Coding is for Women

April 27, 2021

In a world where 91.5% of developers are male, it’s important to remember that coding is for women, too. Our first Coding is for Women event was a space for women interested in coding to come together (virtually) and learn from each other. Women tuned in from New York, Washington, New Mexico, and of course, our home base of Texas. The panelists for this event were two members of our instructional staff with experience working in the tech industry. Here’s what they had to say about the barriers, opportunities, and overall experience getting into and working in tech!

Tell us about yourself.

Madeleine: I graduated from Codeup’s first Data Science cohort, worked as a Data Scientist for about 2 years, and now I’m back as a Data Science instructor! I love this institution [Codeup] and can’t stay away from it.Jasmine: I graduated from Codeup’s Web Development program last June. Now, I’m working at Codeup as a Graduate Fellow, and have a part-time job as a React Native developer.

What were you doing before entering the tech field?

Madeleine: I was a Starbucks barista and supervisor for 11 years. I went to college on and off, changed my major about 8 times, and had a two-year gap period. It was a long process by I ended up getting a Mathematics degree. I couldn’t find a way to utilize it, so that’s when I started looking into bootcamps. As soon as I graduated from Codeup, I immediately began working at Booz Allen Hamilton for a couple years.Jasmine: I was a Pharmacy Technician for about 7 years. I started as a cashier and worked my way up. I reached a point where there was no where else I could go. The next step would’ve been Pharmacist which I didn’t want to do, so I decided to pursue tech instead.

What made you decide coding is for you?

Jasmine: As a pharm tech, I realized I was more interested in the software we were using than the medicine, and didn’t want to deal with the general public. I became curious about why the little Java coffee cup was popping up on my screen every day and started getting interested in the behind-the-scenes of the platform we were using. I knew that I could do it because there are a lot of transferable skills between the two careers.Madeleine: I got some experience programming in college, but it sat in the background and didn’t mesh well with my degree. After college, I realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree so I started working aimlessly, not knowing what to do. As much as I sincerely loved the service industry, it’s almost impossible to make a sustainable living. I wanted to start utilizing my skills more. I heard about data science but didn’t know what it meant. I looked into it more right as Codeup was opening their Data Science program. It was the perfect fit to make use of my math, programming, and natural creative storytelling skills.

Did someone help push you towards tech?

Jasmine: I graduated Codeup after the pandemic struck, and the job search started to feel really isolating. I found this support group of women who would meet up every week, talk about the job search, what leads we had, troubles we were having, and made connections that led to the job I have now. So, it’s really important to find community and find support during the hard times. The women in tech groups are strong support communities and support systems!Madeleine: It was an old friend from high school, actually. After college, when I wasn’t really doing anything, we had reconnected. He had just signed up for a bootcamp, which was actually formerly Rackspace Cloud Academy, which is now Codeup Cloud Academy. He helped me understand how bootcamps can fill in the gaps of traditional academia, which tends to fail at helping people find satisfying careers. Then once I was in Codeup, I got so much guidance from the instructors and career advisors that I am very, very grateful for.

What was your first week like officially as a data scientist?

Madeleine: It was extremely daunting. I was shoved into this tech world after working in coffee shops my whole life. Booz Allen is a firm full of extremely talented people. I taught myself cybersecurity on my own. The other data scientists before me were a Doctor of Computer Science and an Astrophysicist. So, I was sitting here with my Bachelor’s degree and a bootcamp certificate thinking “okay, I hope I got this.” It turned out Codeup prepared way more than I anticipated in that context, where I was able to use my tools from Codeup to identify flaws in the methodologies that were being used. I was able to improve it on a pretty quick turnaround. I was really able to secure my footing and get a good reputation in the field before I even felt confident in what I was doing. The imposter syndrome may never really goes away but it was great to see that I can use the tools that I’ve learned even though I’m doubting myself.

What advice do you have to beat imposter syndrome?

Jasmine: In my current role, I’m using a technology that we didn’t learn at Codeup, but Codeup taught me how to learn so I’m learning! I feel the imposter syndrome almost every day. I definitely felt like “What am I doing here? I have no idea what I’m doing.” Some advice I was given, and has helped me a lot, is keeping track of accomplishments you’ve done on the job. It’s great to look back on and see how much you can do and have done.

What advice do you have for women breaking into the industry?

Jasmine: Learn how to learn. That’s how you’re going to get ahead, and that’s something I really learned at Codeup. We couldn’t learn everything, but when you learn how to learn, you can learn anything on your own.Madeleine: You can’t learn everything! Don’t overburden yourself with what you should or could know. Keep studying what you enjoy naturally, persist, keep practicing. It may be hard to find a job but keep practicing. Don’t undervalue networking.

Any interview advice?

Madeleine: You will have technical interviews. What gets in the way for interviewers is a perceived lack of confidence. If you can’t sell yourself in that way, everything else as far as technical knowledge comes to a halt. Keep track of everything you can do as far as technical skills. Be able to fill dead air and answer questions even if you don’t know the answer. If you get to a question you don’t know, try to probe the interview to get to a mutual point that you do know. Try to slice through ambiguity, and have general conversational skills. Even if you can’t answer it directly, you can get to a point where you can elaborate on something you’re interested in tangentially, or connect with the interviewer in a different way. It could show off some other suspect of your talent, or at the very least, show confidence.Jasmine: At the end of the day, companies want to hire someone that will make a contribution. One way to show that is by doing your research on the interviewer and the company. Who are the higher-ups, who has been hired recently? Show that you are interested in them.

Any advice for the job search before the interviewing stage?

Jasmine: Keep a spreadsheet of every single job you’ve applied to, what resume you sent them, and where you found them. Look for communities that you identify with and network with them. I am in a group for Latinx people in tech. When I’m being really targeted with looking for positions within my community, I get a better response.Madeleine: Get involved in communities! Geekdom is a great place. I am involved in the Queer community in San Antonio. You might find yourself networking in places you didn’t initially expect, but get involved, and try to be as engaged as possible. Be yourself and show your personality if you want people to remember you. Women might be expected to be more demure, or submissive in the way they present themselves. But there’s a balance between not being perceived as aggressive, and still showing that you are confident in your skills or your personality.

What advice do you have to get good at coding?

Jasmine: Go to a bootcamp! I was pretty self-motivated but I still wanted more of a push, more of a community, and structure. Codeup is a great way to learn how to code, but it’s not like riding a bike! You will forget how to code if you don’t code. Stay on it so you don’t fall off.Madeleine: I’m a big fan of Codecademy if you’re just trying to get your feet wet and see if you like it. For data science, Data Camp is a great resource as well. Codecadamy can also help with Codeup’s Python pre-work and challenges during the admissions process.

What happens when you don’t know how to do something on the job?

Jasmine: In my experience, employers expect that as a Junior Developer, you’re still learning and you are going to have to learn some things on the job. They don’t expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to be willing to learn and ready to hop in. In my position, I’m learning a new programming language on the job. At Codeup, you’ll learn how to learn a language quickly, and you can take that with you for when you get hired.Madeleine: When I was at my previous company, I had to learn Deep Learning and Cybersecurity very quickly. They helped me out with getting certifications and offering stipends for learning resources. But conversely, when I wanted to grow personally in my data science skills, that was all self-taught and on my own time and from my network.Huge “thank you” to Madeleine and Jasmine for joining us as panelists for this event! They’ve offered a wide wealth of resources and experiences to grow and learn from. To recap major points, learn how to learn, keep practicing, become confident in your skills, and be yourself when you network. There are plenty of female coders out there, and plenty of communities to join to meet like-minded women. Here in Texas, Women Who Code has communities in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. In San Antonio, check out Geekdom (a coworking space for all) and this Meetup community for women developers. If you're interested in attending Codeup, make sure to apply for our Women in Tech Scholarship!