We sat down with Elle Wilson to talk about her journey from studying fashion at FIT to building software as a Solutions Architect at Unqork.
Q: Let’s start by talking about what you do at Unqork. Is there a typical day for you?
Elle: I started at Unqork as an Associate Solutions Architect last June. It’s a super collaborative role—I work with a lot of different teams day-to-day, which I love. My role feels sort of like being the glue for everybody.
For me, there really is no typical day. The days are so varied on the Solutions team because of the wide range of clients we work with. From a client-facing perspective, we do a lot of troubleshooting, as well as project management with the Engagement and Delivery team to get these client projects across the finish line. There’s also all kinds of internal activity going on at the same time, from optimizing JIRA processes to answering your colleague’s questions about platform capabilities.
Tell us a little about how you ended up where you are today. What did you do before Unqork?
When I used to think about what I wanted to do as a career, art was always my end goal. My dream was to basically have a studio where I could just be creative. I never wanted to compromise my art and my creativity for the sake of making money, but I realized that sometimes life requires you to be practical.
Based on this thinking, fashion seemed like a realistic option that might give me some room to be creative. I ended up going to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for my bachelor’s degree and majoring in business management. While I was at FIT, I also started working in retail at Opening Ceremony.
My time at Opening Ceremony was really interesting because despite being known as a really progressive, innovative brand in fashion, the industry itself really was all about business at the end of the day. I just realized that I was not being creative whatsoever. Even when I was pursuing what I thought was a creative option, I still had to make compromises to make money—I just wasn’t feeling good about it.
Around the same time, I was talking to someone at Salesforce who really talked me out of the idea that you needed to be a genius to know how to code. Because I was feeling disillusioned about fashion, I started looking into coding bootcamps. I found an option that would allow me to learn part-time when I came home from work or class. It took me about a year to finish it—but during that year I realized that I was so much happier doing that work.
Coding helped me unlock a different kind of creativity. With programming, I could make ideas come to life really quickly. It wasn’t like art, where you have a canvas and you have to make a mess and wait for things to dry. Basically, my passion shifted. I stuck it out, built some portfolio projects, and really tried to nail down the skills so that by the end of my program I could hopefully find a job.
Four months went by. I was still working at Opening Ceremony and decided to quit so I could dedicate my time to studying and looking for the right job opportunity. I just said, “You know what? I have two months of rent saved and I’m just going to see what happens.” Those two months went by and I was on my last $500. I had my Unqork interview at the end of the week and I was already thinking about going bankrupt and having to move back to New Jersey.
As we now know, I clicked really well with everybody during my interview. I just believed in the Unqork product more than the product at any of the other places I interviewed at—it was a really good feeling.
It’s funny because people will still ask me, “Where do you see yourself fitting into the industry?” and I’m like, “I’m here.” I’m so much happier contributing to an industry that is actually helping people—whether that means solving frustrating business problems or enabling enterprises to go paperless. This is an exciting growing industry, and I’m excited to be a part of it.
Having gone through Unqork training as a Solutions Architect, can you compare the experiences of learning to code and learning how to use a no-code platform?
Both are challenging in their own ways. Unqork was definitely a bit challenging when I first started, just because it’s a new programming language with a smaller pool of knowledge to pull from. There are so many resources around learning to code because these languages have been around for a longer period of time. There’s a lot you can do as far as Googling answers when it comes to code.
Ultimately, I think that drives you to learn more. For me, the thing that I always remembered was just that it gets easier with time—I knew I wouldn’t become an expert overnight. I learned to really speak up at Unqork to get my questions answered. And the great thing is that now we’re building out those robust resources for the next generation of no-coders.
Can you see people with backgrounds like yours going straight to no-code in the future?
I definitely can. It took me two to three months to build a Jeopardy! App with code while I was doing my bootcamp course. Recently, I thought, “I wonder if I can build that app in Unqork?” It took me three hours, looked so much better, and it was more functional. I think that’s literally the perfect example of what you can do with no-code.
The challenge of code is that it becomes legacy so quickly, with new technologies and new frameworks constantly evolving. No-code just takes that away. When I first moved to a no-code platform, I was kind of nervous about losing out on technical skills or not being up to speed on everything that’s going on in the industry. Now, I feel like I’m ahead of the curve because I’m not dragged down by thinking, “Oh, what’s the latest update of this?”
If someone has extra time on their hands at the moment, or if they’re in a position like I was a year ago, an interest in no-code is all you need to start learning. There’s so much more documentation within the platform now that I think it would be easy for someone to go in and start picking up those skills on their own.
To give us a better sense of the work you do on the Solutions team, are there any specific client projects that you are particularly proud of having worked on?
One of the main client projects I’m working on now is for an insurance enterprise. We’re in the process of building out a whole policy admin system for them, which is huge because it’s also contributing to a larger goal of productization. A lot of what we’re building will be able to be applied to other clients and other projects. I’m super proud of the fact that we’re developing products that can be customized for various use cases—we’re not just developing a specific application.
Finally, as someone who made a big leap from one industry to another, is there any advice you might have for people looking to break into tech?
For me, the biggest thing is just to do your research. I think moving into tech is something that should be treated as a decision sort of like going to college. Especially if you’re considering a bootcamp like I did, that’s an investment and you should research where your money is going. Don’t fall for the idea that it’s an easy way to get a job, because a lot of the job guarantees these bootcamps make are totally unrealistic. Use the resources you already have to see what’s out there.
Don’t let your curiosity and drive be overshadowed by feeling intimidated. I struggle with imposter syndrome all of the time, but you just have to power forward. Don’t feel like an industry is too smart for you. People have the ability to learn whatever they want—and if you have that creativity, I think that overpowers anything.