Since I became a co-leader for Girl Develop It Chicago in January, I introduce myself in much the same way at every workshop, class, and event. It goes a little something like this:
Hi, my name is Liz, and I’m a co-leader for GDI Chicago along with Katy, say hi Katy! I’m currently a Software Engineer for an educational company called Instructure, but a year ago today, I wasn’t doing this. I was quitting a decent paying job with no real career prospects to attend Dev Bootcamp, and now I’m an engineer and I absolutely love what I do. I am here to help you see if you love this as much as I do. I learned HTML and CSS when I was a kid so I could build a fan website for NSync - it’s easy to learn, but hard to master, and you can totally do it! I love questions and I’m really nice, so you can email me anytime!
As of this weekend, I can no longer say “a year ago today” because I will have already quit that job and started working toward my goal of learning how to build software. I have been, in one form or another, working in web development for a year now.
It has not been without its ups and downs, but mostly it has been lots of ups.
In the past year, I have:
- accomplished my goal of learning Ruby and Rails
- discovered an unbridled love of testing
- tackled home-grown MVC frameworks, Backbone, and Ember
- learned about building accessible applications
- actually built an accessible application
- started working as an engineer, making a small contribution to education
- taught 4 Girl Develop It Classes
- organized 26 Girl Develop It events, classes, and workshops for our more than 1,000 members
- helped 105 women learn the basics of HTML and CSS through GDI classes
- guided 25 (soon to be 50!) women toward advancing their skills in HTML, CSS, and responsive design through GDI classes
- introduced 40 women to the basic concepts of web development
- dabbled with Clojure, Rust, and Go
- attended my first tech conference
- learned how to manage a team of volunteers and instructors
- made wonderful new friends
- been trolled because sometimes I need to “seriously, shut the fuck up”
- been unrealistically happy
- felt challenged
- felt encouraged to do more, learn more, and be more
Plans for year 2? Year 5? Year 20? Already formed, and I can’t wait to see where my ideas and goals take me. But, I have a pretty good idea that there won’t be much snow wherever I end up following those goals and ideas.
The best part is that if I accomplished so much in the last year, I will be able to do so much more in the coming years now that I’ve gotten started. I want to get more scholarships for Girl Develop It students, learn more programming languages, speak at more conferences, write more Girl Develop It curriculum, guide more people toward a career in tech, improve my computer science knowledge, and get better at all of the things I already know.
I want to take my career up, up, and away, and I want to be a real person who isn’t just an example or a token, but a source of knowledge, advice, assistance, and (selfishly maybe) inspiration for women and minorities who want to transition to a technical career. I want to be a friendly light of optimism for people already in this field, reminding us why we all do what we do: because it makes us happy, and we love it.