Tell us about yourself
I started my path to tech by accident when I was 12 and spent all my free time on the Internet. I spent most of my time on Neopets and MySpace which are two websites that allowed anyone to update layouts with some basic coding skills. While on those websites I discovered a community where I found girls my age updating their profiles with background music and cute online graphics. I was so amazed at the fact that my peers were building websites that I was inspired to build my own website too. I learned the basics of HTML and CSS through a kid-friendly website called Lissa Explains It All (http://www.lissaexplains.com/) and continued my journey from there.
Throughout middle and high school I used tools like WordPress and Photoshop to build websites. Even with this newfound hobby I never took Computer Science (CS) courses in high school because the math requirements intimidated me. When it came time to go to college I decided to major in something related to computer science in order to turn my hobby into a career. In 2010 I became an IT major at Marymount University, a college 2,000 miles away from my hometown of Las Vegas, NV.
How did you first get started in your career in tech?
After graduating, I was grateful to have a job in tech as a Configuration Management Analyst that I received through a college internship. I was also grateful that this first job taught me how to use Git version control and command line (two skills needed for any tech job). Despite learning these skills through my analyst position, I wanted more and still yearned to turn my childhood hobby of building websites into a full time career.
Though I did some web development through small hackathon projects with my first company, it wasn’t enough. I took it upon myself to use some of my free time outside of work (approximately 3-4 days a week, 1-2 hours each day) to become a web developer on my own.
Fast forward to a year and a half after that bootcamp when a former coworker forwarded my name to a few tech recruiters. I did the work, reached out to each and every recruiter that wanted to meet with me and landed that front-end development position I had been working toward ever since graduation.
What are the most important skills in your current position? How did you develop these skills?
Communication is my most important “soft” skill. Specifically, I’ve learned to properly communicate what debugging measures I’ve tried and why they failed when I need help from another developer. I’ve also learned to communicate limitations respectfully, such as needing more time to finish a task or letting someone know when a feature is too much for one ticket.
What are some resources that helped you in your journey in tech?
The following are the resources I utilized and continue to use in my ever-evolving tech journey.
For specific skills:
- Try Git (Git/Github); now a website called Learn Git branching https://learngitbranching.js.org/
- MongoDB University (MongoDB) https://university.mongodb.com/
- How to GraphQL (GraphQL) https://www.howtographql.com/
For keeping up with tech news:
- DEV.TO email newsletter
- Twitter (it’s where lots of people in tech congregate nowadays, including myself)
For tech interview prep and algorithm questions prep:
- Cracking the Code Interview (book) https://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Coding-Interview-Programming-Questions/
- Project Euler https://projecteuler.net/
- Exercism https://exercism.io/
What are some difficulties you faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
I’ve experienced some microaggressions in the workplace as a minority woman in tech and/or as a new developer. My immediate solution is to shrug it off because I know I worked hard and earned my position. My long-term solution and recommendation for those who are facing difficulties in their career is to find work environments that are more respectful and supportive.
These are some of the questions I ask in interviews when trying to find a supportive work environment:
- Do your developers pair-program? If so, how frequently?
- What’s your strategy to help junior developers grow in this role?
- How do you determine if someone is successful or not in a given time frame?
- Is there a budget for conferences and educational events?
If you feel comfortable with the interviewers, I also recommend asking the following:
- How many women are in your development team(s)?
- Does your company participate in volunteer events or with different organizations? If so, do any of these organizations focus on underrepresented groups?
- What do people do when they experience a workplace conflict?
The Women Who Code DC Github repo is a great resource for additional questions to ask interviewers: https://github.com/womenwhocodedc/organization/tree/master/interview-resources
I’ve also had (and still have) issues with technical interviews. It can be daunting to try and find time to make a test project or take time off for an interview. For take home projects, I write down (in pseudocode or English) what logic to write from the requirements. Then I spend the weekend doing projects since I can put my sole focus on the project and not have to worry about my current workload. For algorithm problems I use sample problems from different websites to practice.
Looking back on your career, what advice do you wish someone had given you that would have helped accelerate your career?
I wish someone would encourage teenage Marian to take those computer science courses in high school and encourage college Marian to explore a senior project on web development instead of data science.
While I don’t regret any choices I’ve made when it comes to my career, (I just consider missteps lessons) I do wish someone told me that on the road to success, it’s ok to take some risks and look out for my own interests.
Is there something you must share with our readers? Please share any additional details.
Final pieces of advice:
- Learn anything and everything you can for free before signing up for a paid service like a bootcamp. Lots of languages offer free tutorials online. Nowadays a lot of tools are open-source so you can start learning them without having to buy anything beforehand.
- If you’re a middle/high school student and want to pursue a career in tech, don’t be afraid to sign up for a CS/technical degree. Do research on the specific college(s) you want to go to. Take advantage of college amenities such as tutoring (for coursework), a career services center, and counseling for the stressful situations. If the major doesn’t work out for you, don’t be afraid of switching to another major. There are many people out there working in tech but don’t have a formal CS/technical degree.
- If you enroll in some sort of program (degree, bootcamp, etc.) to get formal credentials, be aware that the program may not teach you everything for your first job. This is not a disadvantage. As long as you have a good grasp of basic programming concepts many employers are willing to bypass formal experience in their tech stack for your willingness to learn their stack.
- You may need extra practice for programming concepts that you’re struggling with. In addition, it takes constant practice (sometimes applied practice) to get used to learning a programming language. Don’t give up!
- Go to Meetups! If you feel nervous going to meetups, have a plan of action. Examples include: talking with 3 people for job leads or staying for the whole tech talk. That way even if you don’t get your next opportunity right away, you still learn something new and/or meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.
- For people like myself with a formal CS degree: recognize that you have privilege by being able to put “Bachelors of Science in Computer Science” on your resume. If you’re able to, use that privilege to volunteer for tech organizations you care about or mentoring someone new in your position.
- In tech interviews, talk through your thought process with interviewers even if it may be “wrong”. Interviewers won’t know what you’re thinking about and can’t help you if you don’t say what you are doing.
- Passion is key. If you don’t have a passion for tech, or any job for that matter, then it will be difficult to rise above the hard times. It is important to keep that passion alive by doing projects outside of your day job and learning more about your industry whenever you can.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. We really appreciate it. How can we support you?
It’s not exactly a step by step guide, but each project listed in the repo gives a guideline on what programming concepts can be used in order to achieve the tasks needed to finish the project. As always, feedback is appreciated!