An Instagram comment pointed out that I’ve talked a lot about what I’m doing, but not why I’m doing it. Why would a 30-year-old mother-of-two with an English major, photography business, and several blogs attempt to join the world of tech and do software engineering (which to the outsider might seem like something that is dry, technical, and math-heavy)? I’m not going to get into some of the false assumptions about software engineering, I think that would do nicely as a post on its own. This is my chance to document the thought process I went through to arrive in this place where I am now.
I’ve been unhappy with my current blend of SAHM/WAHM for awhile now. If I’m home I should either be working on housework, Jenna Cole photos, or Pinterest Fail. It made it hard for me to enjoy the time spent at my own house because thoughts of my to-do list were always nagging at me. Even making a coffee and sitting and drinking it in the front room felt overly indulgent. I should be answering emails while I drink that cup of Joe! I was spending too much time telling my kids that I can’t be available to them because I have work to do. l was handing off the kids when TH got home and literally sprinting around the house to try to get everything done before bedtime. I certainly didn’t like what I had become, and I don’t think anyone else did either.
Blogging and editing photos and marketing for your own business are all solo activities and there were entire days where I wouldn’t see or talk to anyone in-person except my kids. This pattern makes me a very lonely extrovert. I was spending 2+ hours in the car each day shuttling them around, and in-between I would race home and try to knock out as much as possible for my business before I would pick them up and hurry back to fit in gym and dishes and laundry before bed. It felt like I was running myself mad and not really getting anywhere.
If I was going to give up my flexibility and free time though, I wanted it to be for a career, not just a job. For me that means growth potential in my position, working as a team toward common goals (which would also combat the loneliness), and the ability to make enough to justify the extra costs that will come from outsourcing some of the things I do now. TH and I sat on the couch one afternoon while the kids were with the sitter and hashed out the options. The sort of blogging I do involves a tiny bit of HTML manipulation and I knew that I enjoyed going into the backend to make small tweaks to things. It felt very satisfying to target something on the page, figure out where it was, search out a solution, and view the change in my browser.
I knew that there were programs in the Bay area specifically targeted toward teaching women to code, and a quick google search for a program like that introduced me to the world of software engineering bootcamps, of which there are 200+ in the Bay Area now. I dove into the blog posts written by others women who had made the switch to software engineering and saw that there were a few with careers already established in tech, but there were also english majors and nannies and SAHMs who had used similar programs to make a dramatic career change. We looked up the dates and did some cost analysis for the tuition and childcare and household help that would be necessary to make all of this work, but it didn’t take long for both of us to feel confident that this was a good change for our family.
I started reaching out to friends and spouses-of-friends and friends-of-friends who have a career in software engineering. I had coffee dates and email chains and phone calls with a variety of people in the field to try to figure out if it was actually feasible to attend a program for 12-weeks and come out on the other side with a job paying $80,000+/year (remember that salaries in San Francisco are much higher than the national average!). I personally know several people who have expressed to me that they don’t think this is possible, but the industry is filled with self-taught engineers, and more than anything it’s about what you can actually do, not how long you’ve been doing it. I felt good about this path once I had familiarized myself with the market a bit more.
Because I don’t want to do all of my learning at home, alone, I applied to an all-female 12-week in-person program called Hackbright in January, but was declined after the first interview. I planned on spending my kid-free month this summer doing self-study at home to prepare for my second application to Hackbright, but was able to snag a spot in the first Hack Reactor prep course held in the Bay Area and combined with our recent move that has taken up most of my time. I take the Caltrain up to the city each weekday evening and spend 6:30pm-9:30pm working through a variety of exercises with my fellow students. I love so many things about the experience; riding my bike to/from the station and in the city, taking public transportation (it’s still so cool to me after driving absolutely everywhere during my childhood), the chance to spend time with other adults working toward the same goals, the feeling that comes from figuring something out in the middle of a week where I start to wonder if I really have what it takes to keep up. The hours fly by, and because I have to take the 10:40pm Caltrain home I usually stay in the working space for an extra 45 minutes hacking away at the side project I plan to develop and launch as part of my eventual bootcamp experience.
On top of all of this is a desire to show my kids what it means to fearlessly attack a goal. To not give up a worthy pursuit, even in the face of rejection. The desire to show my daughter a different path than the one I was raised to believe in weighs heavily on my mind. I want my son to embrace the idea that he’s going to give-and-take on his own career path if he chooses to have a life-partner, and I never want my daughter to think for a moment that her sex/gender hold her back from chasing any of her good intentions. I feel passionately that this world, the world of tech and startups and a flood of VC money needs strong and passionate women who aren’t afraid to raise their hand and be heard and go after what they want. That’s me. I want to be that person.