Previously on…

Every website/blog needs a back story, right? What are we doing here? What is the point of this? Well, here it is.

I’ve actually had this domain for 16 years. It hasn’t always been active, but I’ve kept the domain registered. I first got it a couple of years after we got a PC in the house for the first time, and I came to realize that websites (especially such as they were back then) aren’t that difficult to make. After screwing around with some free sites for a while, I decided to just register a domain and start actually building my own.

I began by using Dreamweaver, but sooner than later graduated to writing a lot of my own code, although I still used Dreamweaver because the WYSIWYG preview window made it super easy to see that things were turning out the way I wanted them to.

In 1999, I moved to California, for the second time. Here in Seattle, I worked as a hairstylist. I went to cosmetology academy in 1992, and in 1993, I worked at a really high-end salon on Capitol Hill. I moved to California the first time in 1994, and quickly discovered that just getting a new license down there was a real pain in the ass, so I went back to work as a bookkeeper, which is what I had done for 3 years prior to getting my cosmetology license. When I came back to Seattle the first time, I went to work in a barber shop, and stayed there until the second move to California. Back in California again, I still didn’t want to deal with getting a new license, and I had a 2-year-old, so I became a “stay at home mom”.

It was during that time that I built many iterations of this site and many, many others. I learned a lot about CSS and JavaScript, and was even able to wrangle a job at a web design company, where I worked for a little over a year, and it was probably the best year of my life, as far as work goes anyway. I had to leave due to a family emergency, and a year later I was back in Seattle working at the barber shop.

It was fine for a while. That particular place was busy, so I made enough money to support myself and my son as a single mom, and it was fun. It was a really relaxed, funky atmosphere, we played all kinds of music loudly all the time, and I really liked a lot of the people I worked with.

Unfortunately, doing this kind of work is brutal. If you want to make any money, you work Saturday and Sunday, evenings, and in addition to your own full-time schedule, you pick up shifts and fill in for other people. I often worked 6-7 days a week, sometimes 12 hours in a single day, and a few times 20+ days in a row without a single full day off. On your feet all day, no scheduled breaks or lunch (take it where you can get it) and pressure to work ever faster takes a HUGE toll on the body. But even by the time things went drastically downhill in other ways, I hadn’t even realized how much physical damage had been done to my body.

I went on to open my own salon, and continued with the brutal schedule and became increasingly miserable. I met my current husband, and for a while, continued on with the grueling schedule. After a while, I realized that this wasn’t going to work for us – we never saw each other because I was always at work when he was at home, and we were eating takeout all the time because I wasn’t getting home until 7, and we quickly determined that he just isn’t an efficient enough cook for us to rely on his skills for every day meals. The house was a mess, we never had clean clothes…the list goes on.

Attributing the misery I felt to all of those things, I figured that simply changing my schedule would make everything better. And while taking Sundays off and switching to an earlier weekday schedule that had me home by 4:30 helped, I still dreaded going to work. For a while I attributed my discord to an unpleasant co-worker, and again, there was an improvement after we no longer worked together, but after a while, I began to realize that no amount of changes at that job was going to make me love going to work.

I felt/feel extremely intellectually under stimulated. The still inefficient manner in which I must schedule myself in order to accommodate clients in order to make any money is maddening. Even under the best of circumstances, I feel undervalued, as the physical damage done to my body prevents me from working more than 20 hours per week, so I can’t keep up financially with my husband or our friends. But most of all, I am bored.

I think a lot of people think that I must have it so great, only working half-time, and that I probably spend all that extra time sleeping and reading and watching tv, but that isn’t the case at all. I like being busy and active and am always occupying myself in some fashion or other. And I want to occupy myself with a more interesting career, one in which I can work full-time, and make a competitive wage, and be challenged and learn new things and be in a more interesting and fun and exciting atmosphere.

I’ve been trying for several years to get into another line of work, even attempting to go back to bookkeeping, but the job market here is VERY competitive, and hundreds of resumes sent out later, nothing has changed. I decided to look into going to school a couple of years ago, and made an appointment with a career counselor to discuss whether computer science might be a good option for me (because I love technology and really missed web development, but didn’t feel like my skill set was sufficient to get me a job) and what my finance and job placement options would be.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed by the length of time, inefficiency of a traditional college route, the expense, and the lack of any sort of job placement program whatsoever. I knew, even a few years ago, that women are very underrepresented in technology and programming, so I was shocked and dismayed to learn that there were no funding programs or any sort of real encouragement for someone like myself. I didn’t feel comfortable getting a student loan and going into debt. I really, REALLY wished there was a program in which I could just learn programming only, focus on that, not waste time on English 101 and all the other pre-reqs, etc.

I took some online courses, but as it turns out, they aren’t very practical or functional for a number of reasons. I heard about WC3 and some other online learning resources, but upon exploration at that time, I didn’t find them to have a lot of structure and it was very overwhelming without knowing where to start – what language was best to learn? What would I actually need to know and do to get a job? I had no idea, and continued to try to make the best of my job while I was trying to figure it out, but didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere.

In February of this year, I was at the end of my rope, willing to just about anything just to not have to deal with my current job anymore. And a day or two after I hit that wall, I came across a post on the Slog about Ada Developers Academy.

I couldn’t believe it. It was EXACTLY what I had envisioned should exist after I left that college interview in despair. A shorter, more intense program that focused on programming only, no other superfluous bullshit. It focused on ONE language, so it was clear and efficient. Best of all, it seemed geared towards people just like me – women, specifically ones wanting to make a career change. Tuition free, and BEST OF ALL – not only is the last part of the 12 month program an internship that gives you real life, on the job experience, but they have a job placement program.

I watched the info session, and learned that no college or experience was necessary, although having some experience with any sort of coding (even my limited HTML, etc.) seemed like a plus. It seemed too good to be true.

And it was.
I applied. The deadline was ten days after I discovered it, and I had to do a video, a logic test, a new resume’ – all kinds of stuff. And I really had no time to prepare. I thought I did pretty good, but they only had something like 25 spots available, and who knows how many hundreds of applicants. I was pretty depressed when I didn’t even get an interview. I literally did not eat, sleep or speak for several days. I was devastated.

However, once I’d gotten the wallowing out of my system, I started doing research. Although I still wish to re-apply to Ada the next time they are taking applications, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a couple of other in person code school/boot camps here in Seattle, as well as several others online. In addition to that, I found tons of online tutorials – way more than I did a couple of years ago, and not only are they ALL far more comprehensive than what I’d seen before, but many of the code schools I’m looking at offer suggestions for where to get started, and how to proceed from that point on.

So, I’ve set up a path for myself to prepare with self-education, and if I don’t get into Ada after applying a second time (this fall, from what I can tell) I will be applying SOMEWHERE else.

LSS: The purpose of this blog is for me to record my experiences as I self educate, and then at some sort of code school after. My next move is to add the self educate path that I’ve set forth for myself, as well as where I am on it thus far. I also have a lot of “extra-curricular activities” planned in the form of one-off classes that are available at various code schools, meetups, conferences, and open houses at code schools. Hopefully, by the time fall arrives, I’ll be prepared for whatever it is that turns out to be the right place for me to really learn.

Longer term: If I did get accepted to Ada, that would be my longest path, as they have the longest program, it would be roughly 18 months from now that I’d find myself in a new job. That’s the advantage to some all the other programs, that they are shorter, if more expensive (up to $20k.) Either way, I feel like I have a light at the end of the tunnel. It really helps me to document things, so…here we are.

Update: 7/24/15
After writing this, I attended an info session at Code Fellows. It felt really right to be there.
At that point, I still wanted to apply to Ada again, and planned to do so, and then apply to Code Fellows if that didn’t work out.
I hit another breaking point in May. I decided that I couldn’t really wait for Ada, I didn’t even know when there next application round would be, and the end of my rope was clearly in view. I applied to CF and was accepted. Of course, shortly thereafter, I received an email from Ada that the next round of applications would be due…Oh, I dunno, I think it was a few days ago now. I seriously considered, but ultimately decided that I’d made up my mind and I was sticking with my decision. I could have done the CF boot camp and then started Ada the following month (if I were accepted), but I felt like the window for taking that much time off of work had already passed.

I start Code Fellows in just over a week, and I am super excited and happy about it!

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