3 Women Who Never Thought They'd Work In Tech Reveal How They Switched Careers
In this day and age, changing careers isn't as unheard of as it used to be. In fact, it might even be more common than you think. According to a study conducted by Future Workplace, 91 percent of millennials expect to change jobs every three years — meaning that millennials can have anywhere from 15 to 20 jobs throughout the course of their careers.
Women may choose to change careers for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you're looking for a job with more flexibility, or maybe you're just feeling stuck or burnt out by your current situation. Whatever the reason is, it's crucial that women are able to have access to resources that can help them make the big jump — no matter how scary it may seem.
Bustle spoke to three women who decided to head back to school and work toward a major career change, all for numerous reasons. All three of these women were students at Flatiron School, an outcomes-focused coding bootcamp with career coaching and job placement support to students around the world, and took software engineering immersive courses to help prepare them for their next steps toward a brand new career in tech.
Flatiron School has long worked to close the gender gap in tech and coding. In 2017, Flatiron launched the Women Take Tech initiative, which has provided more than $1M in scholarships to date to support women looking to launch their career in tech. Flatiron also regularly hosts panels and events focused on women in tech and women's study sessions designed to build an inclusive community.
If you're thinking of switching careers, read on for some words of wisdom from women who have done just that.
1. Hannah Nordgren, Front End Engineer
In college, Nordgren studied fashion design and art history. After a brief stint in graduate school (she studied museum studies in costumes and textiles), Nordgren worked as a freelance fashion designer for eight years. After that, Nordgren wanted to try her hand at hairstyling, but after working in that industry for a few years, she decided to try something totally new.
As she was deciding what career to choose for herself next, Nordgren set three guidelines for herself: "I wanted it to still be creative, I wanted to be able to earn a salary that I could live off of, and I wanted a healthy work-life balance," she tells Bustle.
Nordgren eventually decided to begin studying front-end web development, and completed an intensive, 15-week bootcamp at Flatiron School. She's currently working at Vimeo as a front engineer.
Nordgren says she first expressed interest in web development while she was dating somebody who was a developer. "I had a resource for like, 'Oh should I study this or this?' And then, if I had questions, it was great to ask. So it was just like the perfect storm, really," Nordgren tells Bustle.
While fashion design, hairstyling, and coding may all seem completely different, Nordgren says they're actually more similar than you think. "You know, most of what I do all day is I solve puzzles, and throughout all my careers, it's been the same type of creativity — just a different medium," she says.
For others looking to make the jump, Nordgren advises finding something you're passionate about, and sticking with it — even when it might feel hard. "You know, going from fashion to hair, I was 31 years old and I was shampooing peoples' hair and getting yelled at by people who were 10 years younger than me. But, I knew that it would come to an end at some point, so it's just like, this too shall pass. Just keep at it — it's going to get better. Do something that you really like."
2. Marie Sonko, Software Engineer Apprentice
Originally born in Senegal, Sonko came to the United States at 19, where she attended college to study business administration.
After she completed her undergraduate degree, Sonko worked as a flight attendant for nine years, and then stopped working so she could raise her twin girls, now three.
However, after a couple of years, she decided she wanted to get back to the workforce and pursue a career she was really passionate about.
"I remember when I was taking classes at college, at Baruch College, I really enjoyed the coding classes, and I was really passionate about that," Sonko tells Bustle.
Sonko decided she wanted to go back to school and learn more about coding. However, Sonko says she couldn't afford any upfront payments, so she added herself to the email list for Flatiron School's Access Labs Initiative.
"The learning curve is still very steep — it takes time. And you know, you are always a learner."
Not only was she eventually accepted into the program, but she also became the recipient of an apprenticeship from 2U, an education technology company and partner of Flatiron School that offers online degree programs. "The learning curve is still very steep — it takes time. And you know, you are always a learner," Sonko tells Bustle.
While changing careers has its own challenges, Sonko says so does being a working mom. "I had to manage doing an intense bootcamp, working hard day and night coding all the time, also managing my family, and just trying to be successful and taking care of everything else," Sonko says.
Now, Sonko says she hopes to mentor other young minority women pursuing coding, and hopes to inspire her daughters to work hard and achieve their goals. "If you can find something you can do all day long without getting bored or even looking at the time, that's the right thing for you," she says.
Sonko also encourages women to use their voices, be courageous, and always believe in themselves. "They should never be afraid to speak up, and they should never doubt themselves or their intelligence, and to always be open-minded, to be open to learn, and to speak up for themselves no matter what," Sonko says.
3. Jessica Pamanian, Software Engineer
Before entering the tech world, Pamanian was a pastry chef-turned-competitive athlete and personal trainer.
"I felt stagnant in my career as a personal trainer. I wasn't really learning anything new, I wasn't really too inspired to learn anything new," Pamanian tells Bustle.
Pamanian decided to pursue coding after being introduced to it by one of her friends. "I poked around in it, and I was pretty much hooked in it," she says. "And I think what was appealing to me was that it sort of felt similar to being an athlete, and that when you're competing you're not winning every single second of the day, you're actually, you know, losing. You're getting back up, and then it makes those victories that much better, and so I felt like it was pretty similar to that."
"You know, everything's always broken and then you're fixing it, so there was something compelling about that. And I just fell into it from there," Pamanian says.
Not long after, she enrolled in the Flatiron School and went through the 15-week bootcamp, which she calls "the most challenging experience, probably of my entire life."
"The hardest part for me there was not knowing anything, and having to learn that it's OK to ask for help because, you know, coming from being a personal trainer and athlete, that was pretty familiar to me," Pamanian says.
Now, Pamanian is working as a software engineer, and is almost one year out of Flatiron School. She encourages other women to not be intimidated. "The best way to learn it is to just dive in and get your hands dirty," Pamanian says.
Changing careers may seem daunting, but these women prove that it's definitely feasible — as long as you put your mind to it and keep up the hustle.
This article was produced in partnership with the Flatiron School.