Hey, you got a few minutes? Ok, let’s talk about The Plan.

In January, I quit my job to pursue a path in software development. I didn’t really know then that it was called “software development.” I’m still not particularly married to that job title or role, strictly speaking, but a lot of other roles stem from that one so it’s not a bad place to start.

(I am married to Josh, though! I wasn’t when I started. Pretty cool, huh?)

But be ye more educated than I:

credit Brandon Hays 2015 RubyConf talk, full slides here

Knowing very little about the tech industry, I made several key assumptions going into this journey.  In this post I’ll detail how these assumptions have panned out (and in a follow-up post I’ll talk about where things go from here).


  1. I can learn to code in a year
  2. I will be job-seeking in a year
  3. I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school
  4. As long as I can build software, the amount of math I’ll need to know is minimal
  5. An all-women learning environment is preferable to co-ed (but not a deal-breaker).
  6. MOOCs will be a great tech resource for learning computer science
  7. Meet-ups will be a great way to network, make connections, and find job leads

#1) I can learn to code in a year — TRUE

Definitely. In several languages, too. While there’s always more to learn, today I’m most fluent in Ruby, and proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript and Python as well. There’s a handful of other languages I can google my way through if necessary. As an additional consideration, the longer you spend coding, the more your code base builds. I rarely start a project from scratch these days, instead I’ll use something I’ve previously worked on as a starting template. And it boggles me that something that took forever to originally implement (adding remote JavaScript to a rails app, for example), takes a fraction of the time the second or third time through.

Learning a basic scripting language is a great place to lean on free and cheap online tools, like Code Academy, Treehouse, and Chris Pine’s Learn to Program. And I’ve been doing a lot of Code Wars to stay sharp on my code challenges. I really like Code Wars because after you submit a solution, you have access to everyone else’s solution to see other ways people solved the problem. Hugely helpful.

#2) I will be job-seeking in a year — TRUE-ish

I started sending out resumes the week after I completed the Ruby on Rails development accelerator with Code Fellows, and I’ve gotten a few phone interviews under my belt. Some of the women I met in Code Fellows have job offers already, so it’s definitely doable to land a job within a few months or less of “graduating.”


I sense this is going to be a longer process for me. I’m confident there’s an organization out there that will be a good match, but I feel like I’m missing a vital step: an internship. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I don’t think it’s a matter of me lacking confidence in my abilities or not understanding the market. If I were designing my own code school, I would absolutely include some type of professional internship or collaboration as a culminating step — something to bridge between student hobbyist and relevant industry experience. Some students accomplish this through contract work, and in fact I have a couple of contract opportunities informally in the works. It bums me out though that the majority of structured internships I’ve found are reserved for undergraduate college students. There’s also a technical interview dance that requires extensive training and preparation and that most people agree is hell on non-traditional candidates. But, I get it, I’m learning the dance.

So, job-ready? Yes-ish. Worry not for me! This is the hardest step so far, and it definitely makes me wonder how we can better ease this transition for career changers who are like “ok I did a boot camp, now what?” And I won’t be surprised if it takes me into the first part of 2016 to find a good match.

#3) I can tailor a program of free resources and paid classes for less money and time than the cost of graduate school — TRUE WITH CAVEATS

If I had gone the graduate school path, I would have chosen a local program that costs approximately $47,000 and lasts two years. I might have been able to get financial aid/student work during that time, but that’s the baseline (plus two years of no salary).

My actual costs, for a year of Code Fellows with 2 months full-time and 3 months part-time:

  • Foundations I class – $500
  • Foundations II class, Python – $1,400 (early bird plus $50 for required unix class)
  • Foundations II class, Ruby – $1,350 (early bird)
  • Ruby on Rails Development Accelerator – $3,000 (normally $10,000 with 70% covered via diversity scholarship)
  • Total: $6,250 

There were definitely other costs, textbooks etc., but based on pure tuition expenditures I got really, really lucky and am extremely grateful to benefit from that diversity scholarship. And the breaks in-between classes gave me time to get married and go on a dream honeymoon. So, no regrets.

Now for some bad(?) news: Code Fellows has restructured their course offerings, in what I hope will lead to a better overall student experience and offer more flexibility. That same path I took to go through their program will now cost you…

  • Code 101 – $99
  • Code 201 – $3,500
  • Code 301 – $4,500 (full diversity scholarship can cut this down to $1,350)
  • Code 401 – $12,000 (full diversity scholarship can cut this down to $3,600)
  • Total: $8,549 – $20,099 

And you can do it in six months if you go full-time and continually. So definitely apply to the diversity scholarship if you’re eligible; even without it, this can still be a cost-effective path. My hope is that the changes they’ve implemented will help with some of the job search rockiness I mentioned earlier, and some previous inconsistencies in class quality.

One last thing I have to say about this: it’s a bit unfair to compare a master’s degree to a technical certificate (what code schools offer). I had the benefit of working for a university program where ethics and human issues in technology were part of the *core curriculum* and the everyday discussion. That sort of learning environment requires, you guessed it, time and money. Ada Academy, an all-female code school, recently published a post on their commitment to diversity and I give them huge props for their transparency and commitment to explicitly teach topics like micro-aggressions, uncovering implicit biases, and privilege. They are an outlier, because most code schools need a ton of work in this area (Code Fellows being no exception). But more on that to come…


This is getting long so I’ll save the last four assumptions for another post. All true so far!

Stay tuned…