I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg a few months ago, and it really inspired me to start challenging myself and take more risks with my career.
To that end, I am thrilled to announce that I have been accepted into the November cohort of App Academy. App Academy (profiled in this Wired article) is a techie boot camp of sorts, where after 12 weeks of working my buns off, I will be hireable as a web developer at companies such as Facebook and the like. There are lots of similar academies popping up nowadays, but the cool thing about App Academy specifically is that you do not have to pay tuition up-front: rather, you agree to pay them 18% of your first year's salary once you start your new job.
It has been quite the journey already just to get to this point, so much that I'm only just getting used to the fact that I'm actually going. It has meant lots of changes for me and the rest of the family, and even more drastic ones in the coming months.
Some of the issues that arose:
1. App Academy is hard to get into.
On their website, App Academy states that the admission rate is <5%, which puts it as more "elite" than Stanford, whose undergraduate acceptance rate is 7%. I first applied two months ago, and since then, I was run through the gamut of an extremely rigorous preparation and interview process, so I assume a bunch of people get weeded out on the amount of prep work alone.
I was asked to study the fundamentals of Ruby, and was tested multiple times. There were three timed programming challenges, three Skype interviews where I had to code on a virtual whiteboard in front of an instructor, and a bunch of homework.
Being an atypical candidate, I could not guess what my chances of acceptance were. Maybe they would have liked the fact that I was a woman, but being an older, out-of-area student with a family probably did not help my odds. Also, I didn't know if my existing degree increased or decreased my chances, especially since I opted out of the traditional software development career path for more than 10 years now.
2. WTF, Julie? Why this? Why now?
Yeah, this one is a toughie. After some major discussion, Tim and I agreed that I have kept my personal potential and aspirations on the back burner for a long time, basically ever since I graduated from college, but now that both kids are in elementary school, now's as good a time as any to "lean into" my career.
There's also a large part of me that is really, truly pissed off at the current state of gender inequity in software development (each word points to a separate article discussing misogyny in the tech industry). I want to do my part in reducing the employment, wage, and opportunity gaps, to be part of the change I want to see in that world. I also feel a strong sense of duty to my daughter and to other people's daughters to show them an example of a woman in tech who can be comfortable in her own skin, balance her home responsibilities with her work responsibilities, demonstrate creativity and mastery in the STEM disciplines, make cool stuff people like, and have fun doing it. Basically, I want to become a Hacker with a Heart of Gold.
And although I do have a CS degree, technology and paradigms have changed so much in the past 11 years, I would have a hard time finding a web development job with just my past and current skillset. Hopefully, however, my CS training will come in handy as I learn the new languages and methodologies.
3. App Academy is only taught in San Francisco and New York.
I will attend the San Francisco school, crashing at my friends' place, while Tim and the kids stay in SoCal. We will Skype regularly, more for my benefit than theirs, because I am going to miss them SO MUCH. Maybe we can even have in-person visits if my spirit gets too broken. Since the workload is estimated to be 80-100 hours a week, I don't think I could fly down at all, so they'd have to come up, and maybe a couple weekends at most. I will miss both the kids' birthdays, but hopefully not Christmas and New Year.
However, any number of visits will not be enough to make up for the fact that I will miss out on a lot of the daily little miracles and details, and somehow I will need to prepare myself for that. I'm kinda viewing it as going off on a deployment somewhere for 12 weeks, where we will have to come up with different traditions and alternative ways to stay close.
4. What does Tim think of all of this?
Actually, he was the one who first introduced me to App Academy and similar bootcamps! And he has been my biggest cheerleader, counselor, and drill sergeant throughout the interview process. Also, he has made the biggest sacrifice so far, volunteering to become the primary parent while I'm gone. His last day of work is the end of this month, and he will be taking his own sabbatical to learn new technologies and work on building out his own ideas at home, as well as being primary caregiver to Isaac and Emi. HUGE deal, and he really should be applauded for his dedication and walking-the-walk.