Transitioning into Tech: the Experience of Two Hackbright Alumnae
Raise your hand if you’re interested in making the shift into tech!
You may have already read my post listing 5 Steps to Change your Career and Transition into Tech (if you haven’t, you should definitely check it out!). This time I wanted to talk to two wonderful women who have already taken the leap.
Meet Frances Liu and Allie Glotfelty, two awesome women in tech, who have graduated from Hackbright Academy, the Engineering School for Women, and are now enjoying their new jobs in their new roles! We sat down together live so I could ask them a couple questions about their experience and their responses were super insightful. You can either watch the Livestream recording or read their answers below – feel free to do you, my friend!
1. What are you currently doing in tech?
Frances: Currently, I am a technical program manager at ChanZuckerberg!
Allie: I’m a software engineer on the Messaging Team at Twilio, a cloud-communications company in San Francisco.
2. What did you do before and why did you decide to shift your career into tech?
Frances: Before coming to CZI I was doing the LEAP program at Microsoft, prior to that, I was a software engineer at Teradata. I decided to work in tech because it offers so many opportunities to create and collaborate with people from many different backgrounds.
Allie: Before going into tech, I worked for 8 years at education-focused non-profits primarily doing fundraising and event planning. I reached a point in my career where I wasn’t learning and growing as much as I wanted. One of my mentors recommended Hackbright. I have a degree in math, so it wasn’t too off-base. I started teaching myself to code and absolutely fell in love with it. Given that the opportunities for learning and growth within engineering are pretty much boundless, I decided to take the leap.
3. Was that an easy transition?
Frances: Of course it wasn’t easy! I definitely had a lot of highs and lows. I definitely feel like a changed person after everything and am inspiring to continue to grow and change.
Allie: I’d say it was a roller coaster. There were a lot of ups, but certainly some downs along the way. First learning to code was amazing and fun, but tackling new bugs and coding challenges was a struggle at times. Throughout my job search, I often wondered if I was good enough. Luckily my husband was a huge support and source of encouragement throughout the whole process. And now that I have a full-time role, and have found my groove, I couldn’t be happier. In all, the process took 7 months from leaving my nonprofit job to having a paid engineering role.
4. How did you find Hackbright Academy? And what made you decide to do the program?
Frances: I was directed to Hackbright Academy from a family member and what ultimately made me decide to go to Hackbright was because I was able to work on a project independently.
Allie: A mentor of mine told me outright that I should attend Hackbright. I did some due diligence and applied there and to one other bootcamp. Ultimately, I decided on Hackbright over the other bootcamp due to the amazing community of kickass female software engineers and the supportive learning environment.
5. What was your learning experience like? What was challenging and what turned out to be easier than you thought?
Frances: Most of my learning was geared towards learning the industry, language usage, how to network and connect with others, and figuring out how to best present myself as a person. Honestly, everything was challenging. There was pressure coming from all sides — internally, externally, socially, and mentally.
Allie: It was amazing learning alongside other women who were all motivated and there for the same reason. It felt much more intentional than my undergraduate experience. I think the pace was challenging and that point when I was working on my independent project when I wanted to scrap it all and start over again. Even with all the frustrations, I found that all the work we were doing was fun. I was constantly engaged, learning, and challenged. That’s when I knew I had found the right career for me.
6. How did you approach the job search in tech after graduation?
Frances: The first thing I did when I graduated was I looked at myself and asked what is it that I really want. Hackbright’s career resources at the time involved a lot of emailing back and forth with a career services advisor which helped a lot. I am a huge believer that the best learning experiences are hands-on. My first interviews were with Hackbright connections who not only gave me their time and valuable feedback on how I did but also challenged me in presenting my personality in interviews.
Allie: The career services team at Hackbright did a great job of setting us up for success. Before we even graduated, I had my LinkedIn profile, a resume, a cover letter, and a list of companies I wanted to work for all ready to go. I structured my time by allocating 2 hours for studying, 2 hours for applying for jobs, 2 hours for networking, and 2 hours of interview/whiteboarding prep. I also made time for self-care, including exercise, meditation, and treating myself after interviews to an ice cream or cookie. Hackbright also had a demo night where we were able to demo our independent projects for a group of partner companies. I met some representatives from Twilio at that event, which ultimately led me to apply there.
7. What’s next for you in terms of career in tech and professional development?
Frances: I just started as a TPM and I love my company! I love the mission, I love the people I am surrounded by, I love my manager, and I love my coworkers. I aspire to start my own company one day and seeing Priscilla and Mark making such a radical change in the world inspires me to chase after my own dreams.
Allie: I’m still pretty early in my career. I am working closely with my manager to track my progress, find new challenges, and progress within our career development structure. I hope to someday become an engineering manager and perhaps even run an engineering organization.
8. What advice would you give to women who are looking to transition into the tech industry?
Frances: I think the advice I would give today is — find your voice and exercise! After going through many interviews, the ones that I performed the best in were the ones where I was comfortable being me. I was an athlete in high school and became a more recreational swimmer in college but the sports and swimming mentality has stuck with me and really helps with the tough mental blocks.
Allie: Sit down for 8 hours and start teaching yourself to code. If you had a good time, even when you got stuck, chances are coding is for you. I think it’s also important to have fun with it. Coding can be very frustrating, especially when you spend 3 days trying to figure out what’s causing a bug in your code and it turns out to be a misplaced comma or something was misspelt. If you approach it with curiosity and a positive attitude, you are bound to turn the frustration into exploration and have a wonderful time learning in the process.
Thank you Frances and Allie for sharing your experience and for your wonderful advice! You guys are awesome and I know that you will achieve amazing things in this life. ✨
I also want to thank Hackbright Academy for supporting this post and for providing women with such awesome support when it comes to learning new skills and changing careers. If you guys are interested in learning more about their programs, follow this link!