Like A Girl

Pushing the conversation on gender equality.

Code Like A Girl

Broadening my horizon

One year ago I was living in Washington, DC and the thrill of being on my own for the first time after college was fading fast. I had a growing sense of boredom at work and a pile of student loan debt staring me down. I was unhappy and looking for ways to start anew.

In the midst of my restlessness, I found solace and inspiration at a Meetup group. Every Monday after work, I headed to Women Who Code DC’s Front End Hack Night. I loved these gatherings for the supportive introduction to coding they offered (and free pizza was usually involved). More importantly, each time I went I’d meet someone who, despite a nontraditional educational background, was forging a successful career transition into the tech industry. I was so impressed by the change they accomplished in their professional lives, and desperately wanted the fulfillment that came along with it.

At first, it was hard for me to imagine that I was capable of making a career change into the tech industry. I was eight years old when I got my hands on a computer for the first time. I didn’t dismantle or tinker with the computer at all, instead I played hours of Barbie Magic Hairstyler. This was one of Mattel’s editions of “Software for Girls” in 1997. Also, prior to Women Who Code, the closest I got to coding was typing cheat codes while playing The Sims as a teenager. By the time I got to college, learning more math had become a nightmare. In fact, I nearly dropped out of college because of the difficulty I had with lower division math classes. I never thought I could have a career in tech considering these setbacks, but those Women Who Code meet ups broke down the preconceived notions I had about what was possible for me to learn and opened my eyes to a new career trajectory.

In a book called Mindshift, Dr. Barbara Oakley asks her readers, “What could you do or be if you tried to broaden your passion and accomplish something that demanded the most from you?” I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a customer support engineer — no matter how hard the journey — as I started to look for ways to forge my own path into the tech industry and still use the skills I gained and valued from previous jobs in nonprofit fundraising and outreach campaigns.

Have I become a customer support engineer? Not yet, but it’s been six months since I landed in the support team at a financial technology company called @Riskalyze in Atlanta, Georgia where it’s never boring and I have the opportunity to put into practice what I’m learning about software engineering. The progress I’m making and the lessons I’m learning along the way about programming, empathy and leadership, create the energy that keeps me going month after month.

This post was inspired by Support Driven’s spring 2017 writing challenge. The first writing prompt asks the following: What makes you excited about working in customer support? Each of us has a path that landed us here — but what keeps you going month after month.