Career Switching Into Code
She thought politics was her future, turns out it was programming.
Alicia envisioned a future in politics. The California native studied political science and anthropology in college and then made the move to Washington DC to pursue a career on The Hill. After a few jobs—with a think tank, a bank, and an NGO—she learned of an opportunity thanks to Women Who Code DC, where other women her age or younger were problem-solving and gaining financial independence through careers in software development.
Ready for the career change, Alicia dropped everything, enlisted in a coding bootcamp, moved from DC to Atlanta, and started her dedicated journey into programming. Since she started learning, her goal has always been to land a full time role as a software engineer. Today, Alicia works as a Support Software Engineer at SalesLoft and has recently been accepted into Ruby Me, a paid mentorship program created by Ruby Together giving early-career Ruby developers the opportunity to build up professional development experience by contributing to open source projects with the help of a mentor. We chatted with her about the lessons learned and what it takes to make it in programming.
Ruby Together: Can you describe your experience with Ruby Me?
Jumping into open source can be intimidating, Ruby Me has given me the confidence and paid opportunity to get my feet wet. After I left DC, I got in touch with the Women Who Code chapter in Atlanta. A friend of mine there saw the Ruby Me apprentice opportunity and I applied. The process was straightforward and when I received the great news that I’d been accepted, it was one of my proudest moments.
My mentor, Juan C. Ruiz, is based in Mexico and we talk once per week. We have a good rhythm—create an action plan, execute, and then write a follow up report. I’ve submitted my first pull request and realized success here isn’t only measured through the number of PRs, but also the learning you gain by working through the obstacles.
RT: What are you hoping to gain from this experience?
I'm really looking forward to making contributions to the Ruby open source community. I’m also looking to grow confidence and use what I learn to help me land a full-time software engineering role.
RT: What advice would you offer someone who’s considering jumping careers and getting into learning Ruby?
A friend of mine, Ray Gesualdo, reminded me, “don’t go solo, self-taught is really community taught.” While you’re on this path, people will lend their knowledge to help you. For example, the Women Who Code community has been my strongest and most helpful ally. I found the local chapter in Atlanta to be supportive of my learning and amazing at helping me find opportunities like Ruby Me and SalesLoft.
I think it’s also wise to identify the job and company that you want and then work backwards from the skillsets. When you approach this field, it can be like, “learn everything, learn it well,” and that can be inefficient.
In terms of access to educational content, there are a lot of resources online. It certainly helps, but it isn’t essential to enroll in a coding bootcamp. Just be ready to put in the work. Finding a company to hire you right out of the bootcamp can be challenging, but there are also those who are jumping right out of bootcamp into a full time job.
Learning to code requires discipline, so don’t give up and keep working at it. Take feedback from people who are successful in this field and those you admire. It’s so helpful to have a community of people behind you; you’ll definitely need it. The Atlanta Women Who Code organization put me in front of my internship, the support engineer role I have today, and also the Ruby Me opportunity. They essentially helped put me on the radar.
About Ruby Me
Ruby Me is a three-month long paid mentorship program where early-career developers (with a firm grasp of Ruby fundamentals) get matched with experienced Ruby developers to work on an open source project of their choice. If you’re a recent bootcamp grad, career switcher, or developer employed at the junior level, we’re looking for you.
We’re also looking for experienced developers with a knack for teaching. Mentors and mentees work together remotely up to 8 hours every month, including documenting and sharing the results of their work. Each mentor and mentee earns USD$75 per hour for their work at the end of each month.
Ruby Me is run by RubyTogether. We accept applications for apprentices and mentors about once every 3 months. Learn more about Ruby Me here and follow RubyTogether on Twitter to catch the next application window.