Caring about accessibility helped me land my first developer job

By Xurxe Toivo García

This is Xurxe's story from Pontevedra to Central America, then to Integrify programming studies and finally to Wunder as a developer and accessibility specialist.

How caring about accessibility helped me land my first developer job

Exactly one year ago I walked into the Integrify office to start learning web development. This was quite the career change, considering my academic background in biology and personal background in the arts.

Today I’ve been working at Wunder as a Junior Developer and Accessibility Specialist for almost two months, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

But it would be misleading to say that this happened in a year. It all started when I was 9, in my home city of Pontevedra, when I saw Deaf people using Spanish Sign Language for the first time. At age 19, while living in Central America, I learned Costa Rican Sign Language. At age 23, while attending university in the US, I became physically disabled for the first time. I’ve been what I sometimes call “on-and-off disabled” ever since.

(If you wanna know more about how disability and accessibility have shaped the last two decades of my life, have a look at my piece on Medium!)

Focusing on what I care about

As soon as I learned that I had gotten into the Integrify program, I decided I would specialize in web accessibility. When we started having 15-minute presentations on Thursdays, I made mine about this topic, because I wanted to encourage 20 other future developers to care about it too.

At one of the HelsinkiJS events, I asked the organizers if they would be interested in that presentation. That’s when I found out about the EU Web Accessibility Directive, whose first deadline was rapidly approaching. I didn’t know it until then but, thanks to this and upcoming legislation, web accessibility is and will continue to be a very hot topic and job market.

I gave an updated version of my talk at the HelsinkiJS August meetup. Afterwards, Jukka Paasonen from Finnair approached me and invited me to repeat it at Finnair HQ in Vantaa, which we organized for a couple of weeks later.

The presentation at Finnair went well, and I was extremely happy. When walking with my rollator back to the train station, I ran into one of the attendees, an external consultant from a large digital agency. We talked the entire ride back to Helsinki, and he encouraged me to submit an application to his company. I was even happier, and I thought that the day couldn’t get better.

Right time, right place, right topic

Turns out it could. I went straight from the Central Railway Station to the Wunder office for a visit with my Integrify classmates. The wonderful Emma Mäkinen told us more about the company and its values. When I heard the words “our vision is to build a world where digital belongs to everyone”, my ears perked up, my brain filled with questions, and I raised my hand.

You see, the thing about marginalized communities (people with disabilities, queer people, trans people, immigrants, and so on) is that people don’t always include us in their definition of “everyone”, and things that are for “everyone” are often not for us at all.

By the time I graduated from Integrify in September, I was interviewing with four companies, all of them interested in me because of my focus on accessibility. But Wunder was always ahead of the pack; as soon as the job offer came in, not a single second passed before I replied with a big YES, lots of exclamation marks, and a few emojis for good measure.

Finding my place at Wunder

Many of the things I love about Wunder have nothing to do with accessibility. I’ve been given responsibility and trust from day one. My unusual background, all the twists and turns in my career, every odd skill I’ve picked up along the way, are not only accepted, but celebrated and seen as an asset. And of course, accessibility-wise, I’ve arrived during a period brimming with opportunity, in the fantastic company of a very active accessibility team spearheaded by the brilliant Otso Lahti.

I’m thrilled to have amazing mentors and exciting projects at Wunder. The sheer amount of things I’ve already learned here is breathtaking, and I’m looking forward to many more interesting challenges in the future. But most of all, I’m grateful that at Wunder “everyone” truly means everyone.