With the dearth of women in tech at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we sat down with Katy Eng, recent BlackRock hire--and almost-as-recent alumna of Fullstack Academy’s all-women Grace Hopper Program--to get her thoughts on changing careers, entering tech as a woman, building a support system, and enabling women to rise to the top in the male-dominated tech industry.
What were you doing before Grace Hopper, and what made you want to start learning to code?
Before Grace Hopper, I was a Spanish and French teacher in New York City. I'd always been sort of obsessed with languages; I also speak Japanese, read Latin and sign American Sign Language.
At some point, I realized what I loved the most about my job wasn't actually the teaching part, but the opportunity to learn from my brilliant colleagues and create course material that made the classroom experience more exciting and effective.
I started to brainstorm how I could both create tools and be in an environment that supported constant growth. A friend of mine suggested learning to code–which is really just another type of language.
Once you had decided to learn to code, what compelled you to choose a coding bootcamp over a university degree?
Frankly, time and practicality. The cost of graduate work is so high, both in the time required and the financial resources needed to invest in a program like that. It felt too risky to spend that much on a graduate program when a bootcamp was so much more practical and accessible.
So you decided you were going to pursue a coding bootcamp–why Grace Hopper?
Making a big change mid-career is already hard. Women face challenges in all industries, but especially in tech, so I wanted to really set myself up for success.
To that end, I knew I'd leave Grace Hopper not only with technical skills but with a strong network of badass women coders who would have my back, who I could reach out to and trust for the rest of my life.
I also felt like the tuition deferral--train now and don’t pay full tuition until you land a full-time job in the industry--would allow for a more truly socioeconomically diverse cohort. And it did, which is great because diverse perspectives mean not only that you learn more, but that your output--in our case the projects we worked on together--is stronger.
Did the program give you the kind of feminist vibes you were hoping for?
Absolutely. I had a life-changing experience at Grace Hopper. Each of the women I studied with had a fierce intellect, a tangible positive energy, and an unstoppable sense of protectiveness over each other.
There was also this incredible support system we built; we never let anybody give up on themselves. There were times when I was feeling overwhelmed by work or discouraged in my job search, and my cohort always picked me up, dusted me off, and told me they believed in me. They kept me going. We keep in touch today, and they still keep me motivated when I'm going through a rough patch.
How was the job search for you?
The search went surprisingly well, and I feel like a lot of my success is due to my instructors. Their honest feedback repeated mock interviews, and rigorous REACTO problems helped me arrive at all my interviews with confidence and competence.
Ultimately, I received 2 offers within 3 weeks of leaving school and even had another final round interview lined up when I accepted at BlackRock. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more.
What's one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were considering bootcamp?
First, make sure the support staff at the program you’re considering includes TAs who have been through the program. At Grace Hopper (and Fullstack), they’re called fellows, and my Grace Hopper fellows were phenomenal. They guided me through the thorniest bugs, gave me invaluable advice about the job search, and provided much-needed laughter and support during low moments. I so admire them: They are great models of how to handle intense programming demands with humanity and humor.
What makes it an exciting time to be a female coder?
I'm most excited about making tech a better, more inclusive place for women. I think the best way to give back is to do my best work every single day--to raise the probability that the smartest coder in the room is a woman. That's the world I want to live in, so I try to create it every day.
Fullstack Academy launched their all-women’s Grace Hopper Program in 2015, and its outcomes have been so robust that they recently expanded to Chicago, where they launched a deferred-tuition option exclusively for women called the Grace Hopper Track at Fullstack Chicago. To learn more about Grace Hopper, visit their website or check them out on Twitter and LinkedIn.
This post was sponsored by Fullstack Academy.
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