I’ve written several posts, chatted on many a podcast, and have had consumed countless coffees where I’ve talked about my transition from theatre to engineering, so I’ve decided to put it all in one place in this post!
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely emailed/DMed me/been referred by a friend to pick my brain on how on earth a quirky girl who once played a Crayon in a children’s theatre production (Blue and Yellow- I am a very talented performer with a wide range 🖍) somehow ended up working as a Senior Cloud Developer Advocate at Microsoft. While I would love to answer every single message/intro/inquiry individually and take you up on that free coffee- unfortunately (but excitingly as well) a lot of people reach out to grab coffee and A) That’s a lot of caffeine, and B) I start feeling like a broken record talking about myself. 😬
The bad news: I have had to learn to say no this year (you can read more about that here) to coffee dates- there’s just not enough hours in the day! The good news: so many new folks form diverse backgrounds and perspectives want to make the transition into engineering (YAAAAS! So exiting!!). I’m stoked that you’re interested in learning more, and how you can make the transition into tech! Here are some tips, links, and FYIs if you’re looking to do the whole “tech thing”. If I haven’t covered anything, post in the comments, or DM me on Twitter (but I’m pretty sure at least one of these podcasts should cover it)!
Before I list all the links to podcasts/articles/etc. for you to check out, I want to say the following:
Becoming an engineer is not something you achieve in 12 weeks.
It’s also not something you should do “for the money”, and it’s definitely not something for for people who are not ok with the concept of always having to learn. While bootcamps, online tutorials/degrees and success stories like mine may seem like an easy feat- that is simply not the case. If you like programming (and please, make sure you like programming before you decide to invest time and money in a bootcamp) there will be very high highs and very very low lows. Some days post-Hackbright Academy during my job search I would be crying in the middle of a Whole Foods after getting my 20th rejection letter. Other days, I was celebrating making it past my 4th round of Google interviews. This is not something you should do if you don’t have a thick skin for rejection (which is what makes actors great candidates for these roles!). Don’t give up. It’s hard AF, but achievable. Make sure you have a good support system (emotionally, and academically).
Bootcamps are not some pyramid-scheme/Scientology-esque program where you pay money and come out the other end an engineer.
It’s really fucking hard, but so fucking worth it (not the most eloquent, but I really want to convey the fuckery that is whiteboarding interviews as a junior developer from a non-traditional background…). From the outside, and to all my friends on social media, I’m sure it looks like I woke up one day, decided to learn to code, and got a job. That is very very very far from the truth. I can’t begin to tell you how much attending Hackbright Academy changed my life, and how bootcamps have changed the lives of so many of my friends (see links below). The best advice I can give to you is that if it’s hard and seems almost impossible: you’re on the right track. Find good mentors, take folks out to coffee (apologies for having to take myself out of the running here), and network as much as you can. The worst thing that could happen is someone says “no” (or just doesn’t respond).
Also, bootcamps aren’t the only option! If you’re disciplined enough, have the resources, and time- folks like CodingCouple have landed jobs as Google Developers by creating their own self-done bootcamps. If you don’t have the money to drop on a bootcamp, there are also many scholarships, deferred tuition programs, remote/part-time programs, and online resources available if going into debt/paying money upfront isn’t an option (please do your own research). For myself, I knew I needed the intense disciplined environment of a bootcamp (with other folks/instructors to keep me accountable) to ramp up to level I wanted to get to, and I was lucky enough to have financial assistance from my family. I am in awe of those who are self-taught (my procrastination issues are too much for that) and encourage you to explore all options and programs before taking the leap.
Also worth noting: not all bootcamps are created equally. Do research on CourseReport, read articles, ask around. As I mentioned above, “Bootcamps are not some pyramid-scheme/Scientology-esque program where you pay money and come out the other end an engineer”, however there are programs out there that aren’t so great and are in it for the money. Make sure your program has a good curriculum, mentorship, reviews, etc. Take recent graduates out to coffee, tour the campus, and ask around. My personal favorites are Hackbright Academy, Fullstack Academy, Holberton School, Hack Reactor, App Academy, Kenzie Academy, and Turing School (these are all programs I have either worked with, met folks from, or done my own research on).
And finally, I would recommend that you start with some online classes to make sure you actually enjoy programming and it’s something you like first. While I know it’s tempting to change your life and start learning a new skill- make sure you like it/can do it first. Programming is not for everyone (and hey- if you like the idea of tech, there are lots of non-programming roles out there for you!)- you may decide after a class or two that perhaps an engineering adjacent role like Product Manager, or Designer is more for you. I recommend taking programming classes for a minimum of 3 months before diving headfirst into a bootcamp. Build some apps, make a website, and add some projects to your GitHub.
Additionally, I encourage you to explore roles other than “Engineer”. There are so many routes you can take! Personally, I went the Developer Evangelist/Developer Advocate route because of my performing arts background. There are also sales engineers, support engineers, technical writer roles, product managers (think stage manager- but for tech), designers, UX engineers, etc. Do your research, and figure out what direction you want to go based off your interests! There’s no “one path” to engineering.
Ok, and now for some links!
I’m sorry we can’t meet irl/chat on the phone- but enjoy these articles and podcasts! It’s a lot like chatting with me irl, but instead it’s in your ear and you can do it while you commute or fold laundry. 🙃
*I’ll try to update these often, but I add/update these regularly in the About Me section of my LinkedIn.
IT Career Energizer Podcast- about my transition to tech ++ advice to those looking to get into tech
1 Million Women in STEM- details about what I do/advice on being a woman in tech
Teach the Geek- Details about how I got into evangelism/dev relations ++ public speaking advice
DremeTeme Origins- advice on how to conquer the fear of public speaking and how to advocate for yourself when looking for jobs.
Also, for more inspiring tales of transitions from tech from non-traditional backgrounds, check out Catherine Meyers’ talk from RubyConf (she’s a opera singer turned engineer), my friend Elaine Yeung’s Twitter, my friend Shannon Kendall’s podcast episode, or listen to any episode of the Advance Your Art Podcast ++ Breaking Into Startups Podcast.
I also have a whole bunch of blogs on Medium as well, and write on there pretty frequently about bootcamps/tech/feminism/etc: