The Start of it All
Growing up, I was pretty lucky to have had the life I did. My family had had gaming consoles for as long as I can remember, including:
Super Nintendo with games like Duck Hunter, Legend of Zelda, Super Mario World and Harvest Moon
Gameboy Colour Games where I got to play mini-games with Austin Powers, skate with Tony Hawk, and save Princesses some more with Mario.
Using my GameCube to play with the likes of Donkey Kong, Nemo, Harry Potter, Harvest Moon, all sorts of Mario and Zelda games, Pokemon, Scooby Doo and so many more.
While I inevitably ended up getting a WII, Nintendo DS, and Xbox 360, nothing got my fascination with software started quite like Barbie Magic Genie which had its own genie bottle you could use to interact with in-game. I remember my family's massive off-white, almost yellow, computer that was running Windows 98 and sounding like a jet engine while running minesweeper and solitaire. I was dumbfounded over the fact that this machine allowed me to interact with this genie bottle and it would affect things in the game. While I wasn't quite at a point where I was fiddling with the systems in the computer, it was something that lit the fuse for my interest in all types of electronics.
In the years since getting the Barbie game, I continued my fascination with tech. Once my family had finally gotten internet, I finally took more of an interest in the technical things.
Customizing My Internet Presence
Once the internet had its firm grasp on me, things took off. One of the first places I started was Neopets - it was a website that allowed me to create, customize and take care of my virtual pets, like an elaborate Tamagotchi. In my attempt to be more "original," I wanted to try my hand at making this experience even more unique. With Neopets letting its users customize their homepage using HTML and CSS, I was able to take designs and thoughts for how I wanted things to look and execute them with a little bit of practice and experimentation.
If I'm being honest, I spent more of my time customizing these pages than actually looking after my poor pets, but at the very least they were a part of a stylish (in my opinion) page.
Inevitably, I had aged out of using Neopets and sought to find something else to tinker with on the internet. With social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and more showing up, I found Tumblr and quickly became hooked on the endless stream of content that was available on the platform. Whether it was art, fashion, or just funny memes, there was always something new and interesting. Much like Neopets, I had found out I could make my corner of the internet unique to what I liked.
What I was originally able to do with my homepage in Neopets, I continued to build and elaborate on even more. Starting from scratch or from templates I was able to create a personalized and unique online space that reflected my interests as well as my personality. I was able to add features like search bars, links to social media accounts, custom backgrounds, music players and columns to display content.
As we started talking about what we wanted to do after high school, I was debating whether I could make what I was doing into work. I had people in one ear saying that tech wouldn't go too far and that it wasn't something a woman should go into and people in my other ear saying that healthcare was something more "respectable. For years, I spent time on Tumblr customizing my internet presence, even going so far as to create templates and documents to empower others to do the same but, having been convinced by some peers as well as family that this was "not the path" I closed up shop and moved on.
Detouring to HealthCare
With the pressure from those, I put down my tech and picked up the textbooks. I was never quite certain where I wanted to land within healthcare, all I knew was that there were some qualities I needed in a position:
Problem-solving - I needed to identify and solve problems. This would allow me to think critically and creatively to come up with solutions to, hopefully, complex issues.
Communication - I wanted to be able to collaborate with individuals so that when I would be presented with something I needed some consulting on, I would have the ability to do so.
Adaptability - I wanted a field that would consistently evolve. I didn't want to remain in the same place for too long thus I wanted to find a career that would allow me to continue to learn and reward me for doing so.
With these 3 traits in mind, I settled on my career as a physical therapist. It provided me with the necessary qualities I was looking for as well as rewarded me for my attention to detail, passion for learning and persistence to continue to work towards finding the appropriate solution to each client's case.
Physical therapy exposed me to a lot of the struggles people have in their day to day. In a way, it is an incredibly rewarding experience since I very rarely had someone who was there to see me because they dreaded it. While I had always been someone who had been active growing up due to sports and my own venturing into the gym, the passion behind the work to keep me motivated through the corporate overhead, case management, alternating schedules, ethical dilemmas, excessive documentation with no time built in for it, I ended up inevitably burnt out after my short time there. Going to work felt like an even bigger burden than work should have and I continued to dread it day in and day out. I tried working with different patient populations, in different locations and with different clinicians but I couldn't shake the feeling that this field was not meant for me.
I had debated how I could use the education I had gained to get to a career where burnout wasn't as prevalent but no matter the career I looked into or the process it would take to get there I couldn't muster up excitement. I felt like I was stuck in a place and unsure of how I could be free of the feeling - nothing quite felt "right".
And Then Came the Pandemic...
With the pandemic, came the break I knew I needed. Forced out of work for almost 2 and a half months I spent a lot of time contemplating how I wanted my future to unfold. I was taking career quizzes, browsing through Reddit trying to find something that excited me and I looked forward to learning. I started fiddling with my computer again, and, conveniently enough, came to realize that things kept pointing to tech again. Information technology, medical device technician, software engineer, and web designer.
This is when things started falling into place for me - I had attempted to continue in the healthcare field for a bit longer but I was no longer resistant to the idea of pivoting careers. When the pandemic had finally settled and I was no longer struggling with trying to pay my debts, I decided that it was better late than never to make the pivot. I was going to start learning software development.
BootCamp or Degree?
I was always convinced that to make it, you need a degree. I know life experience was more important than much else but the basics of education, I thought, should always be taught in school. In my attempt to find out how I could manage working and learning, I came across the concept of a bootcamp, something that condensed an education from years to months.
Now, I also began to understand that not all boot camps are created equal - financial and time investment as well as the quality of education varied immensely. In the time it took me to vet something that I thought was sufficient, I came across one of the best things I could've, 100 Devs.
100Devs - My Start
100Devs was the catalyst I needed to really get started on this career change. It was a free bootcamp created by Leon Noel, the Managing Director of Engineering at Resilient Coders, a distinguished faculty member at General Assembly, and a phenomenal teacher who had made appearances at places such as Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan School of Business. It was going into its second cohort and I decided that, what did I have to lose? At best, I'll learn the tools necessary to make the shift and at worst I wouldn't learn anything and I could find something better suited for my needs.
Where I Am Now
With close to 12 months of learning programming under my belt, I've never been more excited for something going forward. These last 12 months I have learned and worked with the following:
Git & Github
In the year, I have worked with clients to create websites, built my own applications and websites and created a network of phenomenal people who have supported me in this process. The next step for me, is to pursue this as a full-time career, something that I am dedicating my 2023 towards.
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