Hey, I'm Ami! I've been coding for about a year and a half now and it's been a heck of a ride so far. There have been so many ups and downs and I've learned so much.
I'm just going to be sharing some random tidbits here about me and my journey as a nonbinary person in tech. (I use they/them pronouns.)
Before October of 2018 my only even tangentially related experience was a web design class I took in high school. Of course, that was a while ago so the stuff I learned back then doesn't really apply now. I had learned things like simple HTML/CSS (using tables for layout) and Dreamweaver.
It was that October in 2018 where I was trying to figure out where to go next. I'd been delivering groceries for a living and just needed something that I could be passionate about. A friend of mine who is a web developer always talked about learning to code and I was sitting in my car on my phone and I started to Google.
From here I found great resources like FreeCodeCamp, YouTube tutorials, and things like that. I dove in and started learning. I was a bit all over the place but I quickly started to realize I enjoyed what I was learning. The downside was that all I had was my phone and a little netbook. I was using things like codesandbox to practice and learn.
After talking to some friends about how much I was loving what I was learning one of them decided to give me a bit of a boost. They sent me a refurbished laptop. It's gone everywhere with me since as coding as become my life.
Shortly after this, I was introduced to Lambda School where I enrolled part-time in November of 2018. I'm currently in the last unit of their curriculum which is Computer Science and I've honestly learned more in the last year than I ever thought possible. On top of that, I started as a team lead where I get to help the newer students with their course work and get some valuable experience reading code and debugging problems. Currently, my role is leading a group of students in a two-month project emulating a real work environment.
There have been ups and downs... a lot of them. I learned a lot about how I learn. I learned how things like mental illness and being autistic can affect the way I learn and work. And I've made so many amazing friends.
It's weird to me because I've always been autistic and as far as I know I don't think I've ever been without mental illness. Specifically, I have anxiety and C-PTSD that result in a near-constant brain fog. That paired with things like auditory processing issues and sensory issues from being autistic have added a lot of difficulties but I've also learned a lot about how to work through these things.
Brain fog has been my biggest barrier. Medication hasn't helped. Sleep and diet changes haven't helped. Meditation hasn't helped. So what has helped? Learning how I learn best. Finding what methods work best for me. In my case, I work best if I do certain kinds of tasks during certain times of the day. Things like busywork, paperwork, and simple tasks I do well first thing in the morning. Learning new things where I might be taking notes rather than actively coding I do best in the late morning and early afternoon. Deep work and active coding I do best in the afternoon and evening.
When coding I work best if I have a pen and paper next to me to draw stuff and write stuff out to refer to as I go. Doing it digitally isn't as effective for me.
The hardest part of learning to code has been trying to figure out how I learn best and how to work through my brain fog. If I can't cure it, I need to work with it. It's hard some days but I feel like I get better and better with it the more I practice.
Being nonbinary in tech is kind of a weird place. You're not "one of the guys" and it definitely shows sometimes... but you're also not a woman so it's easy to feel out of place in groups meant for women in tech even as a person of a marginalized gender.
On top of that, any environment can end up feeling hostile just by existing in it openly. Every time I introduce myself with my pronouns or add my pronouns to my bio it can feel like I'm putting a target on me... because there is no way to know how people will react.
People who were otherwise kind to me and easy to work with all of a sudden become hostile and ready to debate. Some people feel entitled to debate me on who I am whether or not I am interested in or up for a debate. People I've just met will ask me uncomfortable and very personal questions about my body or medical history.
On the other hand, I've found amazing people. I've made friends who see me as just another developer who happens to be nonbinary. I've made friends who later explained they were also transgender but still closeted and hoping to come out. I've met other nonbinary people who came out because they saw me putting my pronouns in my Slack display name so they realized they weren't alone.
Listen to us and what we have to say. Believe us when we are telling you about our experiences. Make room for us. Especially for nonbinary people... make a point to say we are welcome. Spaces designed for women or LGBT people in tech can be great communities for nonbinary people depending on the purpose but at least for me I know if nonbinary people aren't specifically mentioned in some way... it's safer for me to assume that space isn't for me and keep looking.