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My Journey Into Software Engineering

Emma Bostian ✨
Software Engineer, bibliophile, & cat mom
・4 min read

“You should really consider software engineering — I think you’d be great at it.” This wasn’t the first time I had heard these words from my dad.

Growing up in a home with a Software Engineer father and a Designer mother, I was almost destined to become an engineer. But as all teenagers do, I was adamant about “making my own path.”

I grew up attending “bring your kids to work day” at IBM. I always enjoyed competing in the Jeopardy challenges and creating my own barcode. Yet engineering never crossed my mind as a viable career path.

College

I entered Siena College in 2011 as a Biology major. I was one-hundred percent positive I was going to become an obstetrician. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

As my first semester was drawing to a close, I was about five minutes away from a mental breakdown.

I was close to failing Biology and Chemistry and I knew it wasn’t the right career path for me — I wasn’t interested in it. Thus, I applied to a neighboring school for a major in Music Education.

I received my acceptance letter to Saint Rose in Albany, New York, but something in my heart told me this wasn’t the right decision. I decided to stick it out and try something new: Actuarial Science.

It was during my second semester of Freshman year (2012) that I took an “Introduction to Computer Science” course. I learned all about Ada Lovelace and learned how to convert binary to hexadecimal to octal. I was smitten.

The dichotomy between the technical and creative aspects of coding sparked my interest. I declared a Computer Science major and Business minor the Fall semester of my Sophomore year (2012).

I loved every second of my degree. It was truly challenging coursework, yet it never seems like work when you’re inspired by the material.

In the Fall semester of my Junior year (2013), I studied abroad at City University in London. These were the greatest three months of my life. I got to experience the world of computing through a different culture.

It was during my time abroad that I interviewed for, and was accepted, to an IBM internship.

The Summer after my Junior year (2014), I worked as a Co-Op/Intern at IBM Poughkeepsie. My main goal was to automate the installation of WebSphere on z/OS using Python.

I had primarily coded in Java throughout my coursework, so learning Python was a new challenge for me.

IBM

Fast-forward to the end of Senior year (2015). I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science and accepted a job down in Austin, Texas at IBM.

I began my career in IBM Spectrum Control. The twist? I started as a front-end developer.

I hadn’t had much experience with web development during college. Although I did take a web development course, it was extremely high-level and I was truly unprepared for the professional world.

This was an extremely challenging time for me. I was well behind my colleagues in terms of skillset. I essentially had to teach myself front-end development while working a full-time job. But I stuck it out and got through it.

In 2016 I took on the role of accessibility lead and learned all there was to learn about website accessibility — keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, high-contrast mode. I was able to implement full accessibility on IBM Spectrum Control, which was a great accomplishment.

Then I was approached by Scott Crowder, Vice President and CTO of IBM Quantum Computing. He offered me a job as a front-end developer with his design team.

Thus, a year and a half after joining IBM, I switched teams and gained vast knowledge of the design process.

I worked on many interesting projects during my time with the IBM Systems and Transformation design team. I worked on developing the future of Support and the Open Source Power and Availability Tool. But my favorite project was IBM Q.

Quantum Computing is one of the coolest areas of engineering and computing that exists today. The ability to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry intrigued me to no end.

And being the only front-end developer on the design team meant I got the chance to try out new technologies.

My biggest accomplishment was building the IBM Q Network site single-handedly using Vue.js. To this day I am extremely proud of this site.

Then, my life took a complete 180-degree turn.

I met my now-husband while working on a project at IBM in 2017. The only catch? He lived in Germany.

LogMeIn

So in February of 2018, I sold everything I owned and flew my two cats and myself to Germany.

Unfortunately I was unable to keep my job on the IBM Quantum team, so I was forced to look for a new position.

I had many interviews with companies in Germany, but many of them didn’t want to invest in a foreigner when there were plenty of in-country candidates.

Then, I interviewed with LogMeIn. After three or four interviews and a coding challenge, they graciously offered me a position.

I worked on a development team building the UI for GoToMeeting. This was amazing because I got to learn React, Redux, TypeScript and how to write unit tests with Jest/Enzyme.

Recently, I've taken on a new role as a UX Engineer (blog post coming soon). My main focus now is building a component library and style guide with React, Vue, and native web components. There's something exciting about being the first UX Engineer at LogMeIn. I'm getting to learn invaluable development and design skills.

My journey is just beginning and I am looking forward to the years to come.

Discussion (28)

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abhishekalbert profile image
Abhishek

Nice Mam

You have really an inspiring story. after reading others struggles and their hard work worth it for readers they feel a never give up attitude and again he tries hard to achieve his dream.

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gavinfernandes2012 profile image
Gavin Fernandes

Whoa you worked on IBM Q! Damn that's cool, are they still using your site (/ a version of it)? I think it looks pretty rad

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emmabostian profile image
Emma Bostian ✨ Author

Yep the site that’s online is the one I built!

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alexneilson14 profile image
Alex Nigl

Thanks for sharing!
I’m not the one who began to study the development and any advice would be useful to me. I am 31 and I decided to learn PHP. I want to learn how to create modules for online stores and blogs, like myprestamodules.com/. Someone has experience in the development of such software. Someone to share tips?

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gabeguz profile image
Gabriel Guzman

Great story, thanks for sharing!

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olivermensahdev profile image
Oliver Mensah

That's great experiences, my dear. Doing actuarial science tells you are such a 'shark', brilliant person. High five to you.

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httpjunkie profile image
Eric Bishard

I can't believe I wasn't following you. Nice article, cool to hear your journey!

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tacojo profile image
tacojo

Hey! That's pretty cool. You were lucky enough to start within a highly skilled team, having the chance to work for great project, within a company who embraces innovation. Otherwise, it's not easy to do too much progress on your own. At least, this is how I see it.

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brokenthorn profile image
Paul-Sebastian Manole

Subbed! Definitely want to hear your thoughts on native web components and how to use them with libraries such as Vue.js and React.js which are not necessarily advocating the use of native web components yet. And native web components seem to have lost some traction.

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zawawimanja profile image
zawawimanja

I also have same problem like you. But at that time I think code is hard and not for me. Then I try to apply to other major.Unfortunately I dont get it and stick to IT until now I become a noob programmer.😝😝

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eckhardtd profile image
Eckhardt

Interesting. My first attempt at college was also B.Sc (Human Life Sciences). Dropped out after one year. Re-entered attempting a B.com (Managament Accounting). Now I’m doing my honours degree in Accounting whilst working full-stack web jobs. It’s curious how life meanders. Also nice to know there are more people like this.

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picwellwisher12pk profile image
Amir Hameed

I studied zoology botany and chemistry in my graduation too.

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anonjr profile image
Mark Bussell Jr

Well done. :)

Also nice to know I wasn't the only one who ended up taking a rather circuitous route to programming.

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shrutivtu profile image
shrutivtu

Inspirational story!

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rafe_estevez95 profile image
Rafael Estevez

A very nice article and a great story!

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aritdeveloper profile image
Arit Amana

I was a Biology major 🔬 🧪 🧫 🧬

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daveskull81 profile image
dAVE Inden

Great story. Thanks for sharing and awesome job on sticking through the hard parts and pushing through them. That’s awesome.

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andhop profile image
Andy Hopwood

Great write up of your story so far! Feels like reading an excerpt from your upcoming biography

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dulemart profile image
Dule Martins

Nice article, thank for advice through the article.

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thaihoang1801 profile image
Hoang_Comma

What amazing!
Wish you a lucky and successful journey.

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imjustclem profile image
Clément Agarini • Edited

"z/OS on WebSphere using Python", you meant "WebSphere on z/OS using Python" right ?

Really nice to hear other developer's story !

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emmabostian profile image
Emma Bostian ✨ Author

Hahah yes!!

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full_stackgeek profile image
Full Stack Geek

That's pretty inspiring :)

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lepinekong profile image
lepinekong

"many of them didn’t want to invest in a foreigner when there were plenty of in-country candidates." surprising all politicians in Europe pretend there are not enough native "talents" ;)

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hussein_cheayto profile image
hussein cheayto

Well written article. Which programming language did you like the most?

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richard21266663 profile image
richard

Interesting story emma

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jackdponting profile image
JackDPonting

Your journey into software engineering is quite interesting and inspiring for other professionals and amateurs of same field. Keep sharing such kind of stuff which is worth to read and imply to others.

Jack,
qualitydissertation.co.uk/