How I went from Marketing to a DeveloperFeatured
As someone who was born and raised in San Francisco, you would think that I have lived, breathed, and bathed in tech from when I first learned how to walk. Or taken coding classes since middle school - but nah...not really...actually, not all. Growing up in San Francisco over the last 20 years or so, I was aware of the tech bubble that was forming, but never really understood its value or purpose. My family is from El Salvador, and my parents had me when they were quite young and split up soon after I was born. But I grew up in an incredibly hard working family that emphasized that you had to work hard to earn the things and experiences you wanted in life. And so I had always made it a goal to go to college, even though my parents hadn’t. That was going to be my stepping stone into a successful career. The college days: I attended the University of San Francisco, and even though I received multiple merit scholarships, damn, it was expensive. Throughout college, I worked multiple part-time gigs to gain experience and to try to save up some money. I knew the student loans would hit hard post-graduation. I had studied marketing because I loved the creative aspect of strategic thinking as well as the technical and more analytical piece of measuring your initiatives. To be honest...I was like, a degree in business – I can’t go wrong with that, right? It felt safe and for some reason I was okay with that. So, long story short, I finished university in 3 years, overloading on courses so I didn’t have to pay for an extra year, and jumped right into my first role out of school as a business development rep at a start-up in the Bay Area. When developers and I meet for the first time: Heading into my first role out of school was so exciting. I was completely immersed in my work. I was the eager beaver, the curious george, you name it. I wanted to learn and prove myself and get better at my craft at the time: to learn how to sell and market a SaaS product. But it was also the first time I saw real life production code. It was the first time I was exposed to the technical side of any business. I was amazed by the engineers and their skills that allowed them to make sense of all these functions and algorithms. In my head they were genius translators, builders and creators. That was pretty cool, and in some ways, intimidating. It was also the first time I learned about bootcamps. I had made a friend on the engineering team who had done an immersive three-month course and completely switched their career from bio-research to developer. I thought: "DANG you can do that?!" And so out of curiosity, I started to look into it and a lot of the courses were incredibly expensive, and it would mean leaving my job for a few months and being out of work throughout the job hunting process. Plus, on top of all of this, I was completely intimidated by the all-male developer culture, it did not feel like a place for a first-generation female Latina American who studied marketing. The motivation factor(s):Fast-forward three years after graduating, I had worked in marketing/sales at a Bay Area start-up for a few years and I decided to move to New York City. I continued to work in marketing/business development and had been coding a little bit on the side (out of curiosity and enjoyment), but I was also slowly beginning to hit a wall within my personal career. About 8 months after moving to New York, I started to burn out, because it’s a hustle in NYC.I was starting to feel apathetic at work and just wasn’t as excited take on new projects or initiatives. I remember calling my mom one evening and explaining these feelings to her and telling her a bit about my interest in coding. I told her about all these different bootcamps. I don’t think she fully understood how bootcamps worked or even believed that their curriculum would work (How can you become a developer in 3-6 months, when people study that for 4 years?). I mean I was trying navigate this myself! I also told her I was intimidated by the developer and engineering culture. It seemed hard, daunting, and overall a world of men. She reminded then of a quote that we often said in our house by Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and that this would be my next adventure.Overcoming fear and taking a leap: I realized I was holding myself back by doubt and fear by saying things like, “what if I can’t do this? What if this is too hard?” or “I don’t belong in that space.” Hearing my mom reminded me of that quote. I remembered that change, movement, impact, and influence are never easy. It doesn’t happen within the comfort of your own boundaries, it happens by challenging yourself and taking these leaps of faith and telling yourself that you are enough even when you feel like you are not. I didn’t want to let these superficialities of the tech world and self-doubt prevent me from doing something I really loved. At that point, I had saved up enough money to quit my job and join the Flatiron NYC Immersive Software Engineering program. I received the Flatiron Women’s in Tech scholarship and join the 2018 December cohort. I’m so lucky to have joined such an amazing and supportive community at Flatiron. To this day, I remain in contact with some of my cohort classmates. But still, women only represent 13% of the entire engineering workforce - in which only 2% of the representation are Latina women.A new adventure: Everyday I’m motivated to continue to foster and promote diversity within the developer community by being involved in various organizations. I want to continue to help others through the doubt and fear of making a career change and continue to build a supportive extended network for myself and others. Six months ago, I started as a full-stack developer at IBM, less than a year after graduating from my bootcamp. I still often doubt my skills and presence as a developer, but I’ve learned how to set that fear aside, be grateful for the community that has gotten me to where I am, and continue to take steps forward. Hopefully in the process, I can help effect change. --Andrea Cardona is currently a Full-Stack Software Engineer at IBM, based in Austin, TX. She is also the organizer for Techqueria ATX, a global professional network for LatinX in Tech - with a goal to make the tech space more inclusive and accessible to our community. If she's not coding, or enjoying a salted rim margarita - she's on a plane exploring new places or climbing up some rock-walls along the greenbelt.