In May of 2014, I graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and zero coding experience whatsoever. Now, I am a full stack software engineer who developed a Google Chrome extension within 2 days. How did I get here?
From Law to Sales to Recruiting
Like many of my classmates upon starting college, I thought I had my entire life planned out already. I was going to major in Psychology, apply to law school, and become a lawyer. I was so sure that practicing law was what I wanted to do that I planned out exactly what courses to take each semester. I like to plan ahead, and this plan was how I was going to get to my goal.
But as I went from one mediocre summer internship to another, I grew more and more doubtful of my plan. Law just wasn’t very exciting to me, and I wasn’t about to waste three years of my life learning more about a career that did not excite me. I abandoned applying to law school and upon graduation, I accepted a job offer as an Associate Sales Rep at Oracle. I had taken up a business minor during my senior year, and I thought that selling software for a major technology corporation such as Oracle would hold the most potential for career growth. It could even open doors for me beyond sales, perhaps to marketing or PR.
Within several months, however, I learned that there was not much mobility for the sales organization at Oracle. I could only move up into sales management, which I was not interested in, so I found another job as a technical recruiter. I thought that I could apply my communication skills obtained from my sales job to finding jobs for other people instead.
Yet before long, the work became repetitive and very reminiscent of my sales conversations at Oracle. Despite talking to different people everyday, I felt that I was doing the same thing and not learning anything new. I did not feel challenged and I missed being able to problem solve. So, I began to look for a career change completely.
But where would I begin? Up until a few years ago, I had always thought I would be in law school at this point. Instead, I was talking to software developers trying to find them their dream jobs while I was nowhere close to finding my own dream career. I talked to my peers, colleagues, friends, and family and listened as they discussed the joys and frustrations of their current jobs. I knew sales and recruiting were out for me, and I was never much of a marketing or PR person anyway.
What stood out to me most from these conversations was coding. The software developers I spoke with as a recruiter all conveyed coding as more than just a job. They enjoyed coding so much that they continued to do it beyond their daily jobs, creating their own applications, working on side products, and constantly learning new, open-source technologies. This was what I felt was missing for me between my two jobs. I wanted a new career, yes, but more importantly, I wanted a new lifestyle where I can continue to learn even after leaving the office everyday.
So now the question was: could I do this? Could I really become a developer even though I had no coding background?
I was a planner who had no life plan, and it terrified me to jump ship completely.
I started small — taking some online coding courses on Codecademy and Coursera to test the waters — and found that I really enjoyed it. From writing my first
hello world program to building a basic Battleship game, I realized I liked solving puzzles through coding and figuring out simple algorithms. I reached out to my developer friends for career advice. I learned about coding bootcamps and started doing some research on my own. Within three months later, I had applied to, interviewed with, and got accepted into Fullstack Academy of Code. I was going to become a software developer. And Fullstack was going to help get me there.
Fullstack and Beyond
The following 13 weeks of Fullstack’s Software Engineering Immersive Program were more than just difficult. Fullstack’s curriculum, like that of many coding bootcamps, was intense, time-consuming, and incredibly challenging. Yet, I loved every minute of it. From the daily pair programming sessions to the long hours of debugging, I felt that I was learning so much so efficiently. I mastered the NERP stack and by the end of the course, I had built a prototypal e-commerce website, developed a Google Chrome extension, and built a mental wellness mobile app.*
But this is not the end. As I graduate from Fullstack, I am excited to continue learning new technologies and building more apps in the years to come. I took the leap to become a software developer, and now I’m embarking on a new career path with many more exciting challenges along the way.
* To learn more about my projects and view my work, visit my website at www.jennyrchan.com.