Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: life

laid off

Gentle readers,

I had planned to get back into tech blogging this January with the Code Newbie “blog more” challenge — but then everyone in my house got sick and would you believe I am still sick today — this is the bronchitis that keeps giving, I tell you.

I had also planned to start prepping for tech interviews to launch a job search sometime later this year. I have been happy working at ExpertVoice (formerly Experticity, formerly ReadyPulse) — where for two years I’ve been doing full-stack software development with a fantastic team. My hours and work location are flexible, I get to work on interesting projects, the snacks are plentiful, and the time off “unlimited.”

Job perks aside, I’ve always known that it wasn’t my forever job. My commute isn’t ideal, and the company is heavily skewed towards the outdoor industry, which meant that a large segment of clients are gun manufacturers (hunting and whatnot). They don’t sell guns directly, but they definitely help gun manufacturers sell guns and shooting accessories to military and law enforcement officers. This has never aligned with my values, and sometime after the mass shooting in Vegas, I remember thinking, crap, I have to find a new job.

You know… sometime.

all my free time goes to this kid

Anyway, an unexpected round of layoffs (30% of the company) has turned “sometime” into “right dang now” and I find myself facing down my nemesis, the tech interview. Just like finding a job out of boot camp, finding a(nother) job now requires dedicated and specific preparation. I took some baby steps at the end of last year and did a few interviews with little to no prep — and failed spectacularly. Apparently the fact that I have a few years of actual job experience, have built real software that people use, and can provide great references means nada if I can’t solve a specific technical challenge on a whiteboard or on a shared screen, while my interviewer watches, within the time allotted, which SPOILERS:

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and life happens, the sql

'hello world' baby bodysuit

shipping this October…

Hey there readers, it’s been awhile since I updated this site. Life’s been overwhelming (in a good way), and has required all my focus on one day at a time.

I started this blog in late 2014 a few weeks before quitting my job to document the journey of becoming a software engineer, and in some ways that story is now DONE — this July, after a year and a half of training and independent project work, I started a full-time position as a software engineer with Experticity, the company that acquired and merged with ReadyPulse, where I’ve been contracting for the last three months.

I went into that three-month contract under the following assumption: “This will be a great, foot-in-the-door way to get some industry experience, but temporary, because NO WAY are they gonna hire a career-changing pregnant (!!) junior developer on full-time.” This false assumption was debunked thusly:

  1. My pregnancy (which I disclosed early in the contract period, as soon as it was “safe” to do so, medically speaking) did not impact the decision to bring me on full-time, or not, which yeah yeah yeah I know it is “the law” but look, discrimination happens, and I’m grateful it turned out to be not an issue for me or my company.  My advice to others in a similar situation is to seek out a workplace where “family friendly” is a genuine part of the company culture — not just because they say the words, but where employees, including senior management, *have families*.
  2. I turned out to be not as junior as I thought — I’m on a steep learning curve and still have a ton to learn, but I’ve been able to contribute and add value to the company right away, while developing my skills as a software developer and engineer. From that point of view, the decision to continue on full-time was a no-brainer for me and the company. I credit this to my past professional experience, as well as my software training from Code Fellows and Kal Academy — where I not only learned Rails and algorithms, but more broadly: how to learn software, how to work on an Agile team, how to set up a development environment, how to debug, how to ask good questions, etc.

So, yeah… I am employed. And we’re pregnant! I’m 28 weeks along today, and due in mid-October.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others having a baby in the middle of a career change, but I wouldn’t not recommend it either — life happens when it happens. It’s gonna be tough to leave our little baby to return to work, and I’m incredibly lucky to be in a situation where I have exciting work ahead of me, both personally and professionally. (And a great spouse excited about it all, and a generous maternity leave courtesy of my job — oh look we’re hiring.)

The story is not done, of course — I want to keep writing about what I’m learning and doing to develop myself as a developer in these early stages. And about navigating this space as a new mom. A friend referred me to this Ruby on Ales talk titled “Baby Driven Development,” which is a fantastic 30 minute watch if you’re a parent, parent-to-be, or work with anyone who is.

Future posts will probably continue to be less frequent, and might go baby shaped for a while, but I still like making them, so thanks for reading. 🙂

2015 Year in Review

2015 was a banner year! It was a year focused on beginnings and new adventures: some carefully planned, some spontaneous, some scary, some sad, all worthwhile. I’m so excited to see where this year’s foundation takes us next year and all the years to come.

– In January, I quit my job, effectively pausing a decade-long non-profit fundraising career, to learn how to code. Since then, I’ve run the gamut of classes with Code Fellows, culminating with an 8-week intensive course in advanced web development in Ruby on Rails. I’m currently working with Code Fellows as a Teaching Assistant while looking for full-time opportunities as a software developer.


Code Fellows Ruby on Rails graduate class, October 2015

– We bought a house! I love our home in the heart of south Seattle’s Hillman City neighborhood. Living in a small space has forced me to focus on the things I own and what’s really valuable / brings me joy (yes I read that Kon Mari book). This was also the year I discovered Buy Nothing, which has made the process of giving away things I’m not using to people who want/need them much more enjoyable. We made some major (but un-fun) investments in things like securing the foundation. Next year I look forward to more aesthetic changes and improvements to make the house even more livable and enjoyable for us and our visitors.

Holiday spirit has arrived (yes it is wearing a lampshade hat and ready to party)

A photo posted by @marythought on

– I married my favorite person and we celebrated a joyous day with family and friends. Weddings are expensive, a headache, and come with a lot of familiar baggage, but I wouldn’t change mine for anything. The whole weekend was one of the best of my life. I especially loved how well Josh’s family and mine meshed together (a rare and wonderful thing).



– We spent three weeks traveling around Greece and Turkey on our honeymoon, chronicled here.



– Starts and stops in growing our family — after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy this fall, we were thrilled to be expecting again soon after and sadly lost the pregnancy around 8 weeks, after seeing a viable pregnancy with heartbeat at 6. This experience has opened me up to a fellowship of “it happened to me too,” and radicalized me on women’s reproductive rights issues. The decisions to pursue or terminate a pregnancy should be between a woman and her doctor, period. I believed it before and believe it even more strongly now, having experienced some of the conversations and experiences that some politicians would like to legislate.

– My first Twitterbot, focused on the women who served as code-crackers at Bletchley Park during WW2, just passed 100 followers! I’ve heard from the children and grandchildren of veterans with pictures and more information about their relatives. In learning how to code in python, I accidentally created something that enables people to share their stories– I love this, and it’s helped me focus my programming goals on the desire to engage with work that’s both fun for me and valuable to a broader community.


– I kept this blog alive for a year! Happy birthday, blog. I wasn’t sure how programming-focused I could keep the posts while still maintaining a readership and personal interest, but those have turned out to be some of my favorite posts. (I do appreciate that you let me blog about things like my honeymoon though, and I plan to keep doing that!) Some personal blog highlights:

My biggest goal for 2016 is to find sustainable work as a developer — so here’s a link to my resume, if you can help. Cheers and happy new year to you and yours!

the unhappy path


Mount Rainier as seen from Seward Park, 9/9/15

(Heads up: this post deals with a health issue of a personal nature, invoking a metaphor from my experience learning Behavior Driven Development (BDD) testing. I felt it was important to share my experience, not only with friends and family but with others, internet searchers, who might be facing something similar. If that makes you uncomfortable or seems too intimate based on our limited relationship, feel free to give this one a pass.)

In my class we’ve been studying behavior-driven development (BDD), a relative of test-driven development (TDD), which takes an approach of: let’s write tests first that describe how we want our app to behave, and then write the code to make those tests pass.

So for example, here’s a simple test excerpt for the main section of my in-progress portfolio page:

feature "CanAccessStaticPages" do
  scenario "on the index page" do
    visit ""
    page.must_have_content "Mary Dickson Diaz"
    page.wont_have_content "hookers and blow"

You can program your tests to click on things and fill in information to test, say, posting a blog post, or a log-in/log-out function. “Or you could just go click on stuff and see if it’s working” –yes but writing the tests in advance, and keeping them updated, saves immense developer time and energy over time, over changes, and when coding on teams and to scale.

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protest bots

I have to share this great new tool from dream team Darius Kazemi and DeRay Mckesson:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.58.22 PM

If you follow, it will say something aspirational about you. Later, it will become a tool for prominent social activists to respond to onslaughts of people asking the same questions, trolling, or parroting misinformation.

I’ve been pretty sad the past few days following the Sandra Bland story, so I’m thrilled to see this marriage of technology and activism as something somewhat “in my wheelhouse” and hope it will lead to more projects and collaborations.

Also notable:

  • Block Together — required for intermediate+ Twitter users. Share your blocked accounts with trusted contacts and follow theirs for automatic blocks of hateful, misogynistic accounts (see this tweet to get started).

on motivation and timing

Hey folks, this is a short, feel-good post.

I’m halfway through my Ruby II class and I’ve completed all the homework exercises.

_All of them._ Two weeks ahead.

I’m now working on the development accelerator (DA) application challenges, which are going to be challenging, but seem entirely doable.

I’m light years ahead of where I was halfway through the Python II class. If you’re considering taking a Code Fellows Foundations II class (or any coding class), you might be interested to know WHY this one is going so much better than the last. So here are a few of the contributing factors, as far as I can tell:

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real life is surreal

What a welcome back from our honeymoon!

I’m feeling pretty mushy about marriage anyway, so if you had some dust in your eye for a moment there, I join you.

We got home late Wednesday and yesterday I had my first Ruby class with Code Fellows. There was some confusion about the dates (I missed the first class), so I got started thinking that I had until Monday to get caught up, and then, surprise!, learned that class was actually that evening. I over-prepared though because I did the assignment that everyone else in the class was told to wait on. Despite that initial snafu: so far, so good. I peeked ahead and am pretty excited about some of the assignments to come, most of which come from the text we’re using, Learn to Program by Chris Pine. Also, this class is scaffolding a lot of the github interaction, which, thank God, because if you get that wrong in the beginning it just makes everything miserable.

Before class, I stopped for coffee over in South Lake Union and was struck by an awesome sense of accomplishment. Here in this mundane moment, on a beautiful day in Seattle, I was doing something very familiar, back to a routine and a path I started much earlier this year. It’s like I was rolling along, and then had this period of “brb, gotta go be a superhero for a month” — and I did (we did) — and now I’m back, feeling stronger and fortified, even though I and everything look exactly the same. I still have all the images, memories, and adrenaline of our wedding and honeymoon rolling around in my brain, but I’m the only one who can see them. Life moves on, but not in a sad way. More like: “holy crap, that actually worked. nothing broke, and everything’s better.”

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& life happens

20150506_104544 20150506_104551

Oh, hello May! I didn’t realize it had been quite that long since my last update. I’ve been a little busy. Right now in fact I am updating this blog instead of working on my vows, because, I am a procrastinator (and so can you!).

Hang on, though, I did complete the Treehouse and Code Academy Ruby tutorials this month before house and wedding stuff got the best of me:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 12.49.53 PM


It’s going to be a system shock, but I have taken steps to prepare for my Ruby Foundations II class which begins immediately when I get back from our honeymoon, in fact I am missing the first class. (SEE Future Mary — I am trying to look out for you. I’m sure you’ll be fine. You got this.)

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calm before the storm

First, something easy:

I logged in to twitter tonight to catch this total bullshizz. A re-tweet from “import python” and Guido van Rossum (which I clicked through to read and thought “aww, that’s a little hokey, but ok”) and subsequent calls to remove the tweet and its content from the plagiarizing site. Turns out some dude stole Anna’s ‘love letter’ in its entirety and republished on his blog. With no attribution. With *self attribution* (it was signed ‘love, Milap’). And the retweet (not of Anna, of the plagiarizer) got like 50 twitter “favorites” since this Guido guy has 61k followers.

This little blog here isn’t very big (my follower number is in the dozen, yes that’s singular) and partially for that reason I would be furious, *fur-i-ous*, if someone were to appropriate my content as their own and get amplified for it.  All has been corrected, and YAY for that, but it still hit home, and hard.

So, if you use twitter even casually, give Anna a follow, or check out her blog wherein she highlights a diverse group of women (including black and Latina women) who use python and django.  So cool.

The storm? That’s coming tomorrow, when a bunch of dudes arrive to re-level our house. Presumably with us and our stuff in it. Our little house, built in 1919 (I still cannot wrap my head around that number) has been through so much, and tomorrow we’re paying some people a lot of money (so much money, I can’t wrap my head around that number either) to make sure it doesn’t fall down for the next 30 years. A few weeks ago they called me, and offered, for just a few hundred dollars more, to guarantee their foundation work on the house for *50 years* instead of 30, and I may have just laughed at the guy because in my head I was thinking “certainly we’ll all be dead or living below ground by then” and, less fatalistic, “whoever we sell this house to is not going to care about 30 vs. 50 year guarantee.” (And they haven’t called me since then! Now they call Josh.)

But time marches on, with or without us. Here’s some dirt I dug up on our new digs using the Seattle Times historic archives (library card may be required):

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