It took me a long time with many false starts before I realized I wanted to have a career in tech. When I tuned into the live Facebook event for the Center for Technology & Workforce Solutions (CTWS) on October 24, I felt like David Hyman, the president of CTWS, was speaking to me. Here’s why.
In high school, I spent most my time dedicated to volunteer work and helping kids with mental and physical disabilities. I volunteered at a local school for four years and was positive I wanted to become a special education teacher. In college, I started on that path, and as part of the major, I needed to take classes to fill my pre-requisites. I decided to take a journalism class, and really enjoyed it! I took a few more communication classes, then decided communications and media with a minor in Journalism was what I wanted to do instead. So I switched majors.
I waited to do my science pre-requisites during my senior year because science just wasn’t my thing. Luckily, my college had an extensive list of classes that met the science requirement, so I ended up taking computer science. I was a little nervous about taking this class because everyone knows that computer science people are nerdy white guys who live in their parents’ basements – or at least that’s how they are portrayed in the media! On the first day of class, I walked in and was surprised to see the teacher was an older woman. I was relieved to see two other women taking the class too, Of course, we all sat together. I ended up loving the course because I enjoyed learning about the language of the future and being able to build something from scratch. I was upset I had saved it for last semester. It was too late to change my major!
After I graduated from college, I spent a lot of time trying to find a job and working to figure out what I wanted to do. I needed a push, so I set up a meeting with my long-time advisor and friend, David Hyman. Yes, the same person who runs CTWS was my advisor, teacher, and coach when I was in middle school. I’ve known David since my pre-teenage-angst years, and he knows me well including how to push me to my limits (mostly in the right direction). He’s always forced me to think about my path and all possibilities. After a long discussion, we established that I was having trouble finding a job because I wasn’t passionate about my field. He sent me several resources for jobs that he thought might suit me better, including teaching basic coding classes at schools around NYC.
Then the universe spoke to me.
In January 2015, my mother broke her ankle. I dedicated most of my time to taking care of her. I love her, but as most mothers do, she drove me crazy. To keep myself busy, I decided to enroll in the free coding classes through Women Who Code and the New York Public Library. I left my first beginner’s weekend workshop, smiling from ear to ear. THIS WAS IT! I felt this fire within me, and I knew I had found what I wanted to do. I ran home and started looking into computer science classes. A few months later, I enrolled in Dev Bootcamp, a 19-week hands-on programming school. Shortly after graduating, I got my first real role in tech -- an internship at Resource Ammarati, an IBM company (now part of IBM iX) as an Interactive Developer.
I currently work at a company called Flashtalking in Chicago. Flashtalking is an independent ad serving, measuring, and technology company, providing best-in-class digital advertising products, service, and support for online advertisers, key media buying and creative agencies. I am a Certification Technical Specialist. I work with various companies to ensure that our ad tags run on their web/mobile/tv inventory without issue. I do a ton of troubleshooting and work with these companies on custom solutions for our clients. My job is considered high-level tech. However, I rarely work with code. Today, I work alongside people from very different backgrounds and experiences. As a young woman of color in tech, it’s inspiring to be part of this amazing and diverse team.
It took me three years after I graduated college to get here. I always wonder, if my high school had offered STEM classes, would I have been interested in it earlier? If society hadn’t created this stereotype that only nerdy white guys do computer science/coding, would I have had the confidence to take a computer science class before I did? As our tech world is rapidly changing, I’m so happy to see that the Center is addressing these issues. I hope David pushes everyone to reach their potential, in the same way he did with me.
Interested in learning more about CTWS, contact us!
Laura Evans is a former student of David Hyman, president of Center for Technology & Workforce Solutions. She is now a Certification Technical Specialist at Flashtalking in Chicago.