Why I Decided to Pursue Software Engineering Instead of Clowning

From clown to budding software engineer

In the summer of 2014, I sent a good-bye email to my colleagues at a tech company in SF, telling them that I was quitting to go to clown college and that after that, I was going to do improv for a living. Then, four years later, I graduated from FullStack Academy of Code, excited to start my career as a software engineer.

What the *** happened?!

The short answer is, “a l*t.” Here’s the gist of it.

I moved to Chicago in 2015 to continue pursuing improv and performing. Once here, however, I found that this path—chasing improv and acting as a career—did not align with who I wanted to be or how I wanted to spend my time. Also, and most importantly, it wasn’t fun, so what was the point?

At the same time, I started going to ChiHackNight. There, I met wonderful people that I respected and admired who were involved in a wonderland of software engineering and data nerdery. Through a connection there, I picked up some tech writing assignments where I got to write pieces on topics like deep learning and other big data-y things, which I found fascinating. And while improv was interesting, this other stuff seemed magical and limitless.

It was clear that something needed to change. I could either keep on pursuing an outdated dream and ignore the new data, or I could pivot.

I chose to pivot.

At least, I chose to explore the option of pivoting. I took an online course called Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python. My summer nights of 2017 were haunted by MIT Professor Eric Grimson, whose wise visage first introduced me to the word “foo.”

Not only was an online course in computer science the perfect summer hobby for a broke, single gal—it was honestly, actually fun. It was so satisfying to think analytically, to systematically break problems down and build solutions piece-by-piece, and to ponder data structures and abstraction. I wanted more, and I wanted it full time. So I started studying to get into FullStack, which would act as a launchpad for a new career.

Roughly one year later, I found my time at Fullstack to be a rewarding, creative, enriching, and challenging experience. It doubly confirmed what I had already been thinking: that I really enjoy programming, working with others, and hunting bugs (especially all three together).

Now I have graduated and am excited to begin the real-life portion of my journey as a software engineer, bringing with me my career’s past iterations as a writer, editor, and marketer.

In improv, you have to react to reality as it is created. You can’t ignore what happens on stage and push an idea that you had about how things were going to be before the scene started. At least, you can’t do that and expect it to go well. That’s why I couldn’t stick with my old dream anymore—the reality on the ground had changed, and I needed to change with it.

To other bootcamp grads or people who have made a significant life change or are in the process of making it, I have this to say: Other people may be confused when you change what you want. But isn’t that the point of life (or one of them at least)? To learn, grow, and change? Why shouldn’t you take new information into account and update accordingly? Consistency is great for breathing but it does not apply so easily to everything. Let’s keep it where it belongs.

I am lucky to have chased my dream of improv and found that it is not what I wanted. I am lucky to have gotten involved in ChiHackNight and had the opportunity to learn more about the tech world. And I am lucky to be where I am right now.

All this to say, I’m looking for dev roles in Chicago. I have an interesting background and a wide range of experience that will enrich many different types of teams, and I can’t wait to get to work. Don’t hesitate to reach out if that sounds like something that you’re looking for.

You can find me on github and on LinkedIn and on Tuesdays at ChiHackNight, and please forward your app ideas that you’d like me to build to ur.butt@gmail.com.

P.S. Check out Pothole Patrol, my team’s final project we built at FullStack. It’s a suite of apps designed to help turn Chicago into more city and less pothole. You can see our code here and a video below.

P.P.S. If you watched any of that video, you know that I will always and forever be a clown.