Hi, Sarah! Give us a little introduction to start.
I’m a software developer at We Write Code and have been in the industry about a year and a half. Before becoming a developer, I decided to take a chance and attended a coding bootcamp with no prior experience in tech or other degree.
How did you end up in tech?
I fell into it, really. I didn’t see myself going into a tech field ever. Growing up I wasn’t a “computer kid”, so I never really saw myself as a “tech person”. But after I dropped out of school—I only did one year of college for mass communications, which was unrelated to anything software or computer related—I found Northwestern’s 6-month coding bootcamp. Which may seem like a weird transition, but I had started investing in cryptocurrency and as a result fell down this rabbit hole of software. At the time I didn’t have another career—other than the YouTube business Rachel (my girlfriend) and I had started, which she still does full time—so I figured I had time to try something new.
What was the bootcamp experience like for you?
Honestly? It was pretty intense and is NOT for the faint of heart. I’d wake up at 5am, do a shift at the restaurant I was working at, come home to do homework for bootcamp, take a 45-minute train ride to Northwestern, be in class from 6-10pm, ride 45 minutes back home, and do it all over again. Classes were two nights a week and one full weekend day (9am-3pm). But if you think that sounds bad, a lot of bootcamps are full time, so this was good to be able to keep my job and still go to school.
I know a lot of people learn from home on their own, but I knew this kind of environment would help me be more successful. It really helped pace me and the structure was really helpful for someone who had no background or any idea where to start.
That sounds intense. What kept you going?
When I first started at bootcamp I was unsure if I could even do it. There was always a chance this could be a massive fail. But I was determined and walked in thinking, “I’m GOING to figure this out.” So I did.
What was life like after classes were done?
I actually got an internship right out of the bootcamp—and it happened to be in cryptocurrency. It was great having my first experience outside of bootcamp in one of my areas of interest. I got to be a part of building a crypto trading platform; to see chain-level data and watch trades in real time…it made me really proud of my work.
When I got my first developer job, it was my first “real job”, which was pretty life changing. Before that, I only worked part time jobs other than me and Rachel’s business. As someone who didn’t take the traditional college route, I feel fortunate that tech has given me this opportunity to keep learning and growing with a vast amount of flexibility. It really made the intense six months of bootcamp worth it.
In the last 6 months I’ve felt way more confident in my abilities as a developer. I’m constantly learning, and still getting used to the fact I’m always learning. Every time I think I know something I’m like, “Ope, I have more to learn about this.” We Write Code has been a great, supportive environment for learning on the job. For example, right now I’m working on writing unit tests, and I’ve been wanting to learn how to do that for a while. Now I get to learn something I’m interested in while I’m doing actual work for it.
You said you didn’t feel like a “tech person”—do you think you fit that mold now?
Yes and no? I do feel like I fit in well with the company culture at We Write Code. It’s a really cool environment, and it makes a big difference to be around people who are good at their jobs, but that isn’t their whole life. But it’s no secret there aren’t that many female developers in general. At my bootcamp and previous job, I was usually on teams with all men, or mostly men, so I don’t fit the stereotype in that way. Also, because I didn’t grow up as a gamer or computer kid, sometimes I’m like, “Heyyy, I’m randomly here.” around other developers. That video game stereotype definitely exists for a reason! (But I have gotten into gaming more recently with the whole quarantine thing.)
Any advice for people looking to transition to tech?
Just try it out and start slow. It’s important to see if you actually like it before committing your whole life to it, especially considering there are so many different areas of development. Get your feet wet and see what’s fun for you. Starting out saying, “I want to be a developer, so I need to build websites” might not work out for you. Maybe building websites isn’t for you, but you love working with data structure and databases. You’ll never figure that out if you put all your focus on what you think you’re supposed to be doing—there is no “supposed to”. Try different things and see what’s for you.