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Bessy Clarke
Bessy Clarke

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Going from Completely Clueless to Savvy Software Engineer

How does a person go from barely being able to share an old memory on Facebook to becoming an aspiring software engineer? I’d like to tell you that I’m exaggerating my Facebook sharing skills but it’s painfully true. I meant to share an old photo with friends. “Remember this?!” I captioned with a couple of emojis only to have my friend say, “I don’t see anything. You didn’t post anything!”. We had a good laugh that day. My friends couldn’t help but mock my grandma like Facebook skills. We had another laugh when it popped up on my memories the following year. Writing about it now, it still cracks me up. I was never a “techy” person. My husband even dubbed me the laptop killer because I ended up needing a new one every year during my undergrad. Before starting my coding journey, I had no clue what HTML, CSS, or even JavaScript were. I can’t help but smile when I think of how far I’ve come in the last year.

See, I sort of fell into coding. I never saw myself as a coder. I never even imagined a career in tech could be possible for me. It wasn’t until I met my friend, Katie, that I started to see how feasible it was— even for someone as clueless as me. I remember going to her house to discuss her career in tech. She mentioned coding and I, sort of, laughed it off. She insisted that if I was serious about wanting to get into tech, I should learn how to code. She threw so many random terms and tech jargon at me that evening and I was embarrassed by how little I knew! I cannot say that conversation sparked a lot of confidence but it did spark curiosity.

I spent the next few weeks going through videos on I had to start at zero. I would often study for an hour or so and just give up because nothing made sense at the beginning. The more I got through the lessons, the more convinced I was that this skill was not something I’d be able to learn. Weirdly though, I kept at it. Every week I’d spend a few hours watching videos or listening to podcasts. I quickly became so inspired. Every story I heard was more inspiring than the last— people of all ages and backgrounds taking up code and loving it. Every story was different, but the recurring theme was the same. That this skill was life-changing and if I put in the time and effort, my life could change as well.

That drive for change pushed me. I spent years being so uncomfortable with my job, but too afraid to pursue anything or make any real changes. However, the more time I spent on coding, the more I loved it. The joy after fixing broken code, or seeing something work exactly as expected, was unreal and that thrill kept me going. I knew that if I was serious about coding, I would need structure to keep me on track. That said I began researching coding bootcamps. I had this idea that I had to be a seriously good coder to even get into one. Naturally, it kept me from applying to any options I found.

I had this idea that once I got to a certain level, I could start applying. I had this grand plan that I would give myself a year. I’d move to Denver and apply to Flatiron School’s Software Engineering program. Fast forward to March 2020, everyone’s’ lives are upended due to the COVID pandemic. During this time, I chose to throw myself into code. It was the only thing that kept the existential dread at bay and ultimately, decided to pursue their course online instead. I didn’t want to wait until COVID was over.

I became determined to leave this strange period in my life better than I went into it. I started to apply to the Flatiron online bootcamp. I didn’t submit anything that day but somehow still got an email saying “DON’T FORGET TO FINISH YOUR APPLICATION”. I had no intention of applying at that moment. I wasn’t ready at all, but that’s the thing about making big life-changing decisions, no one is ever ready. If you wait to be ready, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting.

In the end, I applied, scheduled my interview, and, by the following week, I was a Flatiron student! I was even offered a small scholarship! It was the first time I had ever been offered one. I wouldn’t call myself a coder just yet, but in the year since I started to pursue coding, it has already changed my life. I am a week into the program and I feel like I am exactly where I need to be. I am excited to be on this journey. Coding feels like a superpower and I’m so eager to see where it takes me and how I can apply it to use in meaningful and ethical ways.

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