Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: crossings

the gig is up

wocintech stock - 42

photo via #WOCinTech Chat

I landed my first coding gig!!

Long-time readers know that my job search started out with a bang back in November, marinated a bit over the winter holidays, and then resumed in full force these past few months.

Throughout it all, I had some heartbreaking near-misses and some real low points of thinking, “this will never happen for me.” My instructor helped connect me to a potential contract project that didn’t quite get off the ground but led me to develop a cool app anyway. I flirted with some near-coding opportunities like writing code school curriculum and Salesforce development before narrowing my criteria for what I’m looking for. I met other kind and well-meaning people who made a bunch of introductions, and followed those rabbit trails where they led.

And thanks to one of those introductions (which happened not as a result of going to meetups, though I did that too, but rather the practice of “find and follow cool people on Twitter” which I have been doing for YEARS), I met the team at ReadyPulse, a Bay Area/Redmond-based startup where I start Tuesday as a Ruby on Rails development engineer in test.

I’m so excited that I’ll get to continue to work in Rails, expand my knowledge of software testing, work closely with the client support team to understand and troubleshoot issues, and work with a small development team to ensure new features behave as expected with full test coverage. And at a market rate!! (Add to the heartbreaks: the company that wanted to pay me $35k a year to join them as a junior developer, and the company that rejected me from their job seeking site.)

As is not unusual in this biz, I’m starting out on contract for three months, with potential to convert to a salaried position (and possibly move from testing into feature development at that point) if we both agree it’s a good fit.

Some highlights from the interview process:

  • After being e-introduced, the VP of Engineering invited me to come to the office and after some chit-chat he had me do a whiteboard exercise where I built a simple Rails application. This was actually my first whiteboard experience outside of the Code Fellows practice environment, and it went really well. My interviewer was patient, supportive, helped when I got stuck, and didn’t ding me too badly for some minor syntax errors. After I got home, I built the actual app and sent him a link to a Pull Request so he could see 1) I know how to use GitHub and isolate my code changes in readable fashion and 2) that I paid attention to what we talked about and had the follow-through to create a functioning app.
  • He replied that the app looked good, and did I have any tests for it? So I added tests.
  • I did a second whiteboard exercise with the CTO that was similarly positive and even a little bit fun. At one point I was doing the talk/think out loud thing and I told him I couldn’t remember if Ruby hash supported the “shift” function and he was like, “oh, you can look it up on your phone if you want.” And I was like, “SERIOUSLY?” And he was like, “yeah, real programmers use Google. Go for it.”
  • When my interviewer was discussing the position with me, which involves writing tests and quality assurance for two versions of their software, I asked him “how’s your technical debt” LIKE A TOTAL BOSS and he was like “oh, good question,” and his response led me to a deeper understanding of the situation and excitement to take on the challenge. It is a giant milestone to know enough to ask good questions.

There’s still a lot of unknowns in the future, but I consider this a big step towards the career I want to build as a developer. I’m grateful to Code Fellows for my training, to my partner Josh for supporting our family during this transition, and to friends new and old who cheered for me along the way! I’m gonna keep building my network and do my best to help other new coders find opportunities to get into industry quickly — there’s no better way to keep learning than on the job.

I had one of these to celebrate and I invite you to join me!

Root beer float


you can go home again

This morning I was copied on an email from some new colleagues at the Collaboratory about a grant application one organization is looking at, asking if I might be available to help, and I just about fell out of my chair with excitement. My initial response was something like this:

“Yes, YES let’s look to see who else they fund and what programs might overlap with their giving priorities oh and by the way have you heard about this other funding opportunity coming up, someone should look into that, I can do it if no one else is, and also do you have a board? and a strategic plan? what’s the vision statement? what’s your Big Goal? how soon can we start? yesterday?”

…and then I toned it down because, do not scare away the nice non-profiters, Mary. It’s something of a relief to have this reaction as opposed to throwing my phone across the room: it reinforces the “yes, AND” narrative (yes I am good at my past work and I enjoy it, AND I want to try this other thing now that I think I could be good at, too) as opposed to a position of “Hell no, I’ll never go back, Coding or Bust.” It is nice to know something about something, and be acknowledged for it.

Fundraising may be immensely more satisfying to undertake as a volunteer operation though, we’ll see, or maybe it’s my True Calling and I just need some time away. I have yet to encounter a career that would not benefit tremendously from adopting the professional norm of “sabbatical time.”

hello world

On a related note, I’m reaching a point in my coding progress where the beginner stuff is too easy but the leap to more advanced work is still beyond my grasp. It’s hard. Other people seem to “get it” faster than me. They explain it and I still don’t get it. They explain it again and I feel obliged to say “ohhhhh….” And they say: “Do you understand now?” And no, I still don’t understand, but I say “huh” or “maybe” or “let me tinker with it some more, this has been helpful.”

The process is humbling and, whatever comes of it, I can’t imagine that more people wouldn’t benefit from such an experience.

the plan, part 1

Happy new year, friends!

happy new year!

I hope your 2015 is off to a great start. I love the opportunity to reflect on a year well lived, and look down the long, blank slate of a new one. This year is especially dear to me because not only am I headed back to school this month (so to speak), I am also getting married in May, an occasion that will bring many of our friends and family together in a delightful, worlds-colliding event.

I’ve posted the first iteration of what I am calling The Plan, a ~40 hour / week program of self-study, MOOCs, and in-person classes wherein I will learn the foundation of coding and web development, and have the opportunity to work on solo and group projects to demonstrate mastery competence. I’ll talk more about how I chose each element when I blog about them in detail. There are SO MANY free and cheap resources for learning this stuff; I hope my experience can be a resource to someone else just starting out and needing direction.

I don’t expect to be employable as a software developer in four months, and possibly not even in a year, but I do expect that I’ll have a better sense of what type of career I want to pursue working in technology (if any), how that might blend with my passions and previous work experience, and clear steps for moving forward.

the least qualified person to cross this street


No, you go first.

Taking a walk and it was time to cross the street. I asked Jones if he was ready and he said, “Mom, I am the least qualified person to cross this street.”

My friend Bonnie’s young son has a healthy sense of his limitations. Though as far as I can tell they crossed the street anyway (hands may have been held).

Last week I gave notice to my employer that I will be leaving in January, for a period of self study and learning towards the goal of working in technology. I’ve spent the last ten years working in education non-profit development (after three in a middle school English classroom) and have been contemplating a career shift for the last few. With all the attention these days on the need for gender diversity in the tech field, and ample resources for learning here in Seattle and online, it seems an ideal time for me and my transferable skills to take a leap!

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