After spending three months in a happy Flatiron School chrysalis transforming into a web developer, I graduated a little over two months ago feeling optimistic yet uncertain about the future. I was confident that Flatiron had equipped me to hit the ground ready to build, and had fostered in me a love and excitement for code that would keep me pushing forward no matter where I went next.
Then there was the uncertainty. After spending nine years, more than a quarter of my life, in the education field, I was about to embark on something totally unknown. Coming from a completely non-technical background, as most of my classmates also had, I wondered if I was a “real” developer and how I’d fit in at a tech company.
Aside from the fact that I hadn’t studied computer science and spent most of my life considering nearly every career path except one as a programmer, the knowledge that I’d likely be the only (or one of the only) females in a team of developers at almost any company I ended up at made me wonder how I’d feel at home in this new community.
I had almost forgotten about the startling gender imbalance in tech while I was at The Flatiron School. One thing that sets Flatiron apart from its competitors is that its gender ratio mirrors that of the natural world. In fact, my class was over 50% female, as is the current cohort of students. It’s a place that felt instantly like home, where we all were just a bunch of humans who happened to be on a mission to learn how to code together. People have asked questions like “how does Flatiron get all these women?”. Although it may seem like an obvious thing to ask, maybe the question itself is indicative of part of the problem. Why not ask how the world of tech continues to be so skewed toward men?
These are tough questions to answer, but it’s clear that The Flatiron School is doing a lot of things right. And, I’m happy to say, some forward thinking companies in the world of tech are also stepping up to the challenge of facing and addressing the gender gap. Enter The Fog Creek Fellowship.
Thanks to a partnership with Fog Creek, Trello, and Stack Exchange, nearly every one of my female classmates was able to get a jumpstart on their new coding careers with the mentorship of a senior developer who was willing to devote real time and interest in helping us through the transition. My mentor Max Horstmann exemplified this. When I got that exciting but nerve wracking first technical interview, he was there to do an in-depth whiteboarding session and provide truly constructive feedback. When I had questions about the difference between SQL and NoSQL, he was happy to explain it and discuss the pros and cons. In fact he and all the other mentors in the program were always happy to geek out about pretty much anything with me.
Perhaps most importantly, just like The Flatiron School teaches us to “make no little plans,” my mentor gave me the courage to dream big for my career, not just look for my next job. Should I feel entitled to love what I do for a living? Yes. Could my passion project become a startup one day? Totally possible. This was not just going to be a career change for me – this was a revolutionary mind shift.
Certainly, The Flatiron School and The Fog Creek Fellowship don’t hold any magic answers to the daunting gender gap in tech. But the fact is, when we’re faced with challenges that seem almost impossible to overcome, often the best thing to do is just to throw your hat over the wall and do something. At the end of one journey and the beginning of a much longer one, I’m filled with gratitude and hope.