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Sydney Smith
Sydney Smith

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From TV producer to Senior Software Developer

It was a typical day in the news control room. I never liked the control room. Every day was like a balloon being filled with tension until it burst. You just hope you’re not the one closest when it happens. That day though - I was right underneath it. I don’t remember what caused the drama. I just remember being screamed at and embarrassed in front of my entire team. I was definitely upset but didn’t react. It wasn’t for the sake of ‘being professional’ but for utter exhaustion. During the drive home I felt anger, frustration, and to some extent hopelessness. I got home and opened the door. I saw my husband and broke into tears. This was the beginning of my career in tech.

My interest in code traces back to 7th grade and the internet. For context me in 7th grade meant AOL dial-up. I loved building websites on Geocities and AOL. I taught myself HTML and CSS in order to design and create web pages.

But I wouldn’t pursue a life in tech until 17 years later. Instead, I followed my first dream of becoming a sports broadcaster. I went to Virginia Tech, studied Mass Communication, graduated and got a job in news broadcasting.


I had a lot of optimism when I started in broadcast news. But I reached a point where my optimism no longer overshadowed my reality. My career grew stagnant and days I felt a passion for my work grew further in between. One day, we produced an interview on Kimberly Bryant, the creator of Black Girls Code. She launched the organization to nurture and inspire black girls, to "become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures". Watching this interview inspired me to learn to code. I knew it would be a great skill set to have while I try to course correct my career. After doing some research, I decided to take web development courses at Emory University in 2014. I also planted some seeds at work by volunteering to manage the website for one of the company's women organizations.

From those experiences, I realized I loved to code and I wanted to make the transition from journalist to web developer. I was at a crossroads. It was very difficult to commit seriously to coding while working a full-time job. I started attending Women Who Code Atlanta, a meet-up for female developers. There I met Beth, a working developer who happened to be employed at the same company where I worked at as a news producer. I shadowed Beth for a day as she coded for an app that I used on daily for news and in return, she shadowed me as I used her app to do my job. It was a pretty cool experience. Beth also informed me about a web development bootcamp at General Assembly. It was a more hands-on program than Emory's and it was full time for 3 months learning the MEAN (Mongo, Express, Angular and Node) stack.

Taking the leap of faith...Going to Bootcamp

So now we’re back to me having an awful day at work, coming home and just bursting into tears. I told my husband I was just tired of the news job and needed a change. He was supportive and we just decided we’d figure it out. Though I was certain I wanted to move on, making the decision to leave my job for General Assembly was not easy. Leaving a "good job with benefits," meant no income. Not only that I didn’t have money for tuition laying around so I was looking at a loan to go. Thankfully the decision was made easy when I received a scholarship covering the costs of my tuition. I left my job and committed to coding.

I started Bootcamp in March 2016. Bootcamp was 3 months every day from 9am-5pm with homework and self-study afterward. It was very fast-paced and we were learning a lot in a short amount of time. It was definitely challenging and frustrating at times. I'm very happy I already had experience with HTML, CSS and Javascript. Every three weeks we had a project totaling four. We were creating and designing web applications to be featured in our portfolios.

Study Session at General Assembly with my classmates

Study Session at General Assembly with my classmates

Life after Bootcamp

I was interviewing for software developer jobs two weeks before I finished at General Assembly. One of my teachers introduced me to an alumni, Brandon, who worked at a huge company in Atlanta. Brandon got me an interview with his team. After an initial interview with the manager, a pair-programming session and an interview with the lead developer I received a job offer. Just two weeks after completing Bootcamp I had a job in software developing.

At my first job, I pair-programed with another developer every day. This was a great thing since I was still a novice coder. I learned Java and about SQL databases. I deepened my knowledge in Angular and Node. Overall, my first job in tech was a good first step into tech.

After giving birth to my son in May 2017, I was on the job hunt again. I needed more flexibility after having a baby and a new job made the most sense. Once again Beth told me about a job opening at her company (my old job) and sent my resume to the team. It was a Developer II job. I interviewed with the lead developers on the phone, took a take-home test, and then had an in-person interview with the whole team. It was a long process, and I felt like I wasn't going to get the job. The interviews were at the beginning of September 2017 and I didn't hear back until the end of November 2017. When I did hear back, I got a job offer for a Senior Developer position. I was in total shock.

My journey had come full circle returning to my old company. Now I was building web applications for the same teams I once covered elections with.

I'm not sure where my journey will take me next, but I do know I want to do meaningful work while uplifting the tech community and mentoring the next generation. I hope my story inspires other women especially Black women to seek careers in tech.

Top comments (2)

sherribooher profile image
Sherri Booher

Wow! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm so glad you found your calling, Sydney!

I definitely laughed when you said " in 7th grade meant AOL dial-up. I loved building websites on Geocities and AOL. I taught myself HTML and CSS in order to design and create web pages." That was me, but in my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. We have definitely come a long way since those times!!

I'm also a developer in Atlanta and a member of Women Who Code ATL, so maybe I'll see you around at some of the meetups. You might also check out's Atlanta chapter, as they have some great things coming up. Namaste!

iamsydsmith profile image
Sydney Smith

aww...thanks so much, Sherri! This is really sweet. I hope to meet you one day around the tech community. :)