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Cover image for First Comes Love! Then Comes Marriage! Then Comes Coding...?

First Comes Love! Then Comes Marriage! Then Comes Coding...?

molly_struve profile image Molly Struve (she/her) ・5 min read

With all the newcomers to the engineering world these days, I thought it would be nice to share how I broke into the engineering world. On my journey I hit all the emotions from elated to lonely, motivated to isolated, and everything in between.

2012 - The Year Of Change

In 2012, two years after graduating college, I was working as an options trader. I had just gotten married and my husband and I had just moved into a beautiful new house with our two adorable dogs. Life was great! But things didn't stay that way for long.

Around March of that year I started to get restless. Work was fine, but it wasn't fulfilling. I started reading about all these tech startups and how they were changing the entire landscape of the internet. THAT sounded exciting to me. Much more exciting than taking bets on which way the market was going to swing on any given day.

In April, my husband got sick. He ended up in the hospital with pneumonia for 3 days. While sitting in the hospital with him, reading Hacker News and reflecting on how short life is(because that is what everyone does in a hospital!), I made the decision to change my career. After I had made the decision personally, I of course had to tell my husband. I was terrified of what he was going to think.

Not only would I be leaving a steady job, but that job was working for my father-in-law's company! I would be turning down working in the family business to go work in a world I hardly knew anything about. Even typing this out now, I'm not sure how I was able to make such a bold move.

Luckily, my husband was supportive. He thought I was nuts and was going to regret it, but he agreed to support me.

Before I could make the leap though, I wanted to have some sort of plan. I started brainstorming ideas for websites I could make. I ended up landing on a website I called WaterCoolerMeetings.com. Go ahead, check it out, it really is something...special 🙈. The purpose of it was to connect mentors with mentees. Think LinkedIn, but with human interaction as the number one goal. With idea in hand, I found the Michael Hartl tutorial for building a Twitter app, and like any good novice, built the twitter app to use as a base for my website.

Taking the Leap

Shortly after starting my new website, I gave my 2 week notice at work. The day I did it, I felt physically ill. Not only did I have to give notice to my direct boss, but prior to that, I had to sit down and tell my father-in-law. The enormity of the decision was overwhelming. I was leaving an incredibly stable job(hello! I was working for me father-in-law's company, I mean, the job was "won't ever be fired" stable!) to hack on a website and learn Ruby on Rails. Despite the nerves, I ripped the bandaid off!

My husband and I had savings, so me losing my salary would not be a huge deal for a little while. How long I would be without a salary, I had no clue. That part was not really planned.

After quitting, I dove head first into coding. I worked tirelessly for 3 months building WaterCoolerMeetings.com into the best site possible. Nights and weekends, I was consumed with coding all the time. Despite loving what I was doing, it wasn't long before I started to feel isolated. I didn't know anyone else in the industry. I was not on Twitter. There were no supportive groups that I knew of to ask for help. I began longing to be a part of a team and that is what led me to start looking for my first dev job. I wanted something that would allow me to learn from and work with other people while working on WaterCoolerMeetings.com on the side.

My First Dev Job

When I started job hunting, my first resource was the Hacker New's jobs page. I went there and started skimming the postings. Most the jobs at the time were for companies in San Fransisco. Ideally, I wanted something in Chicago, so the first Chicago posting I saw, I jumped on. One small problem though, they wanted a full time web developer and I knew I was far from that. Regardless, I emailed them anyways to see what they thought about taking on a junior. Low and behold, they were open to it! I went and interviewed and got an offer for a paid internship with option to hire after 6 months.

I also applied to another company in San Fransisco. That job was my dream job! However, after flying all the way out there on my own dime for an interview, I was rejected because I was too junior. At the time, I was devastated. But, as my Mom says, "Everything happens for a reason!" I ended up taking the job at the Chicago company and boy am I glad I did.

I hustled like crazy for 6 months and it all paid off when I was hired full time after my internship. That company, and the 3 guys I worked with there, laid the foundation that my career has been built on. I could never thank them enough for all they taught me.

Now I am sure you are thinking, what happened to my side project. Eventually, like all good side projects, WaterCoolerMeetings.com fell to the side as I devoted myself more and more to my new job. For the first time, I was a part of a very tight knit team and I was embracing every aspect of that.

Flash Forward 6 Years

Looking back on all of this now, I shake my head and smile at how naive I was about everything. However, that unbridled enthusiasm is what helped get me my first dev job. I had no idea how crazy it was for someone with only 3 months experience to apply for a spot on a 3 person dev team. Don't let preconceived notions or assumptions ever stop you! Be bold, go after every single lead you can. Meet all the people you can and embrace every new connection. You never ever know which one might lead to the opportunity of a lifetime.

I can now say, with 100% certainty, that I have no regrets. For the first year or so it was touch and go. It wasn't until after two solid years that I was no longer looking back. If you just took that leap and are terrified that it might turn out badly, HAVE FAITH! If you choose to become a developer because you like a challenge, because you like to build things, because you want a career that gives you the tools to do just about do whatever you want, then you are on the right path! Keep honing those skills, tackling new challenges, and meeting new people and you will find your spot in this incredible technical world!

Discussion

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Shawn Sommer

Inspiring post Molly! I had a similar situation deciding to go back to school after being in manufacturing most of my adult life, then switching from culinary (I still love to cook but realized doing it for a career would probably destroy my relationship with my then girlfriend, now wife) to software development.

The hardest part of it was telling her that I was going to switch degree paths after just one semester in culinary arts but luckily once I laid it all out there for her she backed me 100%. Honestly, this is just one of many reasons I consider her a saint! Now I just need her to hold out a bit longer in what has become a protracted job search trying to find the right team and project that excites me.

Glad to see everything is coming up Aces for you and hope that your future remains bright!

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Molly Struve (she/her) Author

That is amazing that your wife is so supportive! It is incredible how much of a difference having that support can make. I consider myself very lucky to have had my husband by my side throughout the transition. Good luck with your job hunt!

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Miriam Payne

Thanks so much for this motivational piece Molly, it was very much needed! I'm looking for junior roles after a recent redundancy. Having started coding over a year ago, I thought maybe I could make a go of it but without any commercial experience it's been a difficult few months, so hope was starting to wane. Feeling re-inspired!

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Jackson Elfers

I might add getting involved locally like at coding camps or other events can really boost the job hunt. Letting people know you're looking for work at events or lending a hand has worked for me. 😁 Usually companies have someone already in mind when they post jobs online. Best of luck.

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Molly Struve (she/her) Author

I'm so glad you found it inspiring, that means the world to me! Keep at it, I promise, it is SO WORTH IT once you find your place! And don't be afraid to apply to small companies. At least when you apply to them you are sending an email to a person rather than some processing system doing key word searches 😝

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annamunhoz

Thank you for this post! I found the title funny because it is very true for me. First I meet love then I married (he is a dev) and now I'm learning to code. :D But my story is more like I tried very different stuff, nothing went very well, I was so frustrated for not having a career and just decided I would be a dev because "it at least will be a skill I can work wherever I want to build whatever I'm interested in".

I started learning Python but then I found a company I liked looking for junior Rails devs so I switched to learn Ruby. I'm having much more fun now than when I was trying all other things. So I'm trying to learn enough to apply to this job. Let's see how things will work. Your post encourage me. I was feeling very afraid the past few days. Thank you!

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Mihai Banulescu

Thanks for sharing your story!

I love the idea for your WaterCooler project — I see how developers could use something like that.

I'm wondering if that filled a need for community for you (which I also feel)... and how that need has changed over time for your career.

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Molly Struve (she/her) Author

Since WaterCoolerMeetings never really got going it never provided a community I could use which is why I went looking for a job.

Throughout my career I have always strived and enjoyed being a part of a tight knit work community. That small startup that I got my first job at got sold 2 years later to Groupon. Our team ended up being split up across all different projects at Groupon. I never felt like I could find "my community" at Groupon, so within 6 months I left and started working at my current company, Kenna Security. At the time, Kenna was 30 employees and the tech team had 7 people on it. There, once again, I found that tight knit community that I had been missing at Groupon. Even though we are over 120 people now, I still am very close to all the coworkers I started with.

In addition, within the past 5 months, I have discovered even more incredibly supportive communities online! Between CodeNewbies on Twitter and blogging on dev.to, I feel more support now than ever. The internet can be used for so many vile things, but if you can sift through the trash, there are some truly awesome supportive groups out there!

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rhymes

Great story Molly, glad you took a chance on you!

ps. it seems that HackerNews is good for something after all 😬🤣

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Jackson Elfers

Excellent story. At the risk of cliche, I think we fail to recognize our opportunities merely because learning technology is an isolating and independent venture most times. I had a similar path to yours. Best of luck with whatever's next. 😁

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Kim Streicher

This is such an encouraging story! I'm currently in a similar situation and am glad to hear it's possible and well worth it!

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Haseeb

This is so refreshing to read! Thanks for the piece Molly 😀

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Siva

Thanks for your inspiring story Molly.