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.