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KollerCode
KollerCode

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The Sad Truth as to Why I Chose to Change Careers to Software Engineering

When I am coding, it's like I am solving problems in my own life and it reminds me that as long as I don't give up and I am persistent I can do anything.

I'm going to date myself here, but I remember the first time my grandfather let me play on his computer. Back then, it had no mouse. We had to use the arrow keys and the enter button the navigate the files. Oh, and the internet? That didn't exist yet. But when it did, we needed a phone line and an awful screech to tell us when we were connected.

I grew up alongside the biggest advances in technology. I know computers practically as well as I know how to drive a car. However, it wasn't until 2021 when life hit me hard that I even considered making a career out of anything computer related.

Warning, it's about to get REAL sad and honest here

My year began with news that I was pregnant with my first child. I had not mentioned anything to my director at the time in fear of losing my job since I knew I was not the only pregnant woman on our team. Then, my cat broke his hip-bone and we discovered he has a rare degenerative bone disease that would require surgery. This added more unexpected costs.

The worst happened when my husband fell ill and we found a large tumor in his lung. He served in Afghanistan and we think that may have caused it- but that's a story for another time! The tumor was cancerous, but once the surgeon removed it, the cancer was taken with it. Shortly after my husband was in and out of the hospital with a collapsed lung. 2 surgeries, one massive infection, 2 lobes removed and several chest tubes and hospitalizations later, a near-death experience, and 7 months later he is finally recovering well and able to lift our son and return to work.

During that time, the baby's fluid levels were dangerously low and I had to be induced. After the baby was safe, I had to stay in the hospital for a few more days with post-partum Pre-eclampsia. Once I finally recovered, I had to be the bread-winner, the caretaker for both the baby and my husband, and take care of the house all while trying to recover myself as well.

I spoke with my director to return to work after just 2 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (not really leave, more of a two week vacation) only to find out that another person had been hired in my place and given my laptop (which had been wiped). I gave so much to this institution, worked from the hospital, only to be replaced during my time of need.

After nearly being evicted, my sister and her boyfriend who work for Microsoft mentioned to me that I should have worked in tech years ago. She felt I deserved better than the pay and the treatment I received. Also, my grandfather was an OG computer programmer. It literally RUNS IN MY BLOOD.

The only beacon of hope that has kept me going through this arduous time is that I know this change of career feels right. When I am coding, it's like I am solving problems in my own life and it reminds me that as long as I don't give up and I am persistent I can do anything.

Us after Miguel's final procedure and hospitalization! (Thanksgiving)

Thanks for reading ya'll! Be on the lookout for some technical blogs coming your way real soon! I've got one cooking right now about some JavaScript commands.

Nothing but love,

-Natasha

Discussion (19)

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rkrupnick profile image
Rachel Krupnick

I just want to send you a virtual hug. My husband is a vet with lung cancer so I can sympathize with some of what you are going through. It is also a reason I am transitioning to tech, so I can take over finances. Hugs

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

I am glad you reached out. It is an absolute nightmare that I wish for no one. Did your husband go to Afghanistan? Mine did, we suspect that's where he got his... I hope your husband has a speedy recovery. I'd love to connect with you to see how your journey is going since we seem to have similar stories <3

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rkrupnick profile image
Rachel Krupnick

Thank you. He was in Afghanistan but also helped with 9/11 cleanup and several other things that could have caused it. Luckily he has an amazing team. I hope you are doing well.

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wiktorwandachowicz profile image
Wiktor Wandachowicz

Welcome to the developers' community, Natasha! As long as you develop your skills and learn new things you may find a comforting, yet requiring care and attention, place for work in this area. Do not be sad, just remember the old saying "Programming is the most fun you can have with your clothes on" 😉
I see you have studied in Universidad de Alcalá - my Technical University in Lodz, Poland cooperates with Alcalá in area of European student exchange. ¡Hola y un saludo!
I wish you best of luck in your software engineering endeavor 😊 👍 🖖

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Haha, oh is that how the saying goes? Truth be told, I'm not that sad! I loved living abroad and working in international education, but I think it was just time to move on. The jobs were already scarce to begin with and then covid hit and it made international education a harder field (as you can imagine with travel restrictions and embassy closures vax requirements etc). Not to mention the pay and respect in higher education. If I'm going to work my butt off, I might as well get paid better, right? lol. Wow, very cool that you know Alcala! Un abrazo para ti! Thank you for the kind words. :)

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lukas1 profile image
lukas1

depending on the company, you might get treated similarly in some IT companies as well. It is not so common these days, because there's a great demand for developers, but especially in the entry level spectrum of the field, it's really the companies steering the wheel, not the candidates.

I think this also goes to show how problematic are the government regulations regarding maternal leave. In most if not all European countries your employer simply cannot fire you for pregnant leave and in fact the pregnant leave period takes at least 2 years!

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

I think this kind of behavior can be found in almost any career field, with respect to women having children. When you need the help on staff, and the job market is saturated with people looking for jobs why wouldn't you just replace and train? There seems to be little empathy. The WORST part is, I am also a minority (latina) and I had a coworker on our team who was also pregnant a month behind me. She got to keep her position and had a return date given to her(for 3 months later, I was only asking for 2 weeks). This is just another example of an unjust system.
We could compare the U.S. to all developed nations and see that we are the only ones with no regulations for mandatory paid maternity leave. I mean, even our healthcare is for profit. If it weren't for the fact that my husband is military (probable reason for the cancerous tumor to begin with) we wouldn't even have health insurance. but anyway! I really am keeping my fingers crossed that whichever company takes me in the future as a dev will be kind <3

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lexlohr profile image
Alex Lohr

Since most of development is learning, you're on the right way. Best wishes for you and your family.

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Thank you so much! :)

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squidbe profile image
squidbe

Wow, sorry you and your family had such a difficult time.

I spoke with my director to return to work after just 2 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (not really leave, more of a two week vacation) only to find out that another person had been hired in my place and given my laptop (which had been wiped).

Are you in the USA? Depending on the state, that's actually illegal. I suppose it probably doesn't matter to you now, but if they broke state law, you should report the employer regardless; it can help current/future employees there. They did a crappy thing to a pregnant woman, and they should pay for it if at all possible.

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Yes, I'm in Florida. It is absolutely illegal and I actually did get HR involved. It's a long story... But after discussing it with my sister and close friends and family, since they had already basically bullied me out I am the one that chose to resign. HR was fully ready to save my position, but only until my return. Which could have been for one day for example. Who's to stop the director from firing me the next day upon my return and saying it was for something entirely different and having that reflect negatively on my resume? Rather than fight it, I just accepted it. I also did not want to face my colleagues, who ignored my messages when I asked for updates and knew my situation. I don't want to work for someone who couldn't see my worth and replace me that easily when I literally needed it the most. That is no sort of family to me. And since we spend more time at work than at home, that's the kind of company environment I want to work in.

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squidbe profile image
squidbe

I totally get that. What I was suggesting was to file a wrongful termination suit. Termination during maternity leave is an obvious violation in most (all?) states.

You've obviously moved on; my point was to try to hold your former employer legally accountable so they'd think twice before pulling that BS again. Anyway, glad things are better for you now.

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

I wish I could, trust me I asked a lawyer. But our office had 4 women all of which were pregnant at one time and it would have been hard to prove :/ They simply could have said it was cause of something else. The lawyer said those types of lawsuits are extremely difficult to win, especially ones against state schools.
I wish the girls there all the best. They were kind to me while I was there. Ultimately it was upper management who was out of touch. But isn't that always the case ;) I'm sure karma will be served.
I love your passion for justice. Thank you for reaching out 💪🏼

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graciegregory profile image
Gracie Gregory (she/her)

This is really inspiring. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story — I can't wait to read more from you here on DEV 😊

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for the feature, I'm honored! <3

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marekdano profile image
Marek Dano

Natasha, thanks for sharing your story!
I can confirm that you've done good decision to go to coding. Most tech companies treat their employees very well. As your sister told, you deserve better!!!
All the best in your journey. It'lI be no easy but I know you can do it!

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Thank you for the encouragement! Here's to hoping I can make it 💪

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galdamez profile image
Jose Galdamez

I, too, first interacted with computers when mice weren't required and have been working in software learning on the job since 2000. The good news for being a Web software developer today is that so many technologies have evolved for the better (e.g., no more browser wars). There is also a plethora of learning materials, most of them free. The React community is endless and will open up so many doors.

I look forward to hearing more about your journey. Best of luck! #latinosintech

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kollercode profile image
KollerCode Author

Thank you for the response! It's crazy to think how far computers has come, isn't it?
I am actually in a bootcamp and will learn React, SQL, Ruby on Rails etc. React is the next phase but we just finished up JavaScript. I believe my github is connected to here so my project should be visible to everyone. I'm always open to critique. I am also glad to see a fellow latino succeed, it definitely gives me hope! #nohaylimites