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- My desire to learn and work as a software engineer is longstanding and deep rooted. However, the reasons for this are just now crystallising for me.
- I grew up in a Ukrainian city that recently has been “acquired” by Russia. In poor families like ours, it was only a dream to have a computer and be able to create magic with different programs. My passion for mathematics and physics allowed me to understand the concepts of programming when we were taking computer science courses in school but without a computer at home there was no way for me to practice what I was learning.
- When I was 14 my mother won the green card lottery and brought me to America as a single parent. This brought many new challenges. I was already a pre-teen and had to leave all of my friendships behind, move to a new country, and learn a new language and a completely new culture.
- Education has always been a strong cultural element of Ukrainian families so thankfully my mother pushed me to always study hard. However, that education focus was always around a career in medicine or law. This led me down a path in life as I pursued a career as a Physician’s Assistant. After many long overnight shifts at the ER with doctors in the most intense of emergencies I realised that this path wasn’t for me. The emotional toil was just too high.
- What followed was my first switch in careers. I met a woman at a random networking event who was in pharmaceutical sales. I thought this was a very male dominated field but she told me her story and I was inspired. I saw it as a great way to continue to be in medicine, but I would have to start all over again.
- Learning about the pharmaceutical products I’d be promoting was easy because of my prior medical background. However, I found in job interviews that because English is my second language, it was hard for recruiters to take me seriously. Unfortunately when a person speaks with an accent, and may mispronounce a few words or use grammar incorrectly, the listener automatically assumes that the person isn’t intelligent. However I didn’t relent and eventually landed my first job as a pharma rep.
- By this point I had put the notion of software engineering to the side. It wasn’t until I met a friend of a friend in Miami that the question of software engineering was thrust back in to my world. M y latest job as a pharma rep was ended abruptly and I was forced to evaluate my options – seek a new role in the declining pharma sales industry or try something new. My new friend, Moisey, who had gotten to know my personality and analytical mind, told me that he thought I would make a terrific software engineer. And Moisey knows from which he speaks -- he is the cofounder of a very successful software company called DigitalOcean.
- The idea of becoming a software engineer was both exciting and frightening. When Moisey went into more detail of what he did on a daily basis, how he founded his company, the kinds of people he worked with and the problems they were working on, I felt inspired. He was an immigrant like me from Russia. He also grew up with nothing in America and through his love of computer science, a bit of hard work (that’s as he says it – I know it takes a LOT of hard work,) and a tremendous amount of luck, he was able to create an amazing innovative company.
- From the first moment he brought up the idea of me trying out software engineering I couldn’t shake it. I started reaching out to other friends to hear of their experiences and what they thought if I would try to pursue it. The results were a bit mixed to be honest. Some people said it was great, others said that I would face many challenges as a woman in a male dominated world.
- Moisey simply encouraged me to be open minded about it, and he always said, there are 20 million software engineers in the world and there is no reason why I couldn’t be one, too. My love of mathematics and physics made this possibility suddenly feel like it may be achievable.
- But I had to ask myself: am I ready to start over in my early 30’s? I realised I couldn’t back down from this challenge because of the fear of failure. It is also exciting to think of software engineering as a new language, with hurdles entirely different than the ones I faced learning English. Through this course, I hope to learn a whole new fluency and understanding of how our world works.
- I also know that if I am successful at becoming a software engineer, I would look for the opportunity to inspire others to not let their gender, looks, culture, or their struggles with a language be a barrier to pursuing their similar dreams. Making even that small dent in the universe would be very meaningful to me.
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