My Application to the Ada Developers Academy

This is the (long) story of why and how I applied to the Ada Developers Academy. This is my story of how I went from the success of being a leader in environmental education and interpretation to becoming a developer that hopes to inspire and help many other women and non-binary gender people enter STEM careers, and live their lives according to their passions.

In February of 2015, I was jobless and had no prospects for a job. I had left a park ranger job in Los Angeles to move back to Phoenix to be with family.

It was during this time that I decided to reinvent myself. Though in hindsight it wasn’t really much reinvention and more of a celebration of other skills I had barely ever thought about. I had been so devoted to becoming a park ranger since a very early age that I didn’t think about much else. With a masters in Environmental Education, and experience as an environmental educator and park ranger in Alaska and California it seemed like I was on the road to being an environmental educator for life.

It wasn’t until this moment of stillness did I ever question, “What am I going to do?” It was only then that a family member suggested that I be retrospective and ask myself, “What do you like doing?”

“Well, I like doing research. I like learning about new technologies. I am consistently the ‘go-to girl’ where I work. I like seeing things come together and making things work…”

My friend’s response, “It sounds like you should do something with programming.”

And that’s when I found Hour of Code; I was hooked. I started downloading apps like Lightbot and codeSpark Academy & The Foos, and frequenting sites like codecademy, CodeSchool (which is now part of Pluralsight), and freeCodeCamp. I just couldn’t get enough.

One day while visiting with another friend, I casually mentioned my transition into tech. She happens to be a GIS practitioner and involved in tech, so her reply was, “Have you heard of meet-ups!?”

Of course, I hadn’t heard of them, but now that I knew about them I was hooked on those as well. I went to almost every Phoenix tech meet-up I saw. It didn’t matter if I understood the talks or workshops. I figured that it was a great way to network and anything I didn’t understand I could write in my journal and google later.

I went to the Phoenix JS meetup, the Node.js meetup, the Docker meetup, the Phoenix Version Control meetup, the Women Who Code meetup, and most frequently the Girl Develop It (GDI) meetup. It was at the Saturday classes that I really got into learning how to code and build websites. I went to all of the core GDI classes; Intro to HTML and CSS, Advanced CSS, Into to Javascript, Intermediate Javascript, Intro to Git and Github… I was at so many of these events, that when it came time for one of the Chapter Leaders to step down she asked me to become a Chapter Leader.

As the Chapter Leader, I helped organize and teach a number of the classes that I had taken when I was learning. I had a few different companies host, but I really favored hosting meetups at a local web development company, meltmedia. It was there that I had a really good rapport with the director of technology and anyone that helped set-up.

After a while, I was starting to feel fairly comfortable with my HTML and CSS skills. I decided to at meltmedia’s director of technology if the company ever has internships. To my great surprise, he not only said “yes”, but also asked if I was looking for anything specific. I was really just looking for a foot in the door, so I explained that I was starting to feel good about my skills and really wanted a place I could hone those skills and learn more. A few days later he contacted me to come in for an interview. I was to be interviewed to see if I would be a good fit as an intern on the HTML E-mail team. I was elated! During the interview, I was honest about what I knew and what I was looking to learn. They seemed to appreciate that, and a few days later I was asked when I could start. “I can start tomorrow if you’d like!!”

During my time at meltmedia, I got great exposure to the web development world. I even got a few opportunities to do things outside of HTML E-mail development. These were projects which I found fascinating. I got to make scripts for HTML E-mail development, and I got to code a CTA (call to action) on a website for another dev team. I just couldn’t get enough. It was at that point that I learned I was going to outgrow my position at melt. They just didn’t have enough resources to help me get to the level I want to be at. I knew it was time for me to start looking for the next step. I wasn’t sure if that looked like another job or a boot-camp, so I explored.

At one point I was offered a position at a startup that was doing some cool things with HTML E-mail, but that didn’t feel like the right path to go down. I knew I needed to jumpstart my software development career by possibly going to a boot-camp. I had applied for a scholarship at a new boot-camp offered by the University of Phoenix but didn’t get it. I looked at doing Code Fellows, or Flatiron, or General Assembly, but they didn’t really meet what I was looking for (I had read the fine print). I interviewed for a job at Thinkful to try to get paid to coordinate events and learn at the same time but didn’t get the job. Then I found Grace Hopper Fullstack Academy and Ada Developers Academy(ADA). Out of the two, ADA sounded like a better fit for me.

When I found ADA, admissions for Cohort 8 were happening and I could have applied, but there was a lot was already happening in my life. Since admissions open every 6 months, and I decided to wait 6 months to apply.

When applications opened for Cohort 9 opened, I was ready.

Step 1 was to write about how I got interested in tech and why the program would benefit me. I was also to find answers to questions in a huge CVS (Excel worksheet) and explain how I got to those answers. It was a lot of fun! Sure I stressed about it a bit, but overall I played it off as an experiment to see how far I could get in the application process.

While waiting for a response from ADA, I followed directions provided by ADA to keep coding and learning about writing a program myself.

When I made it to the next step, I was so excited! Step 2 was to write a program for the terminal. The prompt was to write a trip account tracking program that would take in receipts from all the people on a trip and split the entire trip cost equally amongst all the trip participants at the end. I had such a good time making it that I still think about that project today, over a year later.

After an interview to explain my thoughts on my code and how I could improve it, I had another interview to talk about why I thought ADA would be a good program for me and why I would be successful in a program such as ADA. Following those interviews, it was just a waiting game to see if I was accepted into the program.

On November 8th, 2017, I got an email…

It is our great pleasure to congratulate you on your acceptance to Ada’s 9th cohort! Class will be starting Monday, February 5, 2018.

I was accepted! By November 16th I accepted the offer and began to make plans with my loved ones to move to Seattle. What an exciting adventure was ahead of me?!