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Jesse Smith Byers
Jesse Smith Byers

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Nevertheless, Jesse Coded

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.


My advice for allies to support underrepresented folks who code is...

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!

Top comments (1)

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Ella (she/her/elle)

Yes to all this, Jesse! Yes to continuing with your hopes and dreams, nevertheless. Yes to continuing to advocate for others to be able to access the same, nevertheless. And yes to stay kind and compassionate towards yourself and others, nevertheless.

Thanks for sharing your story with us here on DEV and being an active and empathic member of our community!