Student Spotlight: From Teacher to Software Engineer

Rebecca Saines, Software Engineer, Streak 

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Recently, Hackbright alumna Rebecca Saines sat down with Course Report, one of the top online resources for prospective students considering intensive bootcamp programs, for their Alumni Spotlight. Formerly a middle school math and science teacher, Rebecca decided to pursue her passion in coding by attending Hackbright Academy, with soon after landing a position as Software Engineer at Streak.

Below are some excerpts from their discussion.  Visit Course Report to read the interview in its entirety.

What were you up to before Hackbright Academy?

I was on the pre-med path in college before finally getting the guts to tell my family that I didn’t want to be a doctor. So naturally, I instead graduated with a degree in Spanish. But I had always had a penchant for teaching and working with kids, so I applied for Teach for America and taught middle school Math and Science in North Carolina.

After teaching for five years, my husband George was bitten by the startup bug and we decided to move to the Bay Area. I used that move as an opportunity to transition from the classroom to…literally anything else. I ended up finding a position in customer service in an EdTech company, which is where I started to get more technical.

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When did you decide that you wanted to become a software engineer?

I was always interested in tech in the classroom and I had always had a propensity for math and science, but it wasn’t until I joined that EdTech company that I started to actually parse JSON and work with a database or an API. I kept learning those things as a customer service representative, moved on to manage the team, and then I moved into product management. As a product manager, I missed debugging and doing the technological stuff. When I realized that this piece was missing, that was a huge part of my decision to go to Hackbright Academy.

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Did you think about going back to college or getting a masters degree instead of a coding bootcamp?

I found that the return on investment for a coding bootcamp was so much better than going back to college, which is a much bigger monetary investment and a much longer time investment.

Click here to read the full Course Report interview.

Hackbright Academy is the engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry.  Learn more about Hackbright’s 12-week software engineering program Rebecca completed.

#GlobalEngineer Day – Hackbright Grad Creates App for Good

Natalia Margolis, Hackbright Fellowship Grad and Software Engineer at Huge, created an app called Notifica that allows people detained for deportation to send out alerts to family, friends and lawyers with the push of a button. In celebrance of #GlobalEngineer Day, we sat down with Natalia and talked about her experience at Hackbright, her experience working on Notifica, and her advice for women seeking a career in software engineering.

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What was the inspiration behind creating the Notifica app?

The inspiration came from Adrian Reyna of United We Dream, and the original hackathon team in Oakland. We met at a post-election action Meetup co-organized by PyLadies and Techqueria. When we went around the table saying what gave us hope, he said it was that folks already have strong networks supporting them. Adrian wanted to use tech to create a tool to activate those networks for a rapid response to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and to give people some control in a moment of chaos and uncertainty.

For our company hackathon, Cid Donham, Genki Hagata, Jessie Kim and I worked with Adrian to make this app a reality. The goal is to provide a way for undocumented immigrants to take control in a situation that causes a lot of uncertainty and fear. We were all deeply disturbed by the militarization of ICE and the fact that more and more people are getting swept up in raids and targeted attacks. After the hackathon, we ramped up and an incredible team of developers and designers worked around the clock, fighting to get the resources we needed to get this app into the hands of users as fast as possible.

How has the creation of the app impacted your own life?

It impacted my sleep and quesadilla intake… But seriously, this has affirmed why I got into tech in the first place. I wanted to find ways to bridge tech and social justice. After working on this, I have more confidence that I can actually do what I originally set out to do when I made the career transition.

I have also learned how much can get done, and how many roadblocks you can work through, when a team is passionate and genuinely cares about the success of the product on a deeply personal level. For everyone who worked on the team, this project has inspired a sense of purpose.

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How did your experience at Hackbright prepare you for working within a large digital organization like Huge?

I learned how to pick up new technologies quickly, and I learned to not be intimidated by the unknown. Pair-programming taught me how to communicate clearly about code, how to collaborate, and how to leave the ego out of work. Being around inspiring and supportive women also set me up with a little voice in my head encouraging me when I have challenges, and advising me about how to succeed as a woman in this industry.

Why is it important for software engineers like yourself to create apps for good?

If the tech community is upset about what’s been happening after the election, or what’s been going down for a lot longer than that, it’s time to do something about it. The tech industry has a ton of resources and skills to contribute. As a privileged white woman, I have benefited from an unfair system, and have a lot of resources too. Let’s leverage our resources by working with nonprofits, grassroots movements, and civic organizations to develop the tools they need, and develop apps with a purpose.

And hacking on apps for good in our spare time is a great start, but we also need to change the industry fundamentally. We need to be conscious of the ethical impact of our work and the lack of diversity in the culture of tech itself. For example, when software used to make decisions in the criminal justice system ends up having racial bias, it’s clear that software engineers need to think about the implications of what we’re developing and make sure the decision-makers and developers are diverse enough to have the perspective to flag these kinds of issues in the first place.

Any advice do you have for Hackbright students pursuing the job search after graduation?

Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know things. You won’t learn anything if you pretend you already know it all. The companies that are worth working at will value that honesty and curiosity, and will be the best places to grow.

Check out Notifica here and follow Natalia on Twitter @nmargolis89

 

EXCLUSIVE SCHOLARSHIP OFFERS FOR OUR UPCOMING COURSES:

Bay Area Girl Geek Dinners is offering $1,000 scholarships | Apply here!

In honor of International Women’s Month, every student will receive a $1500 scholarship for our full-time fellowship or a $500 scholarship for our Part-Time June courses!

Hackbright Academy is the engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry offering 12-week software engineering programs and night courses for women.

How Scholarship Winner Natalie Miles landed a job at Credit Karma

72584_751438918288_206195_n Natalie Miles is a business analyst at Credit Karma who earned a full scholarship to the Hackbright Academy Part-Time class. Eager to help with tasks at her current role, her knowledge in programming is vital in the current work landscape, and as a woman, she knows the increasing need of females in tech. 

It was during a job transition when Natalie had the idea of getting into the data science field. 

Wanting to learn Python, Natalie, who had previously known about Hackbright, heard about the scholarship application through Hackbright from the Women Who Code newsletter. “I read it all the time and saw that there was a scholarship opportunity. I had been through boot camps and that had always been the first thing on my mind.” Natalie said she liked that it was all women.

“It’s a great way to learn a challenging subject, being with other like-minded people who are similar to you.”

After the application process, which Natalie found to be quite painless, she had heard within two days that she got the scholarship.

“I think for me I would have been reluctant to make that jump had I not received the scholarship. The program was something I wanted to do for awhile and I always pushed back because I knew it required a huge time and money commitment, so having that money commitment out of the picture and knowing it would just be a time commitment on my part made it a go ahead.”

Hackbright’s new Prep Course is twice a week during the evening, for eight weeks that covers the foundations of programming, which amongst the many topics, includes Python, GitHub, basic data structures and functionality. The prep course is perfect for those that want to get more into programming but still need some more experience before taking the Fellowship course.

As far as the program itself goes, Natalie made great friends in addition to a great education.

“It was a very encouraging and nurturing environment. I like the fact that there wasn’t weird competitiveness going on, and it really helped forge great relationships. The cohort I was with was great and I made some really great friends from this class. It’s hard to meet people outside of work so having an in-person class is a really rewarding experience.”

Projects That Carry into Work

As a business analyst at Credit Karma, and a former operations analyst at Lending Club, Natalie wanted to learn programming to help with mundane projects and tasks in her work.

“One of the most important things as far as getting into the data science field is that I have a basic understanding of Python, and [without this education], wouldn’t be able to do.

One of the cool projects I was able to do at Hackbright during class was using an API project to improve a work-related issue. I was able to make a tool to have a presence of Reddit.”

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Eventually, Natalie would like to get a master’s degree in data science or an MBA. “I feel like I’m at such a big advantage knowing how to program—it’s such a valuable skill set. There’s not a lot of representation of women in these roles, and I feel an obligation to help and not be left behind because technology is advancing.”

Natalie’s advice for people who might be interested in learning about the Hackbright program and getting into more technical roles: “If this is something you’re interested in, make sure you set yourself up for success. Don’t keep putting it off because of timing…there’s never going to be a perfect time. Do it now while you have the availability, because you want to be able to focus on this and give yourself a chance to succeed.”

Hackbright Academy is the engineering school for women in San Francisco dedicated to closing the gender gap in the tech industry offering 12-week software engineering programs and night courses for women.