Enrolling in Tech Talent South was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I have little computer experience beyond checking my email and occasionally posting videos of our three cats on Facebook. I am closer to being 40 years old than I am to 30, but don’t they say that with age comes abundant and insightful wisdom?
My husband Isaiah and I moved from Georgia to Raleigh in 2012 for a job opportunity that he couldn’t pass up. I quickly found a Cash Management position at The Pantry, which is the parent company of the Kangaroo Express convenience stores. Essentially, my responsibilities were to reconcile bank accounts for the stores and to coordinate with field employees regarding discrepancies of overages, shortages, or missing transactions.
I’ve been in the ‘finance’ field all my life; my earliest jobs were as cashiers at Kmart, Walmart, Honeybaked Hams, and even a year-long stint at one of the University of Georgia Dining Halls. In my adult career in Georgia, I’ve been the teller supervisor and financial services consultant at a bank and an accounts payable/receivable lead at two separate companies.
What could possibly convince me to turn my back on the one thing I’m well qualified to do and jump feet first into the bizarre world of programming?!?! What did finance do to deserve my abandonment? It all goes back to the loads of wisdom gained through the art of gracefully aging.
Isaiah and I are licensed foster parents. We’ve had four amazing, wonderful, precious girls in our home – sibling placements of two girls on two separate occasions. As any biological parent knows, having kids in the home changes your life. During the second placement (two year old twins!) it became clear that I was not satisfied at work. My boss and I did not have a good professional relationship, which impacted my interactions with the rest of the team. To be honest, I came home every day feeling stressed, tired, underutilized, overworked, underappreciated and a bit angry. I knew something had to change.
So after weeks of online research, meeting with the TTS Community Director, attending a Meetup where I spoke to several people who were currently going through the full time immersion boot camp, and even talking to both of the co-founders, I submitted my application. Although I had absolutely no experience with programming, they saw that I had the passion to learn, the drive to do whatever it takes to succeed, and the optimistic personality to make this training the first step toward my new life and new career.
During the eight-week program, I gained knowledge of web programming. We learned the language of Ruby and the incredible framework called Rails that even now, still seems a bit magical! I am amazed at how intuitive Rails is and how many of the tedious tasks are handled automatically behind the scenes. The program is designed kind of like a pyramid – you learn about a small concept, practice by building various applications, and continue to build on the complexity while you are being introduced to other concepts. As the weeks go by, you are building a wider and stronger programming foundation.
I now have the skills to build complicated applications. During the course, we built a travel site where we learned proper spacing using Bootstrap, how to make it snazzy with style, incorporating images, and hyperlinking additional resources. We built a blog site where we learned how to include associations of posts to comments and a user authentication system. We designed a Twitter-clone application and a Rock ‘n Roll library app where we practiced validating information in a database, displaying avatars of images, and we even tied in videos.
I have the confidence to know that it may sometimes take multiple attempts, but I will get my code to work! We ended the course with a pair-programing challenge. We went through the entire process of product design and delivering an MVP (minimally viable product). This was a culmination of everything we had learned as well as a taste of the trials, frustrations, and yes – eventually successes that await us in a career of programming.
Less tangible but vitally important, TTS also provided me with valuable resources: experienced instructors, networking opportunities, presentations by local professionals with advice about what it takes to be a programmer in the real world, as well as encouragement and support every single step of the way.
No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but life should not be dictated by fear. There are too many things that we cannot control – the feeling of holding your mother’s hand and watching as she takes her last breath or sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing nothing beyond the diagnosis of cancer. I decided to make this change in my life. I decided not to give fear more power. I decided Tech Talent South was exactly the program that I was looking for. Don’t be afraid to believe – you may learn that you have amazing strength you’ve never even imagined.