Hello world!

Thank you for joining me on here. You are reading the first of a series of blog posts for my CS 467 class.

For this initial post, I’ll provide some background about myself and how I taught myself how to code.

I first developed an interest in web development as a high-schooler. I learned basic HTML/CSS from in order to prettify my pages on Neopets. I thought it was fun but it didn’t even cross my mind to think about working with the web as a career. It was not until long after I started working at a tech startup in San Francisco that I started thinking how cool it would have been if I had studied computer programming instead of anthropology in college. 

The lightbulb moment happened as a result of a company perk. Each quarter, employees received a certain number of hours that they could dedicate towards professional development. A group of us banded together and said we wanted to learn how to program and so, every Friday at 3 pm, we’d huddle in one of the conference rooms and watch Treehouse videos for an hour while drinking copious glasses of wine. I’m not sure how much I learned from those particular sessions but that’s where my interest really started to take hold. After work and on the weekends, I started to spend time on websites like CodeAcademy. I wasn’t really entirely sure of what my goal was, but learning how to code was fun and a better way to spend my time than watching TV. 

On a whim, I learned about a year-long coding bootcamp for women in Seattle. I applied and I got in, and that’s when I finally realized that a career change was possible. I took this information back to my manager, and my company pitched an alternative: instead of quitting and moving away to Seattle, why not stay at the company and learn on the job? In other words, if you want to be a software engineer, we’ll teach you while paying you

I will forever remember that decision as a pivotal moment in my life. I was at a crossroads — I could stay loyal to my company in San Francisco, continue to receive a guaranteed paycheck while safely exploring a new career option, and commit to a future with my boyfriend or I could leave to Seattle, risk my career and my relationship for unimaginable opportunities.

I decided to stay. 

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision, especially looking back on the five years since then. Mostly because, it was really difficult trying to learn “on the job” because I did not have a strong foundation in computer science fundamentals. Sure, I knew the basics of programming, but I didn’t have any knowledge of data structures, algorithms, networking, or in general, how computers and the web worked. Any success that I had experienced felt invalid in the face of that realization. Imposter syndrome hit hard.

I started thinking, maybe I needed to learn another way. I quit my job in 2017 to go on an extended honeymoon and with that, I set off on a journey to really discover what I wanted to do and importantly, how I wanted to do it.

I tried it all — I took online community college courses, took other online courses via Coursera and EdX, and took a 3-month in-person coding course in Kuala Lumpur. Although they were all helpful and was inching towards progress, everyone learns differently, and my learning plateaued. What I wanted most was a form of structured learning and  a clear learning path that started from the beginning. I applied to a Master’s in Computer and Information Technology program (meant for those without a Bachelor’s in Computer Science). I didn’t get in and I became depressed. I took time off from my learning and started to explore other career options. If only I could have gone back in time and chosen Computer Science as my major!

Well, it’s not possibly to go back in time, but I discovered that it was still possible for me to get a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, specifically through Oregon State University’s post-baccalaureate program. Suddenly, the missing puzzle piece was clear to me. The program had everything I was looking for — a structured learning plan of rigorous and challenging courses, a supportive community of students and staff, and the opportunity to re-define my college experience with a field of study I was passionate and curious about.

I applied. I got in.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how I planned to make my Oregon State experience successful.

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