Today I'm fortunate to share an interview I had with Bekah Hawrot Weigel who is a mom who wanted to make a career change and so attending a coding bootcamp. Now she is a developer and is able to work part-time and remotely. Bekah is a great example of the fact that coding is for everyone.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to interview you Bekah. Could you tell us about yourself?
What got you interested in programming?
When I had my fourth child, my uterus ruptured into my bladder, but the doctors insisted that I was fine, and sent me home. A month later I finally had surgery to fix the problem, but I came out of that month with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Therapy and medication helped me with the panic attacks and the depression, but the memories of what happened were constantly cycling through my head, hundreds of times a day.
My husband, a programmer, suggested I try to learn to code. At first, I thought he was crazy. But he kept suggesting it until I finally tried out freecodecamp. What I found early in those coding sessions, was when I was coding, those memories cycling stopped. For the first time in a year, there was silence in my brain. So initially, it was incredibly therapeutic.
How did you start learning to code once you had decided you wanted to pursue it?
I saw on Twitter that you have 4 kids. Do you have any advice for moms who want to get into coding?
Balancing motherhood and learning to code can be really challenging and difficult. Just today I posted a blog about what I would say to my past self. The biggest thing that helped me was to try to be flexible. That’s a difficult thing for me to do. I like schedule, order, control. But I couldn’t always code at the same time. I couldn’t always (or ever) keep the house clean.
I started coding twenty-minutes a day, and eventually, that grew into a couple of hours a day. One of the best ways for me to do that was by waking up early. For me, that was 4:30am. But, I would go to bed by 9:30pm. There’s always so much to do, but you have to take care of yourself. This might sound like weird advice, but I think doing your best to take care of your whole self is really important. I decided to give up an hour of coding a day to workout. That was a big sacrifice. But I found that when I did nourish my body with exercise, I was way more productive.
Another tip is to find community. There are a ton of moms out there learning to code. It’s a beautiful thing. Reach out, find out how you can get that support. I’m part of a slack channel of moms in Flatiron School and one (totally free) for moms who code that I met through social media. Some days it just feels great to be able to talk to other moms about all the challenges you’re facing.
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Can you tell us what learning programming at Flatiron School was like and do you have any tips for bootcamp students?
I loved Flatiron School. The curriculum is solid and challenging. The community is fantastic and all of the section leads and coaches I talked to were supportive, kind, and helpful. For online self-paced students, it can be difficult to stay motivated. I love setting goals, so I would set goals for how much time I would code and how many lessons I would get through each week. I wish I would’ve been more involved in the community and gone to more study groups. Whenever I went to a study group, I learned so much. It can also help to have someone who’s working about the same pace as you to talk to, pair program with, and navigate bootcamp.
What do you think employers in the US could do to make it easier for moms to work and progress?
Right now I feel like I’m living the dream. I wanted a part-time, remote, flexible job and that’s what I have. I think the biggest part of that is the remote and flexible opportunities. I once heard the head of a bootcamp call moms the hardest working students he had because they have goals to accomplish and no time to waste. I would agree with that based on most of the moms who code who I’ve met. Don’t write someone off because they need flexibility or because they have a gap in their resume. Find out if they can do the job, if they learn quickly, and are up for the challenge.
You must be a productivity champion by this time! Any tips for managing your time?
I love a good schedule. When the kids are in school, that’s much easier. I try to be up two hours before they are to start getting things done. I also find it really cathartic to sit down on Sunday with my planner and handwrite my schedule for the week, including things like coding time, obligations, and exercise time. In some way, this solidifies it for me. But it also gives me a chance to look at the week and see where I might be pressed for time or if there will be extra time during the week.
So @TheCodePixi asked on Twitter, "what are your tips for women getting into the industry from a non-traditional, no CS degree background?"
Use your non-traditional background to your advantage. It helps you to stand out in a stack of resumes where everyone else has the same background. Think about what you’ve done in the past and how that makes you a better coder and let people know.
Can you talk us through getting a job after Flatiron and what a typical day/week looks like?
For me, finding a job was not a typical experience. I found a job within a week of posting on Twitter. I made a post that said what I learned at Flatiron and that I was looking for part-time, remote, and flexible work, and my current boss reached out and I accepted a job shortly after that.
What are your hopes for the future?
My biggest hope for the future is to create a site that builds community for women who have postpartum anxiety or postpartum PTSD as well as an app that helps women during the postpartum period to navigate the changes in their mental and physical health.