Why I Decided to Study Software Engineering and Change Careers During a Pandemic

I had just received my job offer from a company I interviewed with in Tokyo, Japan and my first semester of senior year at Carnegie Mellon University was nearing its end. With everything from GPA to mental health positively lined up, I was certain nothing could get in the way for my last semester. I was prepared to go out to Wine Wednesdays with my girlfriends and thoroughly enjoy myself at Spring Carnival (a 3-day event we all used as an excuse to get flat out drunk in broad daylight) without the constant and excessive worry over jobs and grades.

Of course, this all came to a halt when COVID-19 broke out, spreading rapidly throughout the world, inevitably bringing it and every single plan I had made to a roaring stop.

“Haha… it won’t be that bad, right? I’ll be able to celebrate my birthday with my friends at the club by May, right?” I obsessively thought to myself. Although I retrospectively find my naive thoughts wildly laughable, they were not uncommon.

Ultimately, my job offer as an Associate Recruiting Consultant was rescinded, as moving across the world to Japan was unsurprisingly no longer an option. I successfully graduated from college with a degree in Business Administration and Japanese Language, but with all job prospects in my field of HR and recruiting as dry as the Sahara Desert, I moved back in with my mom and eventually found a temporary job to sustain myself.

Now that I was granted all the time in the world, I began to ponder whether my current career trajectory was what I really envisioned for myself. Did I really want to move to Japan, away from my family and friends in the States? Did I really want to work in a country whose language and culture I wasn’t innately fluent in? Did I want to spend my life and career as a recruiter? Or was I looking for something more exciting and groundbreaking, at the frontier of change?

“Look into coding, Jenny,” said my older brother. “This is the perfect time to learn a new skill and shift your career when the world is in chaos.”

Utterly lost and back to square one, I had nothing to lose. As a fresh college graduate and already in debt, I wasn’t interested in graduate school, which would cost two more years of my time. So, I turned my attention towards coding bootcamps.

I was always surrounded by programmers and designers back in college. Carnegie Mellon had no shortage of students interested and passionate about tech. Yet, imposter syndrome seemed to shadow me throughout all four years. Looking at some of my brilliant classmates, I thought, “How can I — me — possibly make it in tech when there are so many people smarter and more skilled than I?”

Having had enough of my fear of failure control me, I spent a majority of my summer and fall of 2020 researching and prying into the world of programming. The more and more I read through blogs and forums and watching YouTube videos, I increasingly saw excitement and appeal in a career in coding and designing. I wanted to join the wave as soon as possible and so, I bit the bullet and signed up for Flatiron School’s Software Engineering program.

Me, as a child, typing one character at a time

Looking back, even as a child, I always had an interest in technology. As a longtime Apple fan, I jumped to watch Apple’s annual WWDC, interested in what new hardware and software the company had created this time. In terms of devices, I wanted the best of the best and always adopted electronics that would overall make my life and routines easier.

Although I don’t know what my future will look like, the pandemic certainly taught me how to be resilient and flexible with unexpected events — a newfound skill I’m sure will help with coding when I’m debugging with no end in sight.

I’m positive that with such dark days, there are bound to be days just as bright. Those are the moments I look forward to and that drive me to keep coding during times of frustration. Ultimately, I can’t wait to see where my programming journey will take me. I know there will be days where I sit in front of the computer with a blank face, not knowing how to execute the code or solve a bug. Or maybe I’ll find myself on a hot streak, completing labs after labs. Either way, I’m excited to discover another facet of myself and realize just how much I’ve learned at the end of these ten months. Similarly, on the same degree of excitement, I hope I’ll be able to move out of my mom’s house soon.

I’m a recent graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with a business degree, currently attending Flatiron School for Software Engineering!

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