I began coding in my thirties and we can all agree that that's old.
How I began... (the abridged version)
At the time, I was running a photography business and I learned early on that selling to photographers was far more lucrative than having photography clients, so I started making and selling Photoshop actions and presets. Eventually I realized that I needed a website, so I learned HTML/CSS; then my website needed to rank, so I learned SEO, and so on.
Before I knew it, I was selling front-end dev services to photographers, which spread into other businesses. Then I landed on a huge opportunity outside of art, at a tech company. I did some contracting and quickly realized that I was in over my head--I was being asked to do things I didn't know how to do, but I didn't want to admit defeat. I started attending meet-ups in order to connect with other developers and to up-skill, and this led me to OpenStack. I knew a bit about open source, but not a lot; I sat through the meet-ups and wrote down terms I didn't understand and then went home to research them (I still do this btw). I spent about a year going through this cycle before I decided I needed a more structured way of learning which led me to a bootcamp. At that bootcamp, I spent three months, working 18+ hours a day, learning Python -- all while still continuing to be involved in open source communities, because more than anything, I loved these communities.
By the end of that third month I learned four things:
- That bootcamps are mostly garbage
- Community matters -- Leverage your network
- The importance of open source contributions
With all of these new learnings, I tapped into my new OpenStack community and landed my first real tech job at Rackspace and the rest is history!
Recently? Geez, I feel like I'm overcoming something every-single-day. This job requires constant learning and I feel like I'm always ramping up. Sometimes it feels like I'll never level-up, which results in a lot of self-deprecation and negative feelings. To combat this, I recently started keeping an affirmation journal -- every morning I log my successes, even if it's just "I read a chapter of x book today" or "I got the PR merged!" and every night before I go to bed, I skim though the journal and realize my accomplishments and let myself feel a sense of pride. My hope is that one day I'll be able to say I've overcome my impostor syndrome.
Bragging is hard, but I do have something. I'd like to give Microsoft a huge shout-out. Since Rackspace I've learned a few new tricks and in July I joined Microsoft as a Developer Advocate and I've had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest minds in the industry -- I never want to be the smartest person in the room and at Microsoft I am certainly not -- I find myself smiling when I go to work because I know that I'm going to do something awesome. No day is the same and I'm constantly on the move, which pleases my ADD personality. Coming from being a teenage mom and a broke artist to software developer wasn't an easy journey, and I'm proud of myself. I could have been a statistic, but I didn't give up and now I have the best job in the world.
Steve has been my biggest cheerleader throughout this entire journey. He believed in me when few others did and didn't expect anything in return. As a woman in tech it's hard to accept help sometimes because there's a feeling of, "will this cost me my dignity?" but he quickly earned my trust and now he is like a brother to me.
In the middle of his own health crisis Steve continued to send me opportunities and those opportunities led to career advancements -- anytime I had feelings of not being good enough he was always there to remind me of my strengths and push me forward and through Steve I met some other incredible people and life long friends like Brian Ketelsen and Jessie Frazelle (whom I also have the pleasure of working with now!) and I cannot thank him enough.
Find a tribe. There will be days where you want to quit and having people to lean on will be key to survival.
Being a mentor is important, but also be a sponsor: advocate for people and help them move their careers to the next level. To learn more about the differences between mentorship and sponsorship, I recommend reading this excellent article by Lara Hogan.
I read the comments, so if you have questions leave them below.