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From Tutus To Tech

Kara Luton
From tutus to tech. Ballerina ➡️ music publicist ➡️ software engineer. Nashville Women Programmers organizer.
Updated on ・4 min read

If you had told me three years ago that I would be a software engineer at a tech company I would have laughed. It's funny how life works sometimes so I wanted to use International Women's Day as an opportunity to show how I landed in this career and to, hopefully, inspire other women who are trying to do the same.

I grew up doing ballet. When I was seventeen I moved by myself to New York City to train full-time with the Joffrey Ballet School. I loved my time there and wouldn't have traded it for the world but it made me question if I wanted to pursue ballet professionally. I knew that I'd be lucky if my ballet career lasted until I was 30 so I decided to go to college and put ballet on the backburner.

Me at Joffrey Ballet School

I moved back to my hometown of Nashville, TN and enrolled as a public relations major at Belmont University. It was hard for me to let ballet go. I even had a brief stint as a guest artist at local professional ballet company but, as I began to focus more on my studies ballet, began to fade away.

I worked extremely hard in college. I wanted to work in the music industry and I knew I'd have to make myself stand out from the crowd so I began interning the summer after my freshman year. It all paid off when I landed a job as a publicity assistant in a music marketing firm after I graduated. I loved my job and after a year I was promoted to being a publicist. I got to attend concerts, hang out with some well-known celebrities and go to the occasional red carpet but I also was really stressed out.

My entire job relied on a journalist who receives thousands of emails a day to open mine and say yes to an interview or story. I hated the feeling that how well I was doing at my job relied solely on someone opening an email. I started to look into other career options when I stumbled upon Codecademy.

I began teaching myself HTML and CSS and absolutely loved it. I had been pretty good at foreign languages in high school and college and this felt just like learning another language. That's when I decided I wanted to really pursue working in the tech field. I completed high school online when I was training at Joffrey so I knew the self-teaching route wasn't for me. I began looking for other options and found The Iron Yard, a three-month-long bootcamp.

My cohort at The Iron Yard

During my bootcamp I learned all about HTML, CSS and JavaScript and then focused in on learning Vue and Ember. It was also important to me to meet as many people in this industry as I could while I was so I would go to meetups in the evenings. I loved going to meetups so much that while I was still at my bootcamp I started the local Nashville chapter of Tech Ladies. I was juggling a lot but it all paid off in the end when I landed my first dev job at an agency in town.

There's been a lot of ups and downs since I graduated my bootcamp but this has truly been one of the best decisions of my life. There are times when I wish I would have discovered coding earlier in my life but I also wouldn't be the person I am without having taken the path that I did and I'm extremely grateful for that.

I started/continued to code in 2019 because...

I love this career path. I love the feeling of fixing an error after having no clue what could be causing it. And I love seeing sites I'm working on start with nothing and come to life because of what I've written.

I deserve credit for...

Pursuing this career path even when people doubted me. When I told my old coworkers that I was leaving to go learn how to code the first thing someone told me was "but you don't look like someone who codes." I didn't let that phase me and, in fact, it pushed me even more.

I hope to see my school/work/developer/tech community...

Embrace those who come from different backgrounds. Don't write someone off just because they didn't get a CS degree or learned how to code a few months ago. That person could bring a completely different point-of-view to your team. Give them a chance.

I'd love to hear your own stories of how you landed in the tech world in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter for lots of tweets about tech, and if I'm being honest, lots of tweets about dogs too.

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