How many years have you been in tech?
Tell me about your background. What were your early years like?
I went to a liberal arts college, where I was exposed to a wide swath of subjects my freshman year. Although I found most of the subjects interesting, I did not discover one in particular that I was passionate about or that I could become passionate enough about to pursue as a career. I eventually decided to major in Business and English, as I felt that these majors would be applicable to most careers. Once I graduated from college, I worked in marketing for a professional services firm for two years. I disliked my job, especially since I was responsible for taking finished work and simply marketing/promoting it through the firm’s various channels. I realized that I wanted to become the one that created the work – a creator and a maker. I think that this desire partially harkened back to my childhood where I loved to build and make things (e.g., forts from logs and tarps, clay pots from dirt, words from Scrabble letters).
How were you exposed to tech?
I surprisingly wasn’t exposed to tech until about a year and a half ago. During a concert series at the botanical garden, I was talking to my best friend, Kavon, about how to pivot to a more rewarding and fulfilling career path. I was asking him about how he knew that he wanted to become a doctor and his formative classes during his education. He mentioned that he considered majoring in computer science in college and explained that he loved the problem solving and creation involved in programming. As an example, he asked me how I would sort a list of numbers, and we began discussing possible solutions as we were walking around the garden. I loved the discussion and decided to look into programming. During my research, I discovered a non-profit in St. Louis that was specifically designed to help non-computer science majors begin careers in tech. I still didn’t full understand what I could accomplish with programming or what a career in tech could look like, but I decided to go to a LaunchCode event, Coder Girls, to learn more. I began participating in a web-development group and taking an online Java course. I initially found it very difficult to jump into a Stanford Java course without having any prior experience in programming, but I stuck with programming and enrolled in an introductory CS course that was offered through LaunchCode. During this program, I was exposed to the foundations of programming by learning C and dabbling in a few other back-end and front-end languages. At the conclusion of the course, I decided that I was more interested in mobile development and decided to learn Swift and attempted to build an application. I used Treehouse, an online learning tool, to learn Swift; this online tool was very helpful in that it showed an example of building an actual application with Swift. Once I built the application, I applied for a LaunchCode apprenticeship, so that I could learn best practices from professional developers. In November 2016, I started an apprenticeship, where I had the amazing opportunity to learn from senior developers (thank you so much, Mark and James!).
What is your current role?
In February 2017, my three-month apprenticeship concluded, and I was offered a position as an iOS developer at Asynchrony. I was so ecstatic to become an Asynchronite and to be able to continue working with such wonderful and talented people!
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am proud of being able to successfully pivot and alter my career trajectory. I am proud that I was able to admit to myself and others that I was unfulfilled with my marketing career and that I was able to do something about it. It was scary to leave a secure job and enter an unknown path with an atypical tech background, but I’m so thankful that I made the plunge.
What are you learning right now?
So much – the learning has just begun! Working with the best and most senior developers at Asynchrony makes me want to become the best. It’s like tennis – you always strive to play with opponents who are better than you to elevate your game. Even though the apprenticeship has ended, I’m still working really hard to compensate for my non-technical background while learning new programming paradigms like reactive programming. I also think that it is vital to learn non-tech related concepts to become a more well-rounded person and developer. I love to listen to podcasts on my way to work and to read books before bed.
What was the last fear that you faced? How did you feel after you conquered it?
At the conclusion of my apprenticeship, I had to present the application that I had been developing during the apprenticeship to key stakeholders at Asynchrony, including the CTO. One of my biggest fears in life is having all eyes on me in a presentation, especially when the stakes are high – a full-time job offer at Asynchrony depended heavily on this presentation. To compensate for my fear, I practiced the presentation repeatedly and tried to anticipate potential questions. I was still extremely nervous the day of the presentation despite this preparation. I tried to use some techniques that I had recently learned from a meditation application, Headspace, to calm my nerves and to feel more confident. Ultimately, the presentation went really well, and I was able to explain the application and answer questions confidently and succinctly. I now feel much more confident about presenting in front of others and want to put myself in more uncomfortable situations where I have to present in front of others in order to continue developing this skill.
What advice do you wish someone had given to you? What advice would you give to others starting out?
It would have been helpful to know that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and it is sometimes okay to go with the flow. I’ve always been a planner and have felt extremely uneasy if I don’t know which direction I’m going and where I will ultimately end-up. This caused me a lot of pain and worry in terms of my career, as I always felt deficient for not having a “passion” that I wanted to pursue. By switching to a career in tech, a completely unplanned and unintentional move, I’ve learned that it is sometimes better to pivot in an agile fashion rather than to steadfastly commit to a goal or to feel like you have to have a permanent goal.
What are your hobbies?
Exploring new cultures, landscapes, and food while traveling; appreciating the outdoors while biking; capturing the beauty of the world with photography; constantly learning about myself and others with podcasts, books, and documentaries
What do you like about St. Louis? The midwest? Why do you live here?
I was born in St. Louis and grew-up in Charlotte, NC. Moving back to St. Louis a year and a half ago, in a sense, feels like I’ve returned home. It’s interesting having memories of a place as a six-year-old and as an adult. When I moved back to St. Louis, I freaked out when I went to the science museum and was able to place and recall so many childhood memories. I really like how laidback the culture is in St. Louis – I feel like that this is a great city, especially in terms of Tech, to discover your hidden talents and to be able to explore them in a non-judgmental environment.