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Nevertheless, Cristien Coded in 2021, with self-compassion.

My journey is not a linear path

My journey into tech has been a long winded process of finding myself and my own voice.

I graduated with a Pharmacology degree and worked as a Research Lab Scientist for 3 years. In those 3 years, I wanted to pursue PhD because I love research and data. I had a change of heart when I realised I didn’t want to spend the next 20 to 30 years going into the lab, putting on my white coat, experimenting both in vitro and in vivo. I wanted to be creative but yet utilise my love for problem solving and learning.

I left the field when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. The pain I experienced as a woman during ovulation and menstruation was unbearable. It took 3 years for that diagnosis, I spent those time in the lab and I think that was one of the deciding factors that I wanted to work in tech because there is a greater flexibility in working conditions, I could work with my laptop and tend to myself when I experience pain.

I joined a coding Bootcamp under apprenticeship - I went for an interview with a small BI company and I was really excited because I could possibly combine software engineering and data. I started the Bootcamp. I learnt a lot in 12 weeks but looking back, the learning style was a lot of ticking boxes and I wanted to go deeper into the subjects. I joined the company but I was the only developer with no outline of the projects I should be working on and was told to work on sales consultancy support. I was misled but I spent the whole time, hoping or wishing that there would be a project where I could utilise my skills but this never came. I quit after 2 and the half months for various reasons.

My first job in tech set me back and I was left questioning my ability and whether or not a hostile and unsupportive work environment is the norm in tech.

I passed my Microsoft exam, quit my job and found out I was expecting. That was a lot of emotions in less than a month - happiness, excitement, anxiousness, self-deprecation and a whole lot more.

I was anxious about the pregnancy and what my future in tech will be. Will I have a second chance at it? Will I be able to reboot my career in tech? Am I capable of being a software engineer? Will I be ok taking a career break?

Fast forward 20 months later

I spent my time during pregnancy dipping in and out playing around with Gatsby, coming up with project ideas that didn’t get executed and creating learning tracker and plans so I could use it after the birth of my baby.

I didn’t get to work on any projects or learning while I saw other new mums thriving in their learning with a young baby. I blamed myself for not being disciplined but the truth was, motherhood was not natural to me and I suffered with postpartum anxiety.

Now that my little one is 12 months old, I have learnt so much about motherhood and myself thus far - it taught me to be kind to myself.

I am now hopeful for my future with my family by my side, friends who lift me up and supportive communities.

My recent achievements look like this:

  • I found supportive moms-in-tech Slack group and Virtual Coffee community.
  • I created my blog to document my learning
  • It’s okay to have a multitude of interests from design, web dev, data and machine learning (I tend to talk myself down for not being able to narrow my interests to one thing)
  • I was recently awarded a Bank of America scholarship to study Python with Code First Girls and currently enrolled in the evening classes for a month
  • I have also accepted into Front End Foxes School - European region cohort 🦊
  • Allowing myself to take a break and rest
  • Speaking kindly to myself when I don’t achieve what I need to achieve

What I’ve learnt so far:

Sometimes you have to be put in challenging situations to be true to yourself and speak up about what you want.

Yes, I quit my first job in tech because I wasn’t going to let myself be treated unkindly.

Yes, I stopped coding for a bit because my family is my priority and fertility is not something I’m going to take for granted.

But I am back to code consistently and this time, with self-compassion and a sprinkle of self-belief that I can achieve my dream goal: to land a remote Software Engineering or Data Scientist role this year within an inclusive, supportive company who I can contribute my skills to.

I have grown so much as a woman and a developer who have struggled to find my voice. I am still work in progress but despite everything, nevertheless I coded.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Top comments (2)

katya_pavlopoulos profile image
Katya Pavlopoulos

Thank you for sharing your story! Everyone's path looks different and it's amazing what you've achieved while battling a chronic condition and bringing a new human into this world. I also love that you highlighted that it's ok to have multiple interests -- sometimes people get the impression that tech professionals are not interested in anything except code, and that's such a false narrative. Some of the best devs I know care about social issues, the environment, and have really time consuming non-tech hobbies on the side. Thank you for mentioning this as well!

bekahhw profile image

Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s such an important part of a conversation that doesn’t have enough, and I know you’re sharing is going to help another woman. I’m so grateful to have met you <3