Emily started at Alchemy Code Lab at the beginning of 2019 and landed her first role quickly after graduation through networking which included a local tech conference.
She came into our program as a mom with young twin girls and a very loving husband, seeking work that not only challenged her but also allowed for growth in order to provide a better life for her family. Emily accomplished all of this! It’s been wonderful to witness as her career and confidence continue to blossom.
Learn more about Emily’s journey in her own words...
What were you doing for work before attending Alchemy?
Before Alchemy, I had been at the same company for nearly eight years, working in sales and marketing and managing the website at a local letterpress studio. Before that, I worked in retail, as a nanny, at a digital print shop, and also owned a small business designing and selling embroidery kits.
I was feeling a bit stuck. My husband Ben and I have amazingly wonderful twin girls, and we wanted to build a life for them that gave them opportunities and comfort.
I knew that the wage I was making at the studio was not sustainable long term, and there weren’t many opportunities to move up since it was such a small company.
When I was managing the website at the studio, I had an opportunity to do a major redesign for our retail and wholesale websites. I had been at the company long enough that they trusted me to do it, although my previous experience had been mostly hobby sites and personal website work. It was SO fun and challenging to work on those sites! I was able to put forward all my customer service experience and sales knowledge, and create something that I knew our customers would love and use.
But there was so much I didn’t know! At that point I was entirely self-taught through trial and error, plus some free online programs and tutorials. Near the end of the project I had the realization that I really wanted to be doing this full time. So nearly two years after completing those sites, I decided to take the leap.
I started looking at coding bootcamps and at do-at-your-own-pace programs. But I knew I would need in-person/live instruction, where I could ask questions and work with other people, to really take it to the next level and develop those skills.
What made you choose Alchemy over other coding schools?
I did a LOT of research before deciding to attend Alchemy. Other code schools I looked at seemed to spread you thin in learning many different languages. I was impressed that Alchemy was always updating the curriculum based on what companies were hiring for, and also taught you the fundamentals so that you would have a real understanding of what you were doing.
I also LOVED that Alchemy makes a concentrated effort to add diversity to the tech world, and offers scholarships and financial aid to folks who might have barriers to entering the industry.
What was your post-graduation job search like?
I graduated in June of 2019, and my first job search was very quick. I had a short list of companies I was interested in working for, but was encouraged to talk to folks working the recruitment table (for what wound up being my first position!) at the ACT-W conference, the day after I graduated from Alchemy. I sent in my resume, and the interviewing and code challenge process went really quickly.
I was hired at Acorns in July 2019 and started in August. With the pandemic came a lot of changes in Portland, one of them being that Acorns closed their Portland office. So in May of 2020 I was looking for a new position.
I had entered the industry with a lot of self-esteem issues, but was coming out of my first year with new-found confidence, so it was a nice surprise to find myself not terrified and anxious about the situation! I knew I had a great background, and a solid network of friends and colleagues at both Alchemy and Acorns. I landed a new position very soon after being laid off - a remote position at a fintech bank, working on their small business banking app.
What was your title then and what is it now?
When I started my first position, my title was Junior Software Engineer. Now, at my new job, my title is Frontend Software Engineer.
Did Alchemy prepare you to use the technologies you use in the field?
While Alchemy didn’t specifically prepare me for every language and technology I have used, Alchemy taught me to recognize patterns and similarities between languages, and how to phrase questions so I could figure out what I needed to know.
How does your new career impact your life?
I love solving big logic puzzles every day. I love making a jumble of information and boxes and colors become something useful and beautiful with React and CSS. I love turning a design into something interactive, accessible, and intuitive. I love being challenged and pushed beyond my comfort zone daily. I love any excuse to learn something new.
Also, the benefits and pay of my current position also have completely changed the lives of our family in a very positive way. We are able to save and not live paycheck to paycheck. And that feels great, especially since I love what I do every day.
What do you miss most about being at Alchemy every day?
I miss the community problem solving, and the closeness. I feel so fortunate that I have made what I’m sure will be lifelong friends from my days at Alchemy. I miss coming up with incredibly creative ideas for group projects. My current position is a lot slower paced, and it’s funny - I kind of miss the excitement and pressure of trying to get things done during project weeks!
Was career services helpful for you after graduation?
Yes! Shannon was the one at the ACT-W conference that encouraged me to talk to Acorns. When I was looking for my next position almost a year later, she didn’t hesitate to help me with polishing up my resume and to help with looking for new positions that might be a good fit for me. I know that even though I’m not a recent grad, that I could go to career services for help any time.
If there’s anything you would tell someone considering an education to be a software developer, what would it be?
Something that isn’t talked about as frequently is how being a software developer is inherently a creative field.
While my job history doesn’t really say it, I have also been an artist in some form or another my entire life - I went to school for photography and printmaking, I knit, I embroider, I paint, I sew my own clothes, on and on and on. If you can think creatively, then you have what it takes to creatively solve problems. So if you are thinking you don’t have the right kind of mind to do this - you are wrong! You do! (Also, if you want to really nerd out, check out all the ways that knitting and weaving are actually coding.)
I would also tell anyone considering the program to be prepared for it to be HARD. It’s a lot of work, and you get what you put into it. My twins were in preschool when I went through the program, and I won’t lie, having little kids while studying for a tech career is no joke. It’s really tough to balance parenting and also put in the work needed to succeed. But the tough parts don’t last forever. You power through it, and come out on the other side. I have no regrets.