When scrolling Facebook, I don’t generally expect to come across something that is going to alter the course of my life. Memes, cat videos, and Instant Pot recipes, sure. But life changing? Not so much. And yet, one otherwise ordinary evening in 2016, life-changing is exactly what I found.
A friend posted a link to a local news story on CoderGirl [a LaunchCode tech education program] and something about the headline caught my attention. So I clicked on the story to watch the video. A non-profit program that focuses on getting women from any background into careers in tech? I was very intrigued. I sent her a private message and asked her if we could talk more about CoderGirl over dinner.
A non-profit program that focuses on getting women from any background into careers in tech? I was very intrigued.
About a week later, over pizza and beer, she explained that the CoderGirl cohort had supported and mentored her through teaching herself to code. Furthermore, after a year of learning, LaunchCode had first helped her secure an apprenticeship with a startup, and then a full-time job at Monsanto. Oh, and it's important to note that all the support was free. She proceeded to tell me more about the compensation and benefits of her job, and I was mind-boggled. I went home and applied to CoderGirl that very night.
You see, I had been a work-from-home mom for the previous seven years. My educational background is a Bachelor’s degree in English and Environmental Studies, and I spent the first several years of my career in environmental advocacy. When I had my first child, I decided to stay at home with my son, and later also a daughter, while doing various part-time gigs to help pay the bills. I knew that I would eventually need to re-enter the workforce full-time once my kids were in school if we ever wanted to get beyond living paycheck to paycheck. However, I was skeptical about my prospects at finding a meaningful and well-compensated career armed with a degree in English, some experience in non-profits, and a huge gap in my employment history.
I was skeptical about my prospects at finding a meaningful and well-compensated career armed with a degree in English, some experience in non-profits, and a huge gap in my employment history.
When I saw that news story about CoderGirl, it lit a fire inside me. I thought back to when I was a little girl and we got our first IBM personal computer, and all the time I spent playing on it. My first gaming experience was a DOS version of Monopoly, and I thought it was the coolest ever. I learned HTML in high school, and in college, I taught myself CSS so that I could design the layouts of my own blogs and websites. I was an early adopter of just about every social media platform out there.
Clearly, I had both an aptitude and a passion for tech. Yet for some reason, I had never considered it as a career option. Maybe because I also loved the humanities and didn’t see how they could possibly go together? Maybe because I assumed it would require being a math genius? Maybe because my dad was in IT and I wanted to do something different? I don’t know why it took me so long, but it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I discovered this path. For whatever reason, this felt like the right time. So I went for it.
The process has been like jumping into the deep end of the pool before you are quite sure you know how to swim, but I go home every day with a full brain and a full heart.
I can’t overstate how invaluable discovering the CoderGirl program has been to me – it has changed the direction of my life, it has given me the chance to find a fulfilling career I didn’t know was an option for me, and it has changed my family’s financial future.
By: Amy Butz
Associate Application Developer