In 2008, I walked across a stage and shook the hand of my university’s president. I was a newly minted journalist, ready to get to work in a economic climate where newspapers were bleeding journalists like a hemorrhaging Goliath, where many smaller papers were shuttering their doors, and where those who did retain their jobs were expected to do everything, from writing articles and taking pictures to, in some cases, even pitching in to deliver the physical papers.
I didn’t know it then, but the skills that would serve me best in the workplace were those I learned as an academic afterthought. I’d taken an editorial writing class that focused heavily on blogging. It wasn’t required, but it was fun. It wasn’t an advanced class; I learned how to create a blog on Blogger and how to set up a basic theme and publish posts, but I went on to take other multimedia courses that provided me with just enough of a web publishing foundation to convince my bosses that I knew what I was doing when it came to creating and maintaining websites.
Fast forward to last year, and I was starting a new job as the head of customer success with a web-based nonprofit fundraising platform. I’d cobbled together enough of a background in HTML and CSS to fix most problems that came my way, but I could definitely see the holes in what I’d learned. Plus, I wanted to be able to complete a project from start to finish, not just work with what someone else had already put together.
Enter Tech Talent South!
When I discovered the immersion program was expanding to New Orleans, I was stoked but a little tentative. I’m an avid reader and writer (literature is my passion), and I’m already working a full-time job. I volunteer, have a social life, and try to work in romance when I can. Still, I knew that filling in the gaps of my coding knowledge would give me a competitive advantage in most of my pursuits, so I took the plunge and signed up, hoping to get in.
When I received my acceptance, I informed my weekly writer’s group that I was taking a sabbatical, planned out how I would rearrange my life around my part-time night class (eating and sleeping are usually important parts of my day), and committed myself to eight weeks of intensive coding.
Now that I’m about to begin week four, I’m surprised at how much I already know. I’m gaining confidence in ways that delight me. The value, for me, is not in learning how to code, but in having a safe space to experiment with projects. It’s collaborating with the person next to me on how to solve a problem, and it’s being able to ask all of the “beginner” questions.
When I finish my course at Tech Talent South, I’m not going to walk across a stage with a piece of paper in my hand, but I will have built myself a safety net of sorts. I’m already thinking up a fun, interactive project that will weave together my new coding skills with my strong background in storytelling. I don’t know if, ten years from now, I’ll still be troubleshooting tech problems, but I do know I will be finding exciting new ways to use code.