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Ashley McNamara
Ashley McNamara

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Nevertheless, Ashley McNamara Coded

I Began/Continue to Code Because...

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:

  1. That bootcamps are mostly garbage
  2. Community matters -- Leverage your network
  3. The importance of open source contributions
  4. Python

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!

I Recently Overcame...

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.

I Want to Brag About...

grabs journal

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.

I look up to...

Steve Francia...

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.

My advice for other women and non-binary folks who code is...

Find a tribe. There will be days where you want to quit and having people to lean on will be key to survival.

My advice for allies to support women and non-binary folks who code is..

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.

Discussion (2)

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sadukie profile image
Sarah Dutkiewicz

"Find a tribe." YES! This has been a helpful thing - whether it's my tribe of folks who help me as an independent consultant, my tribe of conference organizers and conference speakers who encourage me to continue being a force in the community... whenever I feel like things are rough, I can count on my tribe to be there to support me and lift me up if I fall. Great advice!

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ashleymcnamara profile image
Ashley McNamara Author

It sounds overly simplified but if I didn't have anyone to lean on and confide in I would be lost. <3