Five Years On

Read this in 5 minutes

Tiffany Haddish exclaiming "I made it"

It’s been five years in the (tech) game and honestly, if it wasn’t for my current job, I would have capped it at four. When I first got in, I always used to imagine where I’d be five years in; a senior engineer at a small company doing important or at least interesting work that was changing the world for better.

Man stifling his laughter

I’ve done work that has made, if not the world better then the lives of those I helped. I’ve worked at companies doing important work but most of the last half a decade has mainly been about survival. If you’ve listened to the Lost in the Source podcast, or follow me on twitter, you’ll know my journey hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. It has been hard and treacherous and not because software engineering is difficult (it is) but because the tech industry is an insidious and dangerous place. I have complex feelings about diversifying the tech industry when it’s so harmful to the “minorities” who work in it but that’s a post for another time.

Reflections

Despite everything, I’ve come a really long way but I haven’t done this alone. I was lucky enough to have someone who could pay majority of my bootcamp fees, then after that I was blessed to find genuine people who wanted to help me and see me grow. There are people who have mentored me, helped with coding tests, career advise, general support and a listening ear when things were going wrong. Having a support system has been key to my survival.

And because of that, I’ve also accomplished things 💅🏾:

👩🏾‍💻 blackgirl.tech is probably my biggest (and most well known) accomplishment. I, with the help of various people, introduced over 200 Black women and non-binary people to coding and was able to offer scholarships to fund coding tuition. Both scholars are now full-time software engineers.

👩🏾‍💻 I’ve contributed to open source projects (not nearly as many as I would have liked) - Diaspora, acts-as-taggable, etc.

👩🏾‍💻 I’ve grown in my career. It really felt like I was going to be a junior engineer forever, mainly because I wasn’t getting healthy experiences, but taking my learning and career development into my own hands has changed that dramatically. Difficult things aren’t (as) scary anymore.

👩🏾‍💻 I’ve been nominated and awarded for my contributions to the tech community.

👩🏾‍💻 I’ve upgraded to an IDE (but will always love Atom).

Learnings

  1. I am able to create my own opportunities - it’s unfair and it’s difficult, but I’m able to. If I’m not doing the kind of work that will result in the career progression I want, I can find other ways to do that work.

  2. Learning information that I have little practical, everyday-use for is redundant for me. I find it difficult to store that kind of information (hi, algorithims and big o notation 👋🏾).

  3. I don’t like every technology I use, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I’m a hater, I don’t have to like everything but understanding why other people like it, and the benefits it has, is key to being a good dev (hi, react 😒).

  4. Giving back and pouring into the community is one of the best things I can do with my skills. Whether it’s teaching, mentoring, or pro-bono/discounted work for people doing important, world-improving things, this is not only the best way to learn, but the best way for me to make societal impact.

  5. I am a talented engineer/developer/coder. I can explain difficult concepts to non-tech people, I can learn difficult concepts and implement them, I know where to look for answers, & I’m better at asking questions.

The last one is really important for me to note and share because a lot of my experience is clouded by feeling like I’m not good enough. This isn’t not imposter syndrome either.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes I’m disappointed about not being where I thought I’d be at this point but then I remember all the stuff I’ve done and people I’ve helped along the way and that makes me really happy. I’m excited about my next chapter because I feel a little more confident, I see my weak points and know what I need to do to address them. I have people around me who care about me and champion me even when I don’t have the energy to champion myself. I am blessed. 💜

Thanks for reading this!

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