The harrowing tale of how a 90s robot saved me from a life of bad acting
Christmas morning 1998 my sister and I woke up to the most exciting of all Christmas surprises- our dad had gotten us the hottest toy of the season, furbys.
The novelty of the toy wore off rather quickly, in 1998 it didn’t exactly work as it was advertised. This meant it was only a matter of months before I ripped the skin off my furby and started dissecting its innards, you know, like any normal, well-adjusted 10 year old.
I never really thought much of my furbys after that (sorry dad), but it showed my dad something important: I was going to be an engineer. Thank god my dad realized this because I sure didn’t. In fact, that ignorance was true bliss. I thought I was going to be in theater. Yes, for real.
Since I had my true “artist’s” calling, computers stuck around as something fun, a hobby. All throughout middle and high school I signed up for every computer class, without any sense of intimidation or fear of the “nerd” label, I was already a drama geek after all. I liked computers, I was good at computers, computer class was just where I belonged. That is- when I wasn’t scraping together hoop skirts for Annie Get Your Gun. The amazing thing is that I actually wasn’t that great at computers, I just thought I was, and I had an opportunity to play around with them when it didn’t feel like my future was on the line.
Thankfully when I got to the University of Washington in Seattle I finally realized my true love was right under my nose all along, and switched into engineering my sophomore year. Also, this side of high school a “career in the arts” started to look a lot less exciting and a lot more exhausting. By junior year I was officially an Electrical Engineering major.
Learning to code opened up a path to a career where I could build anything I could think up, and where I was going to have more job offers than I would know what to do with (something drama major Kasey knew was not in her future). I was the first person in my family to go to university, and thanks to computer science I was going to be the first person in my family to have a real career. A career that meant I could pay for my own schooling, and my sister’s schooling, and help out my family when the economy crashed in 2008.
When I was first learning to code it KICKED MY BUTT, but figuring out the solution made all the struggle worth while. I loved that feeling when it all finally worked. I loved it so much I decided to help teach other students, I became a TA for the Introduction to Computer Science courses.
This experience ended up having an even bigger impact than my degree, because now I am not just an engineer, but also a teacher! I teach computer science at Franklin High School in south Seattle. For the last 3 years I have been teaching computer science each morning before work as part of the TEALS program, and it is the. absolute. best. It is impossible to have a bad day, just look how awesome my students are.
Teaching is the best part of my day, but regardless of how fun it is I am a teacher for one very specific reason. My education changed my life, actually, it changed my whole family’s life. I work in an industry where we are desperate for talent, and yet students are not being prepared to take advantage of these opportunities.
For me, technical education has become synonymous with economic empowerment, and I will stop at nothing to make sure that every student who wants it- gets a chance at that opportunity.
The most incredible part is how my passion lead me to my new job. After working as a software developer for years I joined Microsoft Learning, where now I develop computer science course ware to make sure that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT can learn the skills that will help them be successful in the jobs of the future. Did I mention this course ware is available for students for free? #dreamjob
This blog will discuss different things I see as someone who works in two industries: tech and education. I hope that it starts a dialog between people who are passionate about how tech can improve education, and how education can build opportunities in tech. I believe firmly that we all need to be fully invested to make sure that we build a more qualified, creative and inclusive tech industry. An industry where I get to bring all parts of myself to the table, and I know I am not the only one who has blended multiple passions into this diverse field of opportunities.
It’s time more students saw the tech industry like I do: somewhere you can build a career around ALL your passions.
Let’s get to work!
Keep an eye out for more stories from Kasey every other Tuesday as she tells stories from both the classroom and the tech industry.