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Jo Montgomery

Bloc Women Who Code

Women Who Code: Women Over Forty Re-tooling To Become Web Developers


I was quite familiar with moral code, Morse code, secret codes and the form of coding that requires paramedics to begin immediate resuscitative efforts.  What I was not very familiar with was 'computer coding'.  Like many, I depend on a computer.  However, the magic that makes it all happen, well, it was a mystery.


What I learned in searching for some answers with regards that was coding makes it possible to create computer software, apps and websites. My browser, my operating system, the apps on my phone, and Facebook are all made with code - the instructions in a computer program.  It helps to think of code as a recipe; a set of instructions a computer can understand.  Web developers write code; code powers computers; and computers power everything from phones to watches, microwaves to cars.


I also learned that computer programing is a fascinating career that pays well -- with a median income 42% higher than other jobs and, usually, offers the flexibility of working from home. However, for a woman, breaking into technology to become a programmer can be challenging.  It’s a youthful, male-dominated vocation, with women making up a scant 12%.


So, how did a woman (laid-off from her job at forty years-old) break into an industry where women face stereotyping and imposter-syndrome?  


For Patricia, it was determination and help from Women Who Code (WWCode).


WCCode is a Y-combinator-backed non-profit that created a scholarship to Bloc, an online coding bootcamp where women make up almost 40% the student body. Patricia applied to Bloc’s Web Developer Track and was accepted. WWCode found that the best way to close that gender gap was to give female coders support systems. They created a scholarship that offers two women a month a $1000 scholarship each toward tuition. To-date, this scholarship program has funded over $48,000 in Bloc tuition.  


Patricia recently landed a full-time job as a developer at ePublishing. What does she have to say about her journey to becoming a developer? “When I was accepted into Bloc’s bootcamp it felt like I was making an Olympic team,” said Patricia.  “I knew I would finally be getting the training I needed that eludes so many of us that don't want to go back to the traditional school environment. It felt fantastic -- like I was closer to reaching my goal. Bloc was the easiest choice because of the 1:1 mentorship commitment and because it was 100% online.”


Patricia shared that her biggest challenge throughout her journey was the ever-present 'imposter syndrome' and 'stereotyping'.  She loves attending hackathons, but every time she went to one, teams of men were not open to having a woman on their team.  When asked about the hackathon she said, “The general vibe I get is that, we [women] are too slow or want to learn things (GOD FORBID) or that we are only good for html and css.  The way I get over it, is to correct people’s perceptions by actually saying my title “Hi, I’m Patricia I’m a RoR Engineer”, and let them know I am a polyglot (Ruby, Python and Javascript) then ask them to give me a task. They rarely say no to that.”


When asked what advice she would give to women who are thinking about enrolling in a coding bootcamp, she offered, “Invest in yourself. Don’t make excuses like you can’t afford it. If this is truly something you are passionate about, invest the money, invest the time, invest your heart and soul and it will all work out.”  


Patricia says that Bloc changed her life by providing the one-on-one mentorship she desperately needed to get over the hump of learning 'online'. It also provided a platform to work on real projects and feature her skills so she could add to her GitHub (a code hosting platform that lets you and others work together on projects from anywhere) and, ultimately, her resume.


Patricia plans to continue learning and honing her skills so she can become an even better developer at her new job at ePublishing.  Eventually she hopes to create a piece of software that will be useful for organizations like the Innocence Project, Missing and Exploited Children or the poverty abatement and battered women’s advocates.


Read Patricia’s blog to learn more about her experience learning to code as someone over forty.


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