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“From Café Owner To Web Developer: How I Changed My Career In My 40s”

Yuki Grosbüsch had fulfilled her dream of opening a Café. Could she break into programming next?
Copyright Yuki Grosbüsch
Andrea Tallarita
Andrea Tallarita

The sun-drenched slopes of Madeira, encircled by the North Atlantic, are not the sort of place where anyone would expect to plunge into an existential crisis. Yet Yuki Grosbüsch, owner of a Café in Berlin and aged 47 at the time, returned from the archipelago loaded not with souvenirs but with doubts about her life.

“I was there to help a friend with a small film festival he had organized,” says Yuki today. “I realized that working there made me happier than I felt at my Café, at my own business. That’s when I knew something had to change.”

Yuki’s path into the food and beverage business had been anything but linear. At university she had studied physics, but was eventually discouraged from pursuing that any further. “When you’re young and insecure and you are surrounded on a daily basis by comments about women in science, it chips away at your self-esteem. Starting something of my own, I didn’t have to hear people telling me ‘women can’t do this’.”

So she moved from her home in little Darmstadt (Hessen) to Berlin – that city of bustling streets, culture and counter-culture – and started out by working as a barista for others. She learned much about the trade, the grind, the early-morning hubbub, the after-hours maintenance, and the many underground terms of Berlin’s ‘Third Wave Coffee’ culture.

Adobe Stock / 21AERIALS

Then she put her savings to work, and ‘Yuki’s Espresso Bar’ opened in Friedrichshain in spring of 2004.

“Owning a Café was a dream that ran in the family,” she remembers fondly. “It wasn’t just about cooking – although I do love to cook. It was about creating a space where people from different strata of society could come together, where the many lives of Berlin could intersect and brush sides.”

The unexpected trouble about dreams, however, is that there comes a point when they are fulfilled.

“I managed my Café for almost 17 years, and I am proud of that,” says Yuki, looking back. “But there came a point when I realized that my day-to-day felt boring. It felt like work had become just routine, like I had nothing left to learn or discover. When I went to Madeira to help my friend with his film festival, and once again I felt the joy that comes from getting my hands dirty, I decided it was time to try something new with my life.”

coding bootcamp web development View of Camara de Lobos, small fisherman village on Madeira island
View of Madeira. Adobe Stock / Grecaud Paul

Yuki remembered that she’d been good at programming back in her university days, and she knew that tech was a field that was desperate for qualified personnel. But that option seemed scary for a variety of reasons.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to use what I had learned in the 90s. And at 47, there was the simple question, am I too old to learn to code? Am I still mentally equipped, am I still lucid enough for this sort of thing?”

Among her initial, tentative applications was one for a scholarship at Berlin’s CODE University of Applied Sciences. Yuki was rejected – but that rejection was precisely what pushed her onto the right path.

“They gave me some pretty comprehensive feedback. They said, you’re already a grown-up, you don’t need to learn the basics of how to work, and you want to learn quickly. You don’t need a university degree – you need a coding bootcamp. I did a little bit of research, and I realized they were right. There were tons of bootcamps out there – I just needed to find the right one for me.”

The ‘right one’ turned out to be the WBS CODING SCHOOL Full-Stack Web & App Development bootcamp. “It was longer than most other bootcamps, and seemed more comprehensive and realistic about the process of learning to code. I asked some of my friends who knew about tech, and they recommended exactly what was in the bootcamp’s syllabus. On top it all, financing was covered by the Arbeitsagentur. I thought, let’s give this a go.”

Contrary to her initial worries, being lucid was not an obstacle – but the intensive nature of coding bootcamps was. “The first week was one of the most stressful in my grownup life,” she says today. “There was lots of work, lots of sleepless nights. I had to structure my day with precision just to keep track of what was going on.

coding bootcamp web development Tired programmer falling with chair working late at night
Adobe Stock / DC Studio

“Sometimes I asked myself ‘What did I get myself into?’, but then I saw that it was a common thing – everyone else was struggling too. And our instructor, Ben, was incredibly helpful and supportive.”

And so, after 3 months of gritting her teeth and working hard, Yuki graduated from her bootcamp in April 2021, and completed her butterfly-like transformation from Café owner to Full-Stack Web Developer!

Today she works as a Technical Consultant at FDM, and she says the most beautiful thing about the new world she has found is how different it is from the old world she first made contact with as a physics student.

“Times have changed a lot for women in tech,” she says with a smile. “During the bootcamp I never heard inappropriate comments, jokes about girls or anything like that. And in my current job too, although the gender ratio is still not 50:50, the fact that women work as programmers is seen as something totally normal, not as an anomaly. Honestly, just being surrounded by other women feels so encouraging.”

And so, at the end of her old dream of owning a Café, it works out that another dream was waiting for her – but for Yuki, this is far from the end.

“I see my life as something that is continuously developing,” she says as we wrap up our interview. “And I know now that ‘too old to learn’ is not an argument. I don’t really think about the past anymore, and I know that there are big shifts happening in the world of tech. My job – our jobs – will change again in the future. And I am going to embrace that.”

Enjoyed the article? Check out our blog answering the question Am I Too Old To Code?

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