Pregnant and Pivoting

Starting a quest to be a full-stack mom


My name is C.R. Berry, and I’m pregnant and pivoting.

Having a baby on the way is one of those things that can make you completely re-evaluate your life and every plan you’ve had up until now. Intellectually, I knew that would be the case long before my husband and I were expecting, but having a due date made things much more real! With that in mind, a few months ago my husband and I each started our own journeys to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives that would be conducive to the family we want to have, and how to get there. And my introspection led to full-stack.

Where I’ve Been

Before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start with what I’ve been up to until now. I graduated from UCF in 2010 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. For the 50% of you who have no idea what industrial engineering is, it can be summed up as taking products and processes that other engineers have designed and making them better: more efficient, more cost-effective, and higher quality. Mostly the realm of IE is dealing with manufacturing processes and long-established systems that need reworking. I’ve always been a problem-solver and puzzle-lover, so the degree was totally up my alley.

Final assembly processing for some of the gas turbines I worked on. (Photo from ect.coop)

In college I had several internships that got my feet wet in the “big industry” world. After doing research for my department for a year, I shifted into a Lean Manufacturing internship at Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control. It was awesome. We worked on all of the avionics and guidance systems for Apache helicopters, and was totally a dream job. Alas, the internship ended and I had to find something else to do, so I started an industrial engineering internship with Mitsubishi Power Systems instead, and finished out my college experience making the manufacturing process of ridiculously large gas turbine engines more efficient.

After I graduated, I kept a part-time remote contracting position helping with production data analysis for Mitsubishi and took off traveling the world. I spent a month backpacking in Europe and finally settled in Israel for nine months or so, with the exception of a random trip to Denmark and Sweden halfway through. Traveling was an amazing experience and one that I look back at often as inspiration for keeping an open mind and a reminder to not let life get boring.

When I got back to the States (still working part-time at Mitsubishi), I spent a few months with my family in Florida before deciding to give the “big city” thing a try. I packed up a uHaul and my dad and I road-tripped up the east coast to a tiny studio in Brooklyn that I would call home for the next 7 months. It was supposed to be a year, but I found a guy I really liked, and we got married ;)

The whole part-time thing was nice when I was single, but married life demands more stability and I quickly found a job with the Journal of Commerce’s data branch, PIERS. While I was comfortable around data and analysis, being in a purely data-focused company was a huge shift for me. There was a lot of technology to learn, and this ended up being my first real foray into programming languages other than the VBA Macros I had gotten very good with at Mitsubishi. I had to quickly teach myself all about MSSQL servers and how to edit and create some massive SQL queries and jobs. Turns out I’m a quick learner when it comes to programming languages.

A boss at PIERS noticed how quickly I had become a subject-matter-expert in SQL and decided to throw me in the deep end. I was transitioned to our core development team and had a bucket of cold water thrown on my head with a completely new (to me) Java/Eclipse environment and all sorts of projects dealing with Amazon EC2 and S3 and APIs and more acronyms than I had ever seen before. It was a sink or swim experiment to see if I could keep up, and fortunately I learned to swim pretty quickly ☺ Before long, I was the technical lead on a massive project to rebuild our data ingestion and storage process from the ground up. It was a great experience and was going really well, but life happens.

Where I Am Now

My husband and I having a picnic on Santa Monica beach.

My husband and I decided to move to California for his job. I worked remotely at my job with PIERS for a few months to wrap up what little work remained of the ingestion redesign, but the team wasn’t built for distribution. After the project concluded, I joined my in-laws’ family business (a boutique concierge-level travel agency, they’ll hook you up if you need a nice vacation) to help out with some tech problems they were facing. The last 6 months or so have been filled with server maintenance, software installation, training not-so-tech-savvy employees on new industry roll-outs, and other random IT-oriented projects… It helps pay the bills, but it’s never been something I wanted to do the rest of my life.

Which brings me to now…

Ever since moving here, I’ve been fascinated by the Silicon Beach startup culture. As someone with a natural inclination to push boundaries and try new things, the startup scene here is really attractive. I go to events at General Assembly and CrossCampus just to soak in the vibe and get a taste of what everyone’s up to, but I didn’t really consider startups as something I would actively try to get into… until a few months ago. That’s when we found out that we’re expecting, and all sorts of things started changing.

To me, being able to stay at home and actually raise my own children is a huge priority. While more traditional industrial engineering positions are fun, they aren’t exactly conducive to distributed teams. Manufacturing a physical product usually requires being physically present, I get it. So when I started brainstorming ideas of things I could do that would be intellectually engaging, personally satisfying, and financially viable, all while still allowing me to spend more time around the kid we’re about to have, the remote-friendly and super-flexible startup culture was the first thing that came to mind.

There’s just one problem… I’m not a developer, I’m an industrial engineer.

At least I have been up until now. I did my research. I checked out the kinds of jobs that are available at the kinds of companies I want to work at, awesome distributed teams like @buffer, @harvest, and @helpscout. I looked at the positions they’re hiring for and the languages and platforms they use the most. And then I decided to dive headfirst.

I’ve always been good with logic and analysis, now I’m determined to be better. I’ve always learned quickly, now I’m determined to learn faster. I’ve always pushed myself to go all the way with anything I’ve decided to do, and now I’ve decided to be a full-stack developer. And I’ve decided to pivot my career into startup development while 7 months pregnant.

A little crazy? Yes. But if a baby on the way isn’t great motivation to get things done right and quickly, I don’t know what is ;)

I’ll be tracking my journey to full-stack mom here on Medium. Feel free to follow along for the ride!