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At the time of this post, I am 36 years young. I am a rarity. I am a female web developer (also known as a software engineer, full-stack developer, front end engineer, and more).
Before I discuss my coding career, I want to tell you about my career history and how I found myself working as a web developer. I hope that my story will inspire other women of all ages to pursue what interests you and take a chance on yourself.
This female web developer does not have a degree in Computer Science.
I do have two degrees: a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Exercise and Sports Studies with a minor in Business, and a Master of Education in Health Education (MAEd). Neither degree is related to programming in any way.
I do have a certificate from a coding bootcamp that I attended through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Trilogy Education. I completed a full-stack development course in May 2017 and immediately started my web development career.
This female web developer did A LOT of other jobs before landing in her current role.
I have been really fortunate to have been able to experience a variety of different jobs in my 15 years in the workforce. My first job was as a public high school teacher. I taught 9th grade health and physical education–it was the most rewarding and most difficult job I ever had. In addition to teaching, I also coached cheerleading and softball.
After two years of teaching I moved on to working for a non-profit coordinating programs for health and physical education teachers.
In January 2010 I took a role coordinating and teaching a weight management program for state employees and teachers in North Carolina (Eat Smart, Move More, Weight Less). During this job is where my interest in web development began.
We were a small team and each of us were open to doing things that weren’t necessarily in our job description. We outsourced the creation of our program’s website and then I was able to maintain it from that point on. It was created in WordPress and I loved going in and looking at what was going on under the hood. However, I didn’t really think much of it in terms of building a new skill or even as something that could turn into a future career.
In 2012 I took a job as a wellness coordinator that would relocate me to Houston, Texas. While I was there I picked up other skills and knowledge: health insurance, retirement programs, and general human resources skills. I worked as a liaison with our internal IT partners on logic for file feeds which allowed me to see more of the logic side of coding.
While still living in Houston, I joined the local chapter of Girl Develop It in January 2015. I learned HTML and CSS, and I absolutely loved it! However, I still didn’t see this as a gateway to a new career. It was fun, but I wasn’t really sure where to go next.
I decided to move back to North Carolina in September 2015 and took a job as an account manager for a worksite wellness company. Upon returning, I continued to piddle with HTML and CSS, using the knowledge I’d gained in the years prior. I still did not see these skills as being something I could translate into a full-time job. Five years ago, the prevalence of bootcamps are nothing like they are today!
This female web developer decided to take a risk…and it paid off.
In the summer of 2016 I came across an ad for a local coding bootcamp. I started reading more about it and asking the few people I knew who were web developers–mainly my brother’s friends.
When I was trying to decide if this was a career that I could be successful in, I asked my brother’s friends what they thought. What do I need to do or be able to do to be successful?
Their response: know how to use Google.
Now I know that truer words have never been spoken! But I was still nervous. I was scared out of my mind of failing. But then I started thinking: What is the worst thing that could happen?
Worst Things That Could Happen as a Result of Attending a Coding Bootcamp:
- I can’t find a job as a web developer
- I’m horrible at my job as a web developer
- I get fired from eventual web developer job because I’m horrible at it
If those were truly the worst things that could happen, my plan would be the same for all scenarios: go back to the type of work I was doing before the bootcamp. Wow. That’s not so scary. I mean it would suck if I had to do that, but I COULD DO IT.
So, off I went! I enrolled in the second cohort ever of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Coding Bootcamp that started in November 2016. At the time, there were only two coding bootcamps in the area. The one I chose was part-time and catered to working adults. I wanted to continue to work and save as much money as possible. The other bootcamp operated from 9am-5pm during the work week, so I would have had to quit my job. I wasn’t interested in that, personally.
In March 2017 I got an opportunity to take an internship at a local startup and I jumped at it. It was a massive pay cut ($75k a year salary to $20/hour massive), BUT I felt like it was the right thing to do. I wanted to get my foot in the door and learn. So, I did.
After a few months at the internship, I got an opportunity to work for another startup in a junior developer program. Fortunately, I got the job and it was the start of my career as a female web developer.
My First Year as a Female Web Developer
The most challenging and equally fulfilling year of my web development career was my first year. I am so thankful for that opportunity and experience. I am really grateful that I was in a program with 3 other junior developers. To this day, I am still really good friends with most of them (shout out to Katie and Shane). I think having that shared experience was critical to our success.
As part of our program, we were to build a product and present our weekly progress every Friday to our Chief Technical Officer (CTO). Gulp. No pressure. Looking back, I am glad that we had to do those weekly presentations. I don’t think I have ever been as nervous in a job as I was for those first several Friday presentations.
On top of our nerve-wracking Friday presentations, I had no experience with frameworks and they used AngularJS. This meant every night after work and on weekends, I was learning AngularJS. My teammates were doing the same thing, spending free moments trying to catch up as best we could.
After about two months with the four of us working together in a small team, we were going to be assigned out to existing teams with more experienced developers. Gulp. Katie and I were assigned to the front end team to work on the redesign of our company’s existing app. We were both excited, but scared to death.
My main fear was around using Git, if I’m being totally honest. Even to this day I still get really nervous when using Git with a new team. I just didn’t want to mess anything up. But, that is the purpose of Git–to keep you from messing things up.
Another thing that was different was the code review process. Again, I am thankful for the experience that I got with this here as I have moved through my career. I found that code reviews were where I learned the most. I would get feedback from other developers on how to improve my code, and I could see how they were sorting through problems.
The junior developer group continued to help each other out, but we also weren’t afraid to ask our more experienced colleagues for help as needed. They were critical to our continued learning and success. We learned something new everyday and worked really hard.
All good things must come to an end, and in April 2019 I decided to move on to a larger organization. There was a lot that went into my decision that I won’t get into here, but I needed to move on.
I moved on to a new job after a year, where I joined a front end team using React, TypeScript and Redux. I was really hopeful about this job and opportunities for learning, but unfortunately I found out pretty quickly that this job was not going to be a good fit for me.
Additionally, I was the only female web developer in the organization and the most junior by many, many years. I felt really isolated and had no one to relate to whatsoever. My teammates were incredibly supportive, but it’s not the same as having another developer with similar experience to have your back.
On August 31, I will start a new job that I am very excited about. I am hopeful that I will be here for many years to come.
Takeaways From My Experiences as a Female Web Developer Thus Far
In reading about my experiences as a web developer, I hope you were able to take away a few key things:
- Take a chance on yourself. I had started learning how to code before I enrolled in a bootcamp, so I knew that it was something I was capable of doing. I highly recommend taking risks in your career, but make informed decisions. Do your homework.
- When you’re first starting out, find a tribe of like-minded people for support. The junior developer program I was part of was critical to my learning and success. Even just having another developer to work with that has similar experiences makes a huge difference.
- If you don’t like your job, don’t stay. I am not super proud that I only stayed at my last job for 6 months, but I was pretty miserable. Life is too short to be miserable! Certainly give it a chance, but don’t feel like you need to stay longer than 6 months if it’s not serving you.
Let me know what you think! How did you get into web development?