There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested…difficulty can tap unexpected strengths.
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Sometimes turning life’s lemons into lemonade isn’t enough. Sometimes, you need to uproot the entire damn lemon tree to start fresh and discover what you’re truly made of. Life’s happiest moments rarely come without cost, whether it’s one you pay in cash, or one you pay in blood, sweat, and tears to overcome obstacles in your way.
This is the story of Shannon Lance, a recent graduate of the Bellevue Coding Dojo campus. Shannon’s early life was for all intents and purposes, quite normal. She got good grades in high school before earning a Bachelor’s degree in musical education from Pacific Lutheran University. After school, she taught off and on, worked at the nearby airport, and had fun with friends and family as most 20-year-olds do.
She took a break from teaching after having her first two kids, and throughout the next few years, she had two more. According to Shannon, putting her teaching on hold wasn’t a big deal because she wanted to focus on raising her kids, and the money was “just filler income” since her husband earned the majority of the household income.
“It went so fast.”
As the saying goes, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Shannon’s life had quite a few curveballs in store, including a separation with her husband, an abrupt move, and a frantic scramble to financially support her family:
I separated at the beginning of June . I spent all of July in this panic of, ‘Do I need to …’ Because I hadn’t worked in four years as a teacher, ’cause I was home with my kids. I have little kids. I’m trying to plan, ‘Do I need to go back into teaching full time? What do I do with my kids? How am I gonna afford everything?’ I spent all of July trying to figure that out.
Shannon discovered coding bootcamps while discussing her options with her brother-in-law. She was far from computer savvy – by her own admission, she had to use her phone to research how to right-click on a Mac – but knowing she had to find a way to provide for her children, Shannon was intrigued.
“I came in with no computer skills and no coding education.”
After some due diligence, Shannon decided to apply to Coding Dojo, and was accepted into our August 2018 cohort. There were only two to three weeks between her application and the start of the program, leaving her a very brief time to move to Bellevue with kids in tow. Talk about a quick life transition.
Shannon’s battle with adversity didn’t stop there. We’re upfront with all students about the intensity of our fully-immersive program – it’s no walk in the park, but it will change your life. Shannon’s case is a testament to that.
Fortunately, Shannon had a supportive and inclusive cohort to lean on during the 14-week program. She grasped the individual concepts, but estimated the coursework took her 50% longer to complete than her peers. She excelled at whiteboarding and enjoyed the algorithm exercises, but balancing her coursework and family life provided quite the challenge:
It was totally crazy. I had to hire a nanny to take care of my kids while I was in school. School obviously ate up all of my time. There were days when I literally saw my kids for like 15 minutes a day. It was super hard. I couldn’t spend any time with them on the weekends because I was studying.
My oldest, she just turned 10. She would come in and cry and say, “I miss you so much,” and, “This is so hard.” I would say, “You know what? We’ve only got six weeks left. We can do it.”
We did, we counted down every single day. Sometimes we had to count down hours just to get through it.
As Shannon’s graduation date approached, she met with Managing Director Mark Smith to evaluate her career options. While setting up a LinkedIn profile and editing her resume, they reviewed and packaged her marketable skills.
Thanks to her teaching background, she already used an agile workflow process, and was great at multitasking and prioritization – all crucial skills to have in fast-paced development environments.
Graduation day came and went, then the job hunt started. After months of proverbial rain clouds, it was time for some sunshine in Shannon’s life.
“I had only been looking for six days before I got the offer.”
Shannon applied for a Service Manager Development position with the Bellevue-based software company SAP Concur. Less than a week after applying, the job was hers – and so was its six-figure salary. With the light at the end of the tunnel finally within sight, Shannon had a well-deserved celebration with her family, complete with surprise paper confetti made by her children.
Although she had to decline her 9-year-old’s request to buy a horse, Shannon was financially stable and was able to put her children into an online private school program. Now, she looks forward to buying a house.
On top of the financial benefit, the Coding Dojo program gave her something equally meaningful:
I learned that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. I learned that I have value. Being a stay-at-home mom for years where you just do what you have to do, and you hope that your kids say thank you, but they’re kids. Then going through a relationship that fell apart. I just had reached a point where I was like, “Who am I? What am I worth?” Going through the Dojo totally reaffirmed that I am capable, and I have worth.
When asked if she had any advice for single moms looking to start a career in tech, here’s what she had to say:
If you’re a single mom and you want to do this, you have to have a plan going into it, for what you’re gonna do with your kids. There is such a need for women in this industry, because we bring a unique set of skills. We bring a different viewpoint. It’s very valuable in this field. I’m very grateful that I was given this opportunity to change my life. I hope the other people are able to take advantage of it also.
When we say our program can teach anyone to code, we mean anyone. It has nothing to do with your technical background or lack thereof; it has everything to do with your attitude and desire to succeed. It’s not where or who you are, it’s where and who you want to be.