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From English Teacher in Japan to Software Engineer in the US

Jessica did Le Wagon batch 77 during the summer 2017. After few month working as a Software Engineer at ProctorU, she shared with us her insightful experience before, during and after the bootcamp.
Jessica did Le Wagon batch 77 during the summer 2017. After few month working as a Software Engineer at ProctorU, she shared with us her insightful experience before, during and after the bootcamp.

“Le Wagon taught me to stop worrying if I was “ready”. The only way we reach that imaginary level of “ready” is by diving in and learning by doing. And that’s exactly what you do at Le Wagon. All you have to do is jump. ”

What did you do before Le Wagon?

Before Le Wagon, I was an English teacher in Japan. Working in Japan had been my #1 goal since high school. After I achieved that and a few years passed by, I suddenly thought, “Wait… now what?” I’d forgotten to plan anything beyond, but I knew I needed a new direction. After moving back home, I did some soul-searching to figure out the next step. I started thinking back to my childhood of playing on the internet — making webpages on GeoCities, editing layouts on LiveJournal, setting up command chains in MUDs (text-based MMOs, basically), and so on.

“And that’s when I knew: I needed to return to those roots and dive deeper into the world of code.”

To test the waters, I took a free course on Python, and then I was hooked. I thought, “Hey, maybe I really can do this!” After researching and comparing boot camps, I finally decided on Le Wagon for a few reasons: the curriculum was thorough, the price was affordable, and the icing on the cake was that it let me travel somewhere new.

What was the transition out of Le Wagon like?

The transition can be difficult. Demo Day at Le Wagon is such an adrenaline high, but the next day you wake up and it’s all over. You go from spending several hours a day working on projects with teammates to suddenly having nothing on your plate and no one to share it with.

To keep myself busy, I started designing a personal portfolio, revamped my resume, made a list of projects I wanted to build, joined coding groups on Meetup, and attended tech-related talks and events. And then I got lucky — my local Women Who Code chapter announced their very first hackathon. I immediately signed up. And guess what? My team actually won 2nd place.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew my foundation in MVC web apps from my time at Le Wagon would be helpful — somehow, some way.”

It turns out one of the sponsors of the hackathon, ProctorU, was recruiting Ruby on Rails developers. They encouraged me to apply, and here I am! It all kind of fell into place like dominoes!

How was your first month as a software engineer?

Honestly, I have to say the first couple months were really hard. Impostor syndrome is a very real thing. It feels like everyone around you has an impossible wealth of knowledge that you’ll simply never catch up to. Those first couple months, no matter how warm and welcoming everyone was, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What am I doing here? What could I ever possibly offer these people that they couldn’t do on their own?”

“No matter what the fear tries to tell you, remember: you are worthy.”

It’s important to face these anxieties and identify their fallacies. If you confide in your teammates, you’ll find that everyone has had a similar experience, and they’ll reassure you that you are there for a reason.

Can you tell us more about your daily job?

A day in my life at ProctorU starts with a morning scrum where everyone talks about what tasks they did yesterday, what troubles or triumphs they had, and what’s on their to-do list today. After the meeting, I work on my assigned tasks, which usually deal with bug fixes, technical debt, and small new features. Sometimes these involve pair programming, and sometimes I work solo. When I’ve finished a task, I submit a pull request to the master codebase and await code reviews. I’m also expected to take time to review my teammates’ code.
Jessica @ ProctorU
On Fridays, we have “Fun Friday” which is where we can get away from our assigned tasks and enjoy personal projects or other learning endeavors. It’s pretty great! I feel really blessed to be here.

Can you give me your angle of experience, as a woman working in tech?

My experiences have been pretty positive. When I was into web design as a kid, my network was almost exclusively girls. Then, I saw my best girlfriend get into tech support. Next, the MUD we both played invited us to become admin and learn to code. Many years later, today, my programming network does consist of more men than women, but I wouldn’t say the level of enthusiasm is lesser on either side.

“So, even with varying degrees of gender balance throughout these communities, I feel like I’ve always been surrounded by examples of women being encouraged to pursue tech-related interests.”

I hate that there are women who have been discouraged, however, and I will absolutely stand against it if I see it happening around me.

What are your future plans?

I have a whole spreadsheet of long-term goals that I track my progress on. Some are just boring things, but others are weird and indulgent — like someday having a photoshoot where I’m dressed up as a fairy and playing the harp . But my priority right now is to learn as much as I can and become a more competent programmer. It will probably take a couple years, but once I’m confident in my skills, I plan to transition to remote work so I can travel the world and find my forever home.

Any advice for the next Le Wagon’s Alumni?

“If you decide that your desire to achieve is bigger than your fear of failure, you will do great things.”

First off, congratulations and welcome to the family! Second, define your goals and create a roadmap of how to reach them.

Third, keep learning and keep practicing. If you find yourself struggling with self-doubt, check your expectations because you might be putting too much pressure on yourself. Remember: the goal is not to become The World’s Best Programmer Ever; the goal is simply to become the best YOU.

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