My story: I'm a 42 year old mother of two boys, and I started my career change from K-12 public education into software at age 40.
In March 2020, when I was one month away from graduating from a full-time immersive bootcamp, my kids' school shut down for the rest of the year. I started squeezing what should have been 8-10 hours of coding into the 5am-9am 4-hour time block each day, so I could start home-schooling at 9am. Nevertheless, I graduated on time.
The post-bootcamp job search looked a lot different for me than for my non-parent classmates, and I reflected on the struggles and came up with a system that worked for me at that time. I kept myself accountable through my (almost) weekly DEV posts. Until my son knocked over a full mug of coffee on my laptop. Nevertheless, I figured out a way to make it all work.
I learned that "making it work" means constantly revisiting your goals, and constantly re-calibrating what is feasible and desirable in any given time period. I adjusted my post-bootcamp career goals, and ended up combining my past experience in education with code to start working in software education. Because of the pandemic, I started working full-time with two boys at home. Nevertheless, it worked.
I was conflicted about this decision, and struggled with thoughts that I had somehow failed or given up by not ending this story with a title of "software engineer". Periodic reflection helps me realize that the "recipe" for career changing into tech has to be different for everyone, and DEV has been a great platform to foster my reflection about how I'm progressing in the field. Nevertheless, I still need reminders to keep reflecting.
Today, I work full-time in software ed, while freelancing part-time on educational software (in my non-existent free time). This gives me balance and fulfillment. And I realize how lucky I am to be able to juggle these roles, thanks to a supportive husband who has been doing our cooking, and moving to a new town where the kids have been attending in-person school 5 days a week since September. This has not been true for all of us this year.
Nevertheless. Despite the ups and downs and in and outs of my journey, I am now a software engineer AND I am an advocate for increasing access for more underrepresented folks in tech. This is actually the main part of my job description, and in the end, I am very proud of this outcome.
I have learned over the past year, as a bootcamp student, and now as a bootcamp employee, that one of the biggest keys to supporting underrepresented folks is flexibility:
- We need flexible schedules so learning can happen at the times that work for us.
- We need flexible structures that allow us to set our own goals and check them off, and revise them as needed, as we continuously juggle code and life.
- We need flexible definitions of what success looks like, including the various roles that might be the best fit for us.
Happy International Women's Day, everyone!