I Am Now Doing This Thing For Real

I have recently joined the The Practical Dev as an apprentice software developer.

Remember when I said that good things were happening? That was one of the things.

Ben reached out in a Twitter DM and it kicked off.

I filled out the required application. We had a video conference yesterday and today they made the offer.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to be joining the team 1. This transcends just being in tech or having a career.

There is so much I would like to day, to be quite honest. There are some things I can’t or don’t want to explain but.

I have lived a miserable existence, from the day I popped out of my mom’s womb. She was an addict. I was adopted but that drug use left me with some residual side effects.

I spent my youth and teenage years in a very bad state. Emotionally I was a mess. I was a bright kid, a great student. Things came super easy to me. But because of trauma and emotional issues, I couldn’t really go to college after high school. I eventually went as a 24 year old. But, as it was, emotional issues, depression, angst. All that prevented my from being successful.

When I was 22 my grandmother died. She was my rock. She was in my corner, even when I was a little shit. She was there. She protected me.

I was in a place where I could remain safe when I was in my early 20s. I was poor and out of it. She died and I felt like I let her down; I wasn’t much of anything. I was just another listless 20 something black girl from the hood drifting in and out of placements and falling through the cracks. I always felt like I let her down. I couldn’t help it, but the guilt has followed me.

I didn’t start feeling like I had something to live for until I was 28. I had been through hell and back, an emotionally violent relationship, I had been through the ringer. But something came around for me as a 28 year old young woman starting to realize that yeah, life is shit. It really is. But you literally crawled out from the jaws of death and now what are you going to do with your life?

30 Something…

I went back to school when I turned 30. I was a humanities major. I was still pretty poor. Making ends meet was hard.

I went to school, making good grades for a while. I decided that tech was where I wanted to work. As much as I liked to write, I liked tweaking my sites even more. I also knew that I would remain poor as a humanities major because I didn’t want to teach.

I got a Mac in 2014, a code editor, and I was off to the races.

I went to Pitt from 2015-2017 as a CS major. You may remember it.

Starting the University of Pittsburgh

Had a breakdown in the middle of those two years.

I couldn’t go back to school this year and instead dove head first into every project on my GitHub that isn’t for school.

I’ve built some pretty cool things that I am proud of and am working on even more things.

But now I get to do it for real.

Whew

I have not been eating much. That is how bad it has gotten for me. I am not complaining though. I have good friends and family. They have helped me through the rough times I have been having. I have been really coding for my life, not just for a cushy job. It means so much more to me because of that.

I have been searching for a couple months now. I was using a little Chrome extension called Streak CRM to track the process. Rejections would come in. Now, I have a CRM with an offer that I accepted.

Mom

My mom is 71. She told me she would like to stick around long enough to see me be something. She qualified that with, “Well, you are already something but. Still. You know.”

I knew what she meant. We haven’t always been on good terms. But I love her and I, too, wanted her to see this. I didn’t want another regret of letting another important woman to me see me floundering.

I bought my mom a little something from Amazon and added a note and gift bag that said:

“Mom, I did it. From now on Xmas for you will be special. I’m grateful for your support. Love you. Tiffany”

Makes me feel good.

Thanks, Ben and Peter

I mean, really. You two have taken a chance on an old lady who doesn’t have a degree but has a fire in her belly to actually learn and grow as a developer. I can’t thank you two enough. Truly. Thank you.

Well

Everyone has a story. I am glad mine is ending up like this. I hope for happiness and success for anyone who is on the outside looking in in tech. You got this. ???


  1. I am old. I am the oldest person on the team. Haha. I am young at heart though. Goes to show someone pushing 40 can break into the industry if they work their asses off. 

My First Interview: A Love Story

Okay, so not really a love story, but a good one nevertheless.

A while back, maybe a month and a half ago, I was in the Code & Supply Slack, a local code meetup in Pittsburgh, perhaps the largest one here. Listless, I went to the #jobs channel.

Scrolling through all the positions I found one that intrigued me: a JavaScript developer position. Great!, I thought. Just what I want.

The job posting was by a company I found three years ago 1 when I wanted to be UX girl. I remembered their unique logo and branding and dug into their site back then. I wasn’t ready for a job yet but I did remember them.

I applied right away.

The application process was simple. Upload your resume, tell us why you want to work for us, drop your links in this box. I did all that. Up until I applied I had gotten 3 rejections for positions I’d applied for. I knew I had a shot at getting an interview with this company.

Emails Sometimes Get Lost…

I have a habit of checking my email too much. After discovering important emails were ending up “All Mail” in my G Suite account, I would go in there daily to see what I had missed.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see the initial email asking for a video chat by the company. And it just so happened, two weeks later, I popped into All Mail and the HR person’s email was at the top, asking if I had received the email and that they really wanted to chat with me.

WTF? Is this real life?

I responded, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. We set up a time within the next couple of days.

That day after I received that email, I literally could have run around my neighborhood 2. I could hardly sleep.

The Day of The Interview

I went to bed at 7 PM after taking three melatonin for sleep 3. The next day, I showered, got dressed up and sat in front of the webcam 10 minutes early. I was pumped and nervous.

They came on and introduced themselves. Asked me to tell them something about me. I mentioned I was originally an English major. They were both English majors in college.. We talked about my projects. The tech lead said he saw that I was coding a markdown grammar checker and hoped it would be named, Check Yo Self and it was.

I mean, you can’t start an interview better than this.

The tech lead didn’t get too technical with me, just asking about my projects, mentioning that Check Yo Self is a big undertaking. I was happy he felt that way. I need that.

He mentioned testing, and a few other things. I don’t have any testing experience. There were things I didn’t know. And I let them know it.

After the Interview

They let me know they would contact me in a couple days to let me know if I moved on to round 2. There were four or five rounds. The second round was meeting with more technical people. The third was meeting the bosses. Fourth round was meeting in their headquarters with that team. And the fifth was meeting with the team in Pittsburgh.

I felt like I had a great shot at the second round, the interview went so damn well. They have in their emails that they are committed to diversity and inclusion and if you didn’t have access to video equipment they would accommodate you. This is so rare. So so rare. I felt extremely lucky to have an interview with such a great company with these great people.

I didn’t do anything at all that night except bask in the fact that I had nailed that interview. It was catharsis for me. I have spent the past three years learning and that interview was validation that people have seen I am working hard and know what I am doing. It felt like a weight had been lifted and now I could have more confidence.

I also wasn’t stupid. I knew I needed to apply elsewhere because nothing is guaranteed.

The Follow-up

The next day I received this email:

Hi Tiffany,

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with [redacted] and me yesterday to discuss the JavaScript position at [redacted].

While we enjoyed chatting with you and were impressed with your personality and passion for web development, we will not be moving forward with your application. This particular role will require a broad perspective and professional experience for building for the web, so we need to ensure that the person we hire is ready to hit the ground running in those ways on our larger projects. We’d encourage you to continue on the road you’re already on and to consider applying again in the future! You’re incredibly smart and capable, so we’re excited to see you continue building on your web development knowledge base.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions of any kind!

Thanks and best wishes!

I read that email five times in a row. It stung but that email was so…I don’t know. It is rare to get an email like that from a company that isn’t going to hire you, with feedback, etc. They really liked me, thought I was incredibly smart and wanted me to apply again when I gained more experience. I may not have gotten the job but I can’t be mad. I’d been validated, even in rejection.

What’s Next

I’ve decided to take some time to learn testing and React, as well as user auth with Passport.js, as well as Locomotive, an MVC framework built on top of Express. I will start applying again after the holidays.

I want a more solid foundation and breadth of knowledge before diving in again.

I’m excited for my future in this field.


  1. I got my first Mac three years ago with my first Mac bundle: a code editor and several learn to code courses. Up until that point I was a techie who wanted to write for a living and code on the side. After going through a few courses and falling in love with OS X, I decided programming was for me. The rest is history. 
  2. Except I am really out of shape and live in a bad area and it was 9 PM. 
  3. Because of some faulty brain wiring, I need medication and it helps me fall asleep. Usually. If not I suffer from crippling insomnia and because I was so excited, I knew sleep was not in the cards. 

Tech Ladies and The Job Search

I can’t go back to Pitt this semester as the funds ran dry. I had been planning to search for work after the semester. I’m still searching, just probably before I had planned. This is where Tech Ladies helps with my job search.

Enter Tech Ladies

I found a tweet on my Twitter feed about Ladies in Tech™. I found the tweet intriguing and checked it out.

Tech Ladies™ 1 is a site/company all about connecting women and WOC to tech jobs who are open to a diverse workforce.

You need to be approved but after that, you get access to their job board and the closed Facebook group 2.

I got approved to their Facebook group and lurked for three weeks. I felt a bit intimidated: here were highly educated women with more money than I’ve seen in my entire adult life 3. I have 3/4 of a BSc in Computer Science and am not employed. I felt a little out of place.

With some prodding some of my good friends I decided I’d speak up. I am so glad I did:

INTRO

Hi! I’m Tiffany. Been a part of the group for a couple weeks just lurking. Pretty damn shy.
I am a junior dev looking to break into tech. I am older than most in the techsphere so I feel like I am bound to the East Coast for positions though I’d like to go out West at some point.
I was a CS major at the University of Pittsburgh but funds ran out. I am worried about that as well.
I am steadily working on projects, posting them to GitHub, and hoping someone will take a chance on me eventually. I plan to start applying in the spring.
Nice to meet all of you.

The response I got was amazing. Several other Pittsburghers chimed in and wanted to meet up. I got some advice about attending meet ups 4. Being nervous about not finishing my degree, someone spoke up about moving to Pittsburgh and getting a dev job and not having a CS degree. She got in relatively easy, and to PM her. I added her on Facebook Messenger but have yet to question her, which I plan on doing tonight 5.

Job Search Starts Early 2018

I wanted to wait until Spring/Summer to start looking for work. I think I am almost ready. But I will probably start sometime in February.

Tech Ladies has a sh!t ton of jobs for us. Looking forward to the search!


  1. It’s free but for $99/3 mo. you get more features. 
  2. You need to answer some questions to get in similar to the questions to get into their job boards. 
  3. You don’t have to make much to get that distinction. 
  4. That’s on my to-do list for next month. I’ve lost a good bit of weight unintentionally so I will feel a bit more comfortable being at them. I’ve always felt weird in places like this as I am a really tall, just all around hulking human being. I scare little kids. Ha. No. I really do… 
  5. I’m such an introvert I need to mindmap emails to people. Ha.