Women of Tech Meets: Melissa, a Full-Stack Developer
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
In the earlier stages of her career, Melissa is finding her feet in the development world and having a lot of fun learning along the way
Today I met with Melissa, a wonderfully positive lady who is finding her feet in the development world, and is absolutely loving every step of the way.
So, what did you do prior your interest in tech being sparked?
“Before discovering tech, I was a stay at home mom to 3 beautiful children for a period of 8+ years. Prior to leaving the workforce I was working at a credit union, it was just a job, I wasn’t happy in it.
I knew that I didn’t want to go back to waking up and hating going to work, I wanted something that I would be happy doing. When you’re unhappy at work it can become so hard to switch off from that when you get home, something I have observed in others in the past.”
What led you to discovering tech?
“I was doing research online about what skills I had were transferrable, my skills were in some ways limited but I have an analytical brain; I’m the vacation planner, the budgeter, you know, I run my household.
Programming came up as one of the suggestions of where my skillset could lie, and so I started doing tutorials on HTML and CSS using FreeCodeCamp and I absolutely LOVED it. I was taking notes. I’d never really been one to take notes before, but I wanted to. I wanted to learn this.
I started researching how I could break into this field as a career and found that I didn’t need a degree like most things, but a portfolio instead."
What were your next steps from there?
“I put together a list of bootcamps that appeared to suit what I wanted to do, there was only one face to face bootcamp in my area but sadly the schedule didn’t match mine so after weighing up the other options I went with Bloc (a developer bootcamp) and continued with online learning.”
How did you find the online learning?
“I struggled a bit with the isolation, I don’t have much of a physical network of developers in my area, so there isn’t anyone to get together with to work stuff out. My Husband is in the military, and towards the end of the bootcamp he was called away. With 3 small children to care for on my own I was unable to complete that bootcamp at that time.
I’d really beaten myself up for it at the time, but I am looking forward to being able to build on the start of a career in tech when the time is right - family comes first. But its so great to know now that option is out there. Its something that I can still learn and do on the side around other commitments whilst I build a portfolio.”
Do you plan on returning to online learning anytime soon?
“I already have! I found a really great online community called ‘moms can code’ and they are SO supportive of each other. They run a developing programme that I jumped on – and so far its really good. They’re teaching a lot of the soft skills that weren’t covered in the bootcamp."
What about your long-term goals in tech?
“I am working towards being a Full Stack Developer – that’s my long-term career goal. Something that had never really occurred to me was remote working, but that’s a real possibility working in tech.
Right now, Im still working my way through Develop Camp with Moms Can Code and im not in a place where I am considering going to work as a developer yet, but I am really enjoying the learning process and have satisfaction of knowing where I can be and what I can do if I persevere with learning.
I would love to do more for self-taught developers in my area, especially the women. I started a local meet up just last week which went well!”
Is there any advice that you would give to other women thinking about starting up a career in tech?
“I used to feel so much pressure to find a career, especially from online, and it made me put pressure on myself which looking back made it harder on me. I was able to take a step back and see that everyone’s journey is different, and that’s okay so long as you persevere and don’t give up on those obstacles, because you’ll have obstacles in any career.
One piece of advice I wish someone had given me is – learn not to be embarrassed to ask questions! Its okay to ask questions, it’ll help you to learn faster.
I wish that someone had also told me that its okay to pivot between ideas of what you want to do and you can change the path if you find its not what you thought it would be. Some things don’t end up like you plan and that’s okay. Don’t focus on the end result, but the journey itself."
Is there anything in particular that you think is a deterrent for women succeeding in the workplace in Tech?
“I think male dominance plays a large part. There is a lack of support in person for women. Local general meetups aren’t that inclusive of gender diversity and the topics are often way above my scope of knowledge, even at the newbie’s events.
I had reached out to Women Who Code, asking what it would take for a meetup to be started in my local city, like what could I do to get it started, and never even got a response back which was a little discouraging.
I even reached out to individual Chapter Leaders and asking them for advice, only one bothered responding. Its just discouraging. It makes me want to do more for women in this field.”
Is there anything that you think employers could be doing more of to encourage women to want to work in Tech?
“Employers need to understand that women will probably want to start a family at some point, so support her with that by offering flexibility instead of making her feel punished for making the choice to have children.
As a mother, I need flexibility with any job, my kids are my priority. If my child gets sick, Im going to need to go look after them, if childcare falls through, I’m going to go look after them. If an employer can’t understand that and offer me flexibility when its needed then im not going to work for them, period.
I think employers should also allow tailored flexibility to the individual, we all have different needs.”
Is there anything in particular that you love about the Tech industry?
“I really appreciate the tech community on Twitter. They can be so supportive. I have put coding issues out there and someone has always taken the time out of their day to help solve my problem – I love their support for newbies like me.”
Is there anything you perhaps don’t enjoy about being in Tech?
“I don’t really have any dislikes, I think im quite lucky. I have heard stories about older programmers who aren’t wanting women in the sector, but I myself have not come across one of those yet!”
I loved speaking with Melissa. Her enthusiasm for learning and being immersed in the tech world was second to none, and to balance all that learning around her love and devotion to raising three children, well, I have respect for this lady! Good luck with the ongoing development of your career Melissa, I will certainly keep an eye out for your name in the Full-Stack Developer scene in the future!
You can find out more about the online learning platforms Melissa mentioned in this post here: