I grew up in a tiny town in West Virginia that was fortunate enough to have an awesome technology room, especially for the 80s. So, in my small town, I began programming at a fairly young age and became instantly hooked. When I got to college, I majored in Cognitive Science, which was a cross disciplinary combination of Psychology, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Computer Science. I then started doing business consulting and systems integration right out of college. I moved to New York in 1998 and became a software engineer at an internet consulting firm. It was a very crazy time, during the three years I was there, we went from 200 people to 2,000 — in addition to going public.
I was pregnant with my first child as the dot com bubble was bursting and things were on the downward trend. Initially, the plan had been to have my husband be the one at home, but with this instability it made more sense for me to be the one to take time off. It was a big adjustment, but I enjoyed it and ended up being out longer than I thought I would.
During my time out, I had three children and did not do a single line of coding. Ten solid years, zero. It was a complete 180-degree shift.
Coming back to software development after all that time was a process. In order to remind myself of fundamentals, I did a lot of studying on my own. I started with MIT OpenCourseWare and revisited classes I’d done from when I was in college. I reached out to my network from before my break and dove into learning the current development landscape. I also did some training and classes followed by a Returnship and a retreat at Recurse Center which were fantastic learning experiences. When I finally was back full time it was like starting over; I was initially perceived as junior but quickly proved myself and moved up.
The number one piece of advice I give to people returning to engineering after time off is don’t be afraid to reach out to your network and when you want to learn things, you don’t have to go it alone. Starting again is a bit of a mind game — the first person to convince is yourself.