Brandi “Charly” Welch entered our program at the end of 2017, and seeing her land her first Software Engineer position after completing our program makes us so happy. This is especially true knowing the adversity she’s overcome in her life and the diversity she represents. It’s why we do here at Alchemy what we do, and passionate about creating a welcoming community to help our students make the career change they come to us to do. From the moment they enter our space, we immerse them in intensive, but in-person training. We support them each day, and we see them through their job placement once they finish our career track. It’s a huge impact on the financial well-being of each and every person who secures a job after our program, and Charly’s story, and the impact her new job has on her life, is far from the exception.
And, she’s the first female developer at the organization she went to work for to boot. And she’s queer. And she’s a single mom.
Since this post was written, Charly was awarded the Women Who Code's 2018 Rising Star Award in Portland for quickly becoming a contributor. She was nominated by many, including her CTO, for all her hard work!
This strong and talented woman worked very hard. She got hired because she proved she could learn, she’s personable and has incredible soft skills. She’s also tenacious, humble, empathetic, and smart.
We are so excited to share her story, and we’re honored to be part of her journey. Learn more about Charly’s journey to become a Software Engineer in her own words:
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I'm a queer single mom who was raised by a queer single mom in the midwest. My family and I love to spend time outdoors, studying the trees and plants and bugs, kayaking, hiking, and camping. My working-class poor upbringing made me very resourceful and crafty. I started working at eight years old, roofing houses with my mom. At 12, I sometimes worked nights and weekends in a casting foundry. From there, I generally kept two or three jobs at a time into my mid twenties. After having my son, I threw myself into school and finished my master's degree in biology in early 2016.
What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
Waiting tables, painting houses, occasionally teaching college biology, taking care of odds and ends for friends. In short, I was hustling as usual.
What was your educational background and why did you decide you wanted to become a software developer?
My background is in evolutionary biology. Even with a master's degree, I struggled to find lucrative work in the current economy outside adjunct faculty work. I love teaching, but as an adjunct there just isn't a lot of stability or job security. Having lived a life of instability and insecurity, I wanted something different for myself and my son. A few of my friends had become software engineers in their 30s and were very happy with their careers and the opportunities afforded by working in this field. I knew I loved math and solving puzzles, so I decided to give it a go!
Had you considered other coding schools? What made you choose Alchemy?
I did a small amount of shopping around. I called one code school and was directed to a message instructing me to visit the website (which, obviously, I had done). Another didn't even provide a phone number, but an online form that was answered with an impersonal email that did not address my questions. When I finally started considering Alchemy, it was clear they had everything - the numbers were there (graduation rate, average starting salary out of school...), and I received a call right away from the Educational Director, Megan. It felt very personal, and that's what I needed. This was a BIG career change, and a momentous commitment. I wanted to be in a place that I could feel like a person, where I would be valued as an individual and not as a paycheck for the school. Alchemy was that place, from beginning to end. Furthermore, there were generous diversity scholarships available that made the school accessible to those who might otherwise be excluded from the opportunity to get an education in tech. The scholarship put Alchemy within my reach, but it also told me that this is an organization that values diversity and is committed to diversifying the field.
Where did you go to work, and what is your new position?
I am now a Software Engineer at DiscoverOrg in downtown Vancouver, WA.
Why are you excited about it, and how is it going to impact your life?
First, I love being a paid brain. I'm surrounded by very smart people, and we work together to solve complicated problems that help all the other departments in the company. The impact on my life is immeasurable -- there is no overstating this. For the first week after getting the formal offer, I couldn't stop crying with gratitude. Due to some upheavals in my life, my son and I had been living with very generous friends, the two of us and our dog sharing a room while I pieced together work for a year and a half. I have spent a large portion of my life not entirely sure where my next meal will come from, wondering if I can make bills this month or if perhaps I'll need to sell my car. That's not the life I want for my son. My career in tech means I don't have to carry that worry with me everywhere I go. It means that if my kid wants to play soccer or learn an instrument or go on a field trip, I'll be able to fund his ambitions without compromising our health and safety in other areas. Already, we have moved into a sweet rental house that is all ours, and I'm experiencing a level of security I didn't even know how to imagine before.
How did your time at Alchemy prepare you for your new role? How did it set yourself apart from the competition?
At Alchemy, I learned how to learn languages and frameworks. With no prior experience in programming, I was able to graduate and get a job (within 6 weeks!) working in a tech stack that I knew nothing of. While it has been incredibly challenging, I can see my skills put to use in my everyday work. My love of learning paired with the skills I gained at Alchemy in finding answers, trying things out, debugging, and asking thoughtful questions set me apart from the competition during the interview process.
Was career services helpful for you after graduation?
ABSOLUTELY. Shannon has an uncanny knack for connecting people. In fact, it was only because of Shannon's introducing me to members of the engineering team at DiscoverOrg that I was hired here. She and Marty worked to familiarize the team at DiscoverOrg with what Alchemy students have to offer. Their footwork and my preparation convinced the leadership team so well that I was hired as the company's first ever non-senior engineer. It also happens I am the company's first female engineer.
What do you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
I miss the people! It may sound cliche, but it truly is a family at Alchemy. Megan and Marty show such incredible care with the students, staff, and various dogs that come to work everyday. I also miss brainstorming with other students, exploring possibilities with tech, learning new things and new ways to find information... I'm definitely doing a good amount of that with my team at DO, but I do miss the Alchemy family.
Considering Diversity & Inclusion is a mission for Alchemy, did you feel we live up to these expectations.
Yes, yes, yes. in terms of age and gender diversity, YES! All of the classes were half women, if not more than half. I think there could be improvement in getting POC, specifically black students into and through the program. Obviously that's a complicated topic, but an observation nonetheless. :)
If you are interested in learning more about our program or applying, we start a new session every quarter. Read about our course descriptions here, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. You can also apply today if you fill out our online application (will not commit you to attend, but it starts the process to do so!) We also have an open house every Thursday at 12:30PM & a social hour on the last Friday of each month. Join us! Everyone is welcome!