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Why I took a leap and went back to school...kinda...

Recently like many other adults in America and globally, I have found myself with a tidbit more time on my hands than I had anticipated for the year. 2020 started fairly normal for Americans. While some parts of the world were literally on fire, we tried to maintain our normalcy, getting up, going to work, coming home, rinse, and repeat. I was a Test Engineer for a mid-size SASS company based in Austin, TX, and my days were just that. Of course, I live in Austin, so throw in some social get-togethers, live music shows, and a few nature outings as the greenbelts are always calling even in January.

News of the coronavirus was hard to ignore, and my circles and I kept up with reports daily. By February, my social circles were more than concerned about what would happen, yet it didn't seem like much yet. Then March, the virus was already spreading, and we were on our initial uncertainty of lockdowns/shutdowns. The big tech companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflex, and Google (FAANG) started to set the example for everyone else: send your employees home and instate a work for home policy for the foreseeable future. Great! My company already had a work from home policy for one day a week. We were able to do this. I forgot to factor in the effects of the shutdowns on the economy, how that would affect my company, and how it would affect some changes that were already happening before the virus even reached our shores.

By May, I was laid-off along with some other amazing people. At this point in my career, I have been working for tech companies for 10 years, been a Test Engineer for 6, and starting to up my automation skills. Besides, my company was not the only one in the area that had to make some "hard decisions". The market in the area was now flooded, and the environment for Test Engineering had rapidly changed to focus on Software Development Engineering in Test or Software Engineers who would like to focus on testing. Something with I knew I could not compete.

I had no chance if I tried to interview although thankfully some of my peers found positions right away and deservingly so. Others decided this was the best time to make the exit out of tech completely. They have been wanting a career change for a while and this was the push they needed. This made me think about myself: my wants and needs. I fell into tech years ago working as a customer service representative for a start-up education tech company before I left there as a QA. I had a natural proclivity for testing and Quality Engineering yet I had no formal training. I was completely self-taught. However, all those years and two companies later I have gone as far as I could with those skills, so what's next?

That was the million-dollar question at my house, and it was not asked by anyone living in my house. After multiple discussions with my partner who is a Java Software Engineer, I decided to take this year and get the education I wanted to be a full-fledged Software Engineer. I was always into computers even as a child, a perk of being a millennial. Yet I was not interested in Computer Science as I did not see where I could fit in that field. As a multiracial queer woman of color, I did not see people like me in tech. Honestly, it was shocking to see my partner with his classmates as he was the only black man in the entire Computer Science program until our Senior year. I already had enough "oddities" or extras that made me stand out. I did not anymore. Of course, I also thought Software Engineering was boring beyond all reasoning. I was more into Mechanical Engineering if I were to have chosen between the two. Although that was not my field of study either. Despite my strong STEM background, high school counselors pressured me to go to English and Arts, a trend I later found that was set on most of the ciswomen students.

So why stick with tech now when I was scared of it in school? What do I get out of it? After falling into it, I found it to much more fun than what I perceived. Also, that scared 18-year-old doesn't exist anymore because I am no longer alone. There are many more faces like mine in the field now attached to various different types of people. Plus I discovered there are many roles to fill as a Software Engineer than just a "keyboard masher". I just need the education to re-enforce my skills and to back up my mouth. Besides I always had a determination to run my own team of whatever, wherever I was. Why not CTO?

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