The Path to a Career in IT: Reflections from a Mom of Three

My decision to become a software developer really began in earnest at a time in my life when I was at a crossroads.  I had been in academia for a decade and had found no job security or benefits, and the wages barely kept me above the poverty line.

My fiancée had just published a book and I thought that it wasn’t being marketed well by his publisher.  I knew about website building from my bookstore experience, but I wanted a better platform to develop his site.  I had heard about WordPress, and decided to design his website. I spent exactly two weeks designing it with the assistance of a three-hour tutorial. I always believed I could find answers if I just searched Google long enough. I was incredibly proud of his new site, and it sparked my passion for web development.

After this experience, I continued to teach myself about WordPress.  I found a local conference, WordCamp-Asheville, and carved time out of my schedule to attend. I listened to presentations about code and development that, honestly, should have bored me to tears. Instead, I found the discussion of open source development inspiring and closely aligned to my own commitment to social-justice advocacy. I didn’t know exactly what they were talking about, but I knew that I wanted to speak their language!

The biggest challenge after realizing my passion for website design and software development was how to proceed to a career.  As an academic I was intrigued by the idea of returning to the university and getting my Computer Science or Information Technology degree.  However, the more I researched the more I realized that this would be very expensive as well as time-consuming. As a mom with three kids, I couldn’t just drop everything to go back to school.

It was then that I started exploring coding schools. I had to research what technology stacks were most marketable in my region.  I attended many different online and local open houses.  What I found most attractive about coding schools was that they offered a short, though intense, time frame to learn coding skills, with the promise of a job. Luckily, I got a scholarship to attend a local coding school (The Iron Yard), and my new front-end development skills led me to the junior software developer position I have today.

Presently, I am focused on being an amazing front-end software developer. I am studying every tool I can that relates to my UI/UX and software developer aspirations.  I’m currently reading Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction (McConnell, 2004), a book on the ins and outs of good software development.  I am studying Angular 4, Bootstrap 4, Gulp, Git, and Sketch at a breakneck pace.  For my job, I have done a lot of research on design systems, as my mentor is pitching a design system for our company.

I am a true academic and believe a university degree vital to understanding the foundations and theories that affect software development.  I see myself striving to be a software architect, a cybersecurity professional, or a data visualization expert.  These jobs require more than coding skills. I also realize that I love thinking about things from a high level.  I love thinking about how the internet connects global communities and exploring the effect this has on populations.  I want to know how the world-wide web is used by people living in oppressive societies?  Or how important the movement for a free and open internet really is for everyone?

However, I also realize that certifications are incredibly important for my skill-driven career aspirations. I am studying for accessibility certifications because my boss needs this skill for his design system. In the future, I want to study for and take the exams for cybersecurity professionals.  This is a field of vital importance and I know that this field is in high demand.  I believe a combination of academic and certifications is going to bring me the most benefit.

References

 

McConnell, Steve. (2004). Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction (2nd ed.) Seattle, WA: Microsoft Press.