Dr Angela Yu is one of the leading coding trainers in the UK, reaching nearly two million students on the learning and teaching platform, Udemy, and running the most popular web development bootcamp with 64,000 students.
However, Angela’s background is not in technology – in-fact, during the pandemic she was a doctor at the NHS, supporting the UK’s response to COVID-19. Angela recently left the NHS to pursue another one of her passions of coding, seeing an opportunity to make web development accessible for people from underprivileged backgrounds.
We spoke to her to hear more about her career change and what inspired her to take the leap…
How did you develop an interest in coding?
Programming and technology has been a huge passion of mine for as long as I can remember. My dad used to build his own computers at home and encouraged me to learn and help out – I have fond memories of trying to glue a heatsink to a CPU when I was only 10!
My first foray into coding happened at 12 years old when I tried to build my very own space invaders game. As I grew up, I decided to go to medical school and train as a surgeon, but the love for coding never left me. In fact, I helped fund my studies by building iOS and web apps in my spare time.
How did you transition from a career as a doctor in the NHS to being an instructor at Udemy?
It was a difficult decision for me to give up my role in the NHS. I loved being a doctor, but the work has become increasingly isolated and challenging and I was just one of thousands of doctors to reconsider my career choices.
My first love is coding, and I’ve always wanted to share my passion with the world. I played with the idea of building a course in my spare time, but ultimately, I never had the time between shifts to create one that I would have been proud of.
The Udemy platform was a game-changer for me. It made it easy for me to build an online course and, because it’s so accessible, it is possible to reach a larger audience of people from different backgrounds across many parts of the world.
I have to pinch myself to think that I’m reaching nearly two million students on the Udemy marketplace, creating such a big global community of coders.
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Were there any skills you took from your time as a doctor that have helped you as an instructor at Udemy?
Some of the most important skills needed to be a doctor are also massively important in my work as an Udemy coding instructor.
Both professions are incredibly fast-paced and constantly evolving, requiring flexibility and an ability to learn quickly. For example, new medicines or equipment are often introduced to the healthcare field that transform the way you operate, while emerging technologies constantly impact the ways you teach budding developers to prepare them for the future.
In both roles, you also need to be able to understand and work with people from vastly different backgrounds and fields. As an instructor, you need to be able to adapt your style to individual needs in order to engage diverse professionals and help them generate the best results.
I really enjoy working with people, and while as a doctor I could do a lot of individual good, my work as a coding instructor allows me to support the lives of thousands of people living around the world.
What has been the most rewarding experience in your teaching career?
One of the most rewarding experiences in my teaching career was when a parent emailed me to let me know that they were taking my course with their daughter as a bonding experience. It was touching to know that my course content not only provided educational value but also helped foster family bonding.
It was an affirmation of the positive impact that teachers can have on their students and their families. Knowing that I had the opportunity to help create meaningful and lasting memories for families while providing quality education was an unparalleled reward. This experience served as a reminder of the significance of teaching and its role in shaping lives.
How do you think more people, women especially, can be encouraged to get into coding?
The coding industry undoubtedly needs more female role models to demonstrate the ability of women to be successful in this industry and make coding more diverse. Female programmers can also bring certain power skills to the table, such as creativity, attention to detail, and unique perspectives. We seem to have forgotten that the first programmers were women and that we’re actually really good at it!
But the biggest barrier – not only to women but to many people from underrepresented backgrounds – has been the accessibility of learning programmes. For years, a good education in coding relied on attending university or undertaking expensive courses.
Providing individuals and organisations with effective skills development opportunities is possible today through online platforms like Udemy. Udemy has transformed this sector and opened up opportunities for a variety of different people. It offers affordable lessons, a wealth of fresh and diverse content, and the ability to obtain knowledge at any time and any place.