Big News Came!

So if you remember back in August I shared a post where I mentioned I’d be going underground for a bit. We can debate later how well I did, but now I can finally share what I’ve been up to!

I have waited patiently to share this news. I have thought about how I would share my joy and explain what’s in store for the future. I have waited in anticipation for the day I could say I was finally working as a Latina woman in tech!!!! That day has finally come!

(Enter 3000x more exclamation points!)

Starting February 28 I will have officially transitioned out of the marketing and sales team and will be moving into the IT department as a CRM Developer! It feels so good to say that. I will be a developer!

If you just opened this post to see what all the dancing and excitement was about you can stop reading. If you want to read about the path it took to get here and what’s in store for the future specifically professionally and personally, keep reading.

A year ago I came across this article- Why it’s never too late for women to get that engineering degree.  I read through it voraciously and excitedly. Ever since my son was born I spent a lot of time thinking about how most of my life will be spent at work, and because of circumstances and personal values it was going to always be that way, so if I had to be away from my son I wanted to at least do something I was proud of and excited to do everyday. I gravitated towards technology, but I had always felt I had missed out on my chance to get into IT  because my undergrad wasn’t in computer science.

But reading this article one thing had stuck out. This woman, mother of 3 children, single and without a technical background, entered and excelled in tech. I reached out to friends I had in the field, and asked how could I do something similar. Through my investigating and probing I heard about the Develop(her) program.

Develop(her) is a 3 month part-time program to teach women who’ve never coded before how to become a developer. It was 100% sponsored, so the participants didn’t pay anything for the class. Me, a single mom, living at home was jumping up and down thinking “Me! How can I do this? This has me all over it”.

Grand Circus in Detroit hosted this program but they didn’t offer that program in Grand Rapids …yet. I tucked away the advice, and for the most part went about my days without a real plan to transition. But I wasn’t happy where I was professionally. I didn’t see myself growing in sales long term, I wanted to do more technical things but didn’t have time to learn it on the job, nor the resources to go back to school. I started networking, asking how I could learn to use tools other coworkers in my organization used and went day to day without much of a plan for getting to where I really wanted to be. And then almost as if appearing out of thin air, the Develop(her) program came to Grand Rapids. I learned about it 2 days before the application deadline.

I submitted my application, prepared for the interview and waited. The day that they said they would get back to us came and went and dishearteningly, I figured I hadn’t gotten into the program. The next day I was sitting in the drive thru line for Starbucks when I saw the email. I had been accepted.

I literally shrieked. I shrieked and danced and shrieked some more. I knew that getting into this program was going to be the opportunity I needed to provide for my son and do something fulfilling.

Before I applied I had a conversation with my mom that being accepted meant I would need to lean on her, almost entirely. The program held class Tuesday-Thursday from 6-9pm immediately after work, and all day Saturday. It was 3 months of giving up my lunch to work on code, staying up late after everyone went to bed to work on code, waking up early to run so I wouldn’t lose my mind, preparing my lunches and dinners on Sundays and Mondays, and trying to get as much done during my hours away from my son, so that Saturday evening and Sunday’s could be all for him.

He missed me. Dropping him off at daycare in the mornings was excruciatingly painful. I missed being out in the sun. I couldn’t spend time doing anything leisurely because I already had limited time to work on code. My neck was sore from doing a desk job all day, coding and taking notes in class and coding more when I got home. And I was sick of all the microwaved food. It was as much an intellectual challenge as it was one of endurance.

Not only was I learning a technology I had zero experience with, but I was learning how to navigate networking in the tech field. If you remember I’m a self identified introvert, the word networking strikes panic in my heart. But I met with recruiters, I went to meet ups, I volunteered at events, I told HR and managers about my desire to transition into IT. I had no assurance that I would be employed, by anyone, much less be able to do any tech work.

develophers
Develop(her) Graduation-November 2017

But I kept pushing ahead, I applied to jobs. So many jobs. Not counting the resumes I sent to have someone look over, in case there was a fit. For over 6 weeks after I finished the program I heard back from essentially no one. And then things started picking up after the holidays.  11 phone screens and skype calls, 2 interviews got canceled, 5 in person interviews, 3 offers and accepted 1.

I didn’t just get a job in tech though, I also attained a mentor, a collaborative team, and lots of opportunity to grow. But I wouldn’t have gotten my dream position, had I not built a relationship with the person who is to become my manager. I articulated how much I wanted to learn, but he was also a person willing to mentor me, which doesn’t come around easily.

So I’m nervous and excited to start my new role, I’m sure it will stretch me in my abilities but I cannot wait for all the victories I will have every time I tackle another obstacle.

Personally, I’ll be working on developing my technical skills outside of work as well, I want to learn about mobile development on all platforms, I want to learn about developing for wearable devices, I want to be involved in teaching youth and people of color the opportunities a career in IT provides and I want to spruce up my website. And while I’m on the subject…this website….

It’s been dormant a long time,  August 2017 to be exact, when I started the Develop(her) program. I plan to be active again, now that I have security about what’s going on with my career. I will be sharing about the projects I’m working on, talk about growing as a professional, and probably still drop some poems and updates about my personal life.

I started this blog for one reason. When I decided to leave Chicago 2 years ago, I had come back with my tail between my legs. I had no home of my own, running out of money, no job and a child that was having a really hard time adjusting to all the changes. I looked every where about stories of how to build yourself back up when you’re at your absolute bottom. I read plenty of stories of perseverance but I needed the details, how did people find the motivation to get up every morning, how did they dig themselves out of desperation and hopelessness? I couldn’t find that story.

I didn’t have a plan for how I was going to come out of that situation, but I knew I wasn’t going to stop fighting until I figured it out. I wanted to write about being sad, and losing hope, and set backs that came up. I knew that some people wouldn’t like that I was being a “downer” by bringing it up, but I knew that someone might just need the reassurance that somewhere else in the world, someone else was having an equally hard time figuring it out. And I needed to put my thoughts in writing because letting them swirl in my head was poisoning my heart.

And that’s why I write honestly. Because at some level we put on a facade about how happy or successful we are. But the grit and determination to push through when you feel like you’ve failed time and time again, when you start believing maybe you are just a failure and don’t deserve happiness or a good job, or healthy relationships, those are the stories I need to hear. Those are the stories that remind me to get up again.

The weeks preparing for interviews, waiting to hear back and sharing the news were a roller coaster of emotions. There was all the stomach sickness from worrying, literally crying in a conference room praying before an interview, and the shock when I heard “you got the job” because I had sworn the interview had went horribly. After the initial euphoria wore off I thought, do I really deserve this? I remembered people who told me that I was going to fail my son, I remembered leaving Chicago, I remembered all the times I lost my mind and would think, have I grown enough to not mess this up, is this really the answer to my prayers? It’s wicked venom that tries to take the joy from a situation when things are going well.

And while I’m being honest here, while this job is a HUGE step for me, I still have a lot of other things to sort out. Climbing out from rock bottom takes time, dedication, and lots of tissues because you cry out of frustration working so hard for so long and not seeing any results from it. (Or maybe I’m just someone who likes to cry a lot) So what goals am I going to tackle next? Take a look:

  • Pay off the remainder of my student loans
  • Finish paying off Dory (my car)
  • Get my own place
  • Make a mom friend so Leo can have regular play dates
  • Run a marathon (I’m gasping as I write this but I keep talking about it and it needs to actually happen)

And I want to say one more thing, I cried out of frustration a lot (see likes crying from above), I dropped from mental and physical exhaustion, I felt the stress all over my body. And when I felt I couldn’t pick myself up and wanted to curl back into a hole, I had solid people who encouraged me not to give up when I received another rejection, when I was sure an interview had gone horribly, when I wanted to throw the phone from making my 100th phone call for the day. I’m still sorry you all had to see me so upset and yet you all were very understanding and nurturing. More than I could have ever asked. I’m eternally grateful for the role you’ve played in my life and for being with me for the ride. I love you all.

So 2018 is turning out to be pretty fan-tas-ti-amazing. (And yes I did just PG-d what I wanted to say and made a new word)

Besos,

Kari

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6 comments

  1. Kari, you are such an inspiration! Congratulations on all you have accomplished, I have no doubt that you will accomplish much more in the furure.

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  2. Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. Your journey is exactly the reason I work at Grand Circus. Anyone can be a developer, and it’s never too late! I am so glad you stumbled on that article… so glad that you saw the DEVELOP(her) program in Detroit… and even more glad that you had the opportunity to join it in Grand Rapids. Congratulations on the new careers! I’m so excited to continue watching your career in tech evolve and grow!

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  3. You are a rock star! I’m so glad I met you and the other Develop(her)s, and did our final project together! Congratulations on your new job!!!

    Like

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