By Kimberly Fasbender
Around a year ago I made the decision, at 32 years old, to become a Software Engineer. At the time I was working as an Administration Manager in Texas. I wasn’t satisfied with the work I was doing, didn’t feel challenged, and quite frankly I was bored. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my potential and would lie awake at night with a growing anxiety that I should be doing something else. Something more. Tirelessly, I searched for a solution, and found myself taking free online coding classes. Here was the answer! This was problem solving! This was challenging! This was everything I was looking for! Oh shit, this was going to be expensive! At the time my husband and I were not in a financial situation that would allow me, the sole breadwinner of our family, to quit my job and drop $15-20k on a coding bootcamp. You see, about 4 months prior to this my husband had quit his job to move from Austin, Texas back to our home town in Saginaw, Michigan to help care for his father who had been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, at this point, we were living on separate sides of the country from one another, and just barely scraping together enough money to get by.
I began scouring the web for resources anyways, thinking that it couldn’t hurt to research bootcamps for when our finances and personal affairs took a turn for the better. It was then that I stumbled upon a list of bootcamps for women and gender diverse people, most of which deferred payment until the camp was completed and a job had been obtained. Somewhere on the list was Ada Developers Academy located in Seattle, and it was listed as tuition free. Tuition free?! There had to be a catch, right? I mean, who does that? The more I read about Ada, however, the more it became clear that their mission was truly to diversify the tech world by training more women and gender diverse people as Full-Stack Web Developers regardless of financial means or background. I told my husband I was going to apply, but also told him not to worry, because this school was very selective and there was no way I was getting in.
The application process was long, approximately 3 months in length, and difficult both mentally and emotionally. It required 4 written essays, completing a large data analysis challenge, completing a coding challenge in a computer language I had never heard of before, Ruby, a technical interview, and a panel interview. I put my all into applying, but still believed deep down that it wouldn’t be enough to actually get accepted. However, I was proven wrong on November 16, 2018 when I received a phone call from Ada saying that they wanted me to attend their school. I was ecstatic! Now all my husband and I had to do was figure out how we were going to afford to move to Seattle (a place where we knew no one), find him a job to supplement our income, make a plan for who would care for his father, and figure out the logistics of moving from two separate cities halfway across the country from one another. Oh yeah, and all of this needed to happen in the span of two months. No biggie! If it weren’t for Ada offering a low interest loan on top of being tuition free, we still would not have been able to swing it financially, and I could not be more grateful to them for that!
I still had my doubts though. What if I couldn’t keep up at this school? What if even with the low interest loan our money wouldn’t stretch far enough to keep us afloat? What if something happened to my father-in-law while we were all the way across the country? There were no amount of nagging doubts that were going to keep me from making my dream a reality though. I’m happy to announce that we made it to Seattle and we’re settling in. The schooling is hard, the tech industry is intimidating, and most days I feel myself trying to silence the part of me that wonders if I’m way out of my depth. However, I am also watching as my dream of becoming a Software Engineer slowly comes true, and that keeps me going. That, and the amazing support I have received from my husband, the staff at Ada, and my fellow classmates, who cheer me on every day!
This article has been a challenge for me to write, because I don’t see myself as bold. I don’t see the things I’ve done as monumental enough to be classified that way. That gosh darn Imposter Syndrome! The more stories I hear from bold women and gender diverse people though, the more I find that they don’t see themselves that way either. There always seems to be someone who has done something bigger than we have. Someone who has pushed against bigger boundaries or thrived when the stakes were way higher. Who are we to claim that we are bold? We tell ourselves these internal stories, that if we are not the boldest then we are not bold at all. The truth is though, that you don’t have to win a Nobel Peace Prize to be bold. You don’t have to climb the highest mountain, or swim the widest sea either. Although those things are bold indeed! Being bold is standing up for someone who has been wronged. It’s chasing a dream. It’s taking a risk. It’s changing anything for the better, no matter how small. I still struggle to see myself as bold, but I’m trying my best to change that narrative. The one that tells me, “who are you to write a story about being a bold woman”? I’m going to keep moving forward, and taking risks, and I hope that you do the same.