As I start my last term at Oregon State University, I keep thinking about three things:
- My former career as a teacher.
- The pandemic and how it pushed me to take this leap into CS.
- How excited I am to start my new career AND how relieved I am that I made this choice to leave one career to start a whole new journey!
Let’s address my first thought: my life as a teacher. I worked in the education system for almost 10 years with most of my career spent as a Reading Specialist/ Intervention teacher in Title 1 (high poverty) school districts. While teaching had many rewarding moments, it also had many tough moments, especially working with students who had experienced many traumas in their young lives. I don’t ever regret teaching as it taught ME so much, but I also don’t miss it and feel like I am now entering a career that is more suited to me. With that said, maybe I would not appreciate the science of programming if I had never been a teacher. I definitely learned how to manage time, stress, and problem solve as an educator which are skills that go hand in hand with programming.
“How did you go from teaching to programming? It seems like a big jump?!”
A question I get a lot is “How did you go from teaching to programming? It seems like a big jump?!” Well, like any good (love) story, it all started when I began dating my husband. At this point in my career, I was getting burnt out but also bored with teaching. Even though every day was different, I was not feeling challenged cognitively anymore but had no idea of what I wanted to do next to fill that void. When I meant my now husband, he was coding and developing iOS apps. I immediately (like 2nd date) asked “Hey, can you show me how to code?”. The next day I downloaded Xcode, and from there he started to give me little coding assignments to do in Swift. I started to develop a reading fluency app (that I never finished but was still good practice!) and began to dive deeper into Swift. I thought to myself “I think I really like this!”.
It’s March 2020 and I’m still teaching full-time and dabbling in programming on the side.
Fast forward to about a year later: it’s March 2020 and I’m still teaching full-time and dabbling in programming on the side. I started to take a very long Swift boot camp course on Udemy earlier in the year and am about mid-way through it. If you haven’t connected the date yet, this is when the pandemic begins which brings me to my second thought: how the pandemic pushed me to take the leap into CS. I remember getting notice that school would be shutting down for a week and like most of us, never imagined that it would turn out to be indefinitely closed. I don’t remember exactly how far into the shutdowns we were when my husband and I discussed my going back to college for Computer Science; all I remember is one of us saying “Well, if you are going to do this, now seems like the ultimate time.”
And of course, there is that sneaky self-doubt voice saying, “What if you fail?”
I researched a ton of programs including popular coding boot camps and read a ton of student reviews on Reddit. Being that I had former degrees as an educator, OSU’s post-bacc CS program seemed to be the best fit for me so I applied, got accepted, and started courses in the Fall of 2020. To say I was nervous and scared is an underestimate! I kept thinking to myself, “I am comfortable as a teacher and know my craft so well, why would I leave to start completely over?!” And of course, there is that sneaky self-doubt voice saying, “What if you fail?” or “What if you hate it and are making a horrible decision?”.
I know I am where I am supposed to be.
This brings me to my 3rd thought: how excited and relieved I am that I made the CORRECT choice to leave one career and start a new one. My first term was not easy and I may have shed a few tears on some of those early programming assignments, but there is NOTHING like the feeling of that moment when you finally get your (YOUR!) code to work. It’s magical! I knew after that first term that I made the right choice but was still scared of what lay ahead. Like many of us in programming, I often felt like an imposter but as the terms moved on, I gained more and more confidence in my skills as a programmer and now in this last term at OSU, I know I am where I am supposed to be.
“It (life) just looks like what in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel.“
As I start the latter part of this journey I keep thinking of a quote from Joe Walsh in the Eagles documentary, “You know, there’s a philosopher who says, ‘As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on? And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it doesn’t.”
I can’t wait to see what is written in the next chapter of my novel.