Laugh hard, it’s a long ways to the bank

August 23, 2022

As I sit here in the Charleston Subaru dealership thinking about the way things have gone since I committed to the career-change-to-software path, two things are apparent:

  1. I’ve come a long way since day 1
  2. There’s a long way to go

Two buttons meme

My “coding journey” started with a desire to get more out of my career. Healthcare was a hard place to be when COVID hit, made even harder by the constant stripping down of Medicare reimbursement for rehab professionals, lack of upward mobility, and general exhausting nature of working in the healthcare system. Even before the apocalyptic early-days of COVID and its devastating effects on healthcare, I was planning to apply for PhD programs in Human Factors Engineering/Psychology. To that end, one of my goals was to learn data manipulation and visualization creation with Python and R in prep for PhD applications, a task that led me to appreciate the beauty of programming. I remember pulling a CDC dataset from Kaggle, messing around with it, and creating an interactive visualization about the incidence of CVAs by state. When what I created in code was manifested on the screen, I genuinely felt amazing. I would call that first feeling of success and craving for more Milestone Number One. Then, as it did with many things, COVID changed that new career trajectory with limited funding for PhD programs leaving me to reconsider my path forward.

Sad Pablo Escobar meme

Milestone Number Two came quite a bit later. I had continued to work as an OT, casually learning HTML/CSS/JS as a toe-dip at the behest of my husband, thinking I would never be fully capable of making the career jump to tech. Somewhere in the hours and hours of learning it clicked into place that not only am I capable and I can do this, but I want to do this. Milestone Number Two was a full commitment to the road ahead. There were many smaller milestones after committing to becoming a software engineer. Milestones 3.1-3.x were the completion of projects that I created without reliance on tutorials. The satisfaction of implementing an idea from start to finish was huge, and kept me coming back for more.

Milestone Four was my acceptance into the Develop Carolina apprenticeship program. This is the point at which my somewhat freeform, amorphous learning took on a more defined shape, and I had a true path forward. Most recently my milestones have consisted of things clicking into place: my project partner, Kayla, and I successfully implementing our backend using technologies (e.g. Docker) that we had not used before, creating a shell script as part of an assignment, stopping to marvel at the amount of things that I understand now as opposed to 6 weeks ago.

Baby Computer meme

It’s hard to believe that we’re already a quarter of the way through this program. I’ve learned so much, but know there’s a long way to go and many more milestones to reach. Even though the hill I’m climbing still seems pretty steep, I am genuinely excited to keep going and am so grateful for the opportunity to grow into a skilled software engineer.

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