. I believe this is what seeded the idea to start coding in my mind.

Yulia mentoring aspiring programmers with Django Girls

After I came back to New York, I started an internship at the New York Stock Exchange. While networking with people on the floor, I realized that most people with quantitative positions held Computer Science degrees while others’ jobs were sales-oriented. I never wanted to be in sales, so I realized that I should probably try coding. I took a C++ course at school and absolutely loved it. I enjoyed how logical the process was, I also thought coding would really fit my mindset because I had always been able to recognize patterns and make connections in my mind but, could not explain what I did.

By this point, I was sure that I had to learn how to code ASAP. Frankly, I made a promise to myself that I would become a programmer within 365 days. I was in my last year of college and changing my major didn’t make much sense, so I started to learn about "coding bootcamps." Bootcamps are intensive programs where you can learn the basics of web development without having prior programming experience. I enrolled into Byte Academy - which specializes in Python/Django. The program was intense but I enjoyed every single day of it. After finishing the program, I went to do a work exchange at a yoga retreat in Utah where I also received a remote internship at a food startup. After graduating in January, I landed my dream job at Quovo. Quovo is a FinTech startup that offers account aggregation and data science solutions for the Wealth Management business. I mostly work in Python, but get occasional projects that involve other technologies as well.

Yulia wears Faraday in Sazerac

I am incredibly happy with my decision to learn how to code. Committing to learn how to code was not an easy decision. I didn’t know if I would be able to spend 10 hours a day in front of the screen. My whole family has very bad eyes and I have been wearing contacts since I was 12. (Yes, 12. I was a dancer so I couldn’t wear glasses in class or on stage.) Since I started programming, I could definitely feel that my eyes started getting tired and dry, so I was very excited to try out Felix Gray eyewear after working with one of their co-founders at a FinTech hackathon put on by Transferwise in December of 2015. I personally notice a huge difference when looking at the screen while wearing my glasses as opposed to not. I believe eye health is extremely important for programmers, and if something can reduce my eye strain by even a hundredth of one percent - I would be silly not to use it. With my eyes now protected, I better enjoy the countless hours doing what I love to do!"


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