I’ve always been the techie in my family, the person that if there was a technical issue, I was called because I loved video games and technology in general. Naturally, when it became time for me to start looking at careers, I knew I wanted to be in the tech space but wasn’t sure where. I wasn’t exposed to many tech careers, so the big distinction that I knew was that computer science involved math, which I wasn’t confident in, even though I liked and was great at in school. And there was IT, which seemed like a catch-all for everyone that just wanted to do something in tech.
A little background here, I was raised in a single-parent household with my younger brother. I always knew we were low-income but that never bothered me. I grew up around a lot of family. I was able to play video games as long as I made all A’s and B’s in school. I pursued a bachelors in IT online because I wanted the flexibility to work a full-time job to fund my education because I didn’t want to burden my family by asking for help in paying for an education. I’m thankful for these years because I quickly got used to juggling school, work and family.
After a few tech support positions, I quickly realized I did not want to be in tech support forever. But if not in support, then where? I still didn’t know of all the different options in tech. I graduated with my bachelor’s and decided this would be the perfect time to figure out what I wanted to do for my career, so after a couple of months, I got an English teaching position in South Korea.
What do I want?
I spent two years in a tiny village in South Korea and fell in love with the country, the food, the entertainment, and the job teaching kids. These were easily the best two years of my life and the worst. “Rose-colored glasses” means that someone is looking at the world through optimistic eyes, and although I loved the country just as much in my second year as I did in my first, I was starting to become depressed. I missed my family and friends. During the day, I would be surrounded by so much love - my co-workers and students, and when I would come home in the evenings, I would be alone. I never lived away from my family before, and now I was away in another country alone. I had few friends, but they didn’t live in my small town, so I would come back many days and go to sleep as soon as I finished teaching for the day. I soon forgot why I came to Korea; before I knew it, two years had come and gone without me realizing it. I slowly felt trapped in my position. I could go back to America with a two-year gap in my resume or stay another year in Korea, prolonging the gap and possibly making it harder for me to return home and get a job. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but when I returned to America, I had inadvertently found a piece of what I wanted, to be closer to family.
Back to America:
I returned to the states and moved to northern Virginia because I knew that I would find a decent job much quicker than I would where I grew up, plus I also had family that already lived in Virginia. I thought I might enjoy working in HR because I love working with and helping people, so after a few months of studying, I landed a position as an HR assistant. The HR path didn’t work out for me, but I’m thankful because the experience gave me the insight that it was not the path for me.
I started working an office admin job shortly after, and although I was happy that I was working, I still wasn’t sure of the career I wanted to pursue. I forget how but over time, I concluded that coding might be the career for me, it’s a career that typically is remote, so I could always be close to family, is high paying so I could provide for my family and has a math element to it which I knew I could excel at.
I went to a few tech meet-ups and was met with much positivity and advice to self-teach and read through materials online. Before I knew it, I was self-teaching myself how to code and had made it my mission to become a software engineer. I didn’t self-teach my entire journey. I attended a community college online. I took any available computer science classes, and although I didn’t learn much from school, I had hoped that having the experience on my resume would help me stick out as a candidate.
After about two years of working and self-teaching, I still wasn’t confident but was ecstatic to land a role as a technical support engineer with a small SaaS company. I learned as much as possible, talked to as many co-workers as possible, and tried to show my excitement in every way that I wanted to grow into a software engineer. I received guidance from a senior engineer whose post I randomly saw on Reddit about wanting to mentor people. Fast forward nine months into that role, and a company acquisition later, I was offered the role of a junior software engineer.
I’ve now been a junior software engineer for about six months, and I’m happy to say that I love it. I love the work, the co-workers, learning daily, pair programming, and getting stuck and unstuck. I’m so thankful to be a software engineer, and I hope to pass on the guidance I received. I’m now helping someone else break into tech, and although it’s taking some time, I can’t wait to hear how they got their first job in tech.