Cooking, Coding & Career Changes: A Chef’s Journey in Learning to Code

Hello! My name is Kayla Asay and I am a software engineer.

I did not always want to be in the tech industry–since I was in the fifth grade, I wanted to be a chef. I was fascinated by all the things you could make with different ingredients, and how tasty they could be. I loved sharing that deliciousness with friends and family. I didn’t become interested in software development until I realized all of the similarities between the two fields.

As my senior year of high school was coming to an end, I decided that I wanted to start my culinary career path in the Army. After school, I shipped out to basic training then went through Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to learn to cook. After my training, I was assigned to be a cook in 3-187 Infantry Battalion at Ft. Campbell for a few months before deploying to Afghanistan. I cooked out on a couple different combat outposts, which was on average around 100 people and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately towards the end of the deployment, I started to get a lot of back pains. Once I arrived back in the states, I had some tests done and discovered I had fractured and dislocated my lower vertebrae, forcing me to be medically discharged.

I was a baker for the last few months in the Army and realized it was physically easier on my body than being a line cook. I moved up to Washington to pursue a career in the baking industry and got an AAS in Baking and Patisserie. Shortly after finishing school, I got my first job in the baking industry.

I hated it.

Even though we did different flavors every day, each day felt the same. And to top it off, there was no diversity. After a couple months I realized that I needed to change careers. My back couldn’t keep up with the fast paced line cook industry that I loved so much and the baking industry wasn’t the best fit for me.

When I was first introduced to coding, I wasn’t very interested in learning to code. I didn’t care much for technology and was only on my computer once a month to pay bills. To convince me to try it, my friend compared coding to cooking. They both require creativity, having an open mindset, and understanding basic concepts. There are also many different types of coding and cooking which allow you create a variety of differnt things. Though at times they can both be very frustrating when things do come out as you expected.

6 Similarities Between Coding and Cooking

Creativity: In cooking and in coding, you will need to be somewhat creative. Yes you could just follow a recipe or copy a site, but in order to create new things, some creativity is required.

Having an Open Mindset: You will never know everything about cooking or coding, so having an open mindset and seeing what others have to suggest is important in order to grow and possibly make your product better.

Basic Concepts: Both cooking and coding have some basic concepts that are important to understand in order to have a foundation to build off of. Some basic skills for cooking would be knowing your knives and cuts, making a bechamel sauce, knowing the different ways to cook and more. Some basic coding skills would be knowing how to set up an HTML page, navigating through your editor and the console, how to troubleshoot, and more.

Types: There are several different avenues you can take in cooking and in coding so to start off in any industry, you need to pick one and grow from there. For example, in the culinary industry you can be a baker, a line cook, a pizza maker, a chocolatier, and more. For coding, it is more along the lines of different languages, such as JavaScript, Python, Ruby, C#, and more.

Making Cool Things: Both cooking and coding can make some pretty cool things with some not so cool ingredients. Garlic for example is not very good on its own and is rather boring, but add it to bread, clams, sauce, just about anything, and it is delicious! Same with code, you can have a snippet that would make things fade in and out, which is cool but by itself it doesn’t really do much. Once you add that to some pictures on a page, it makes the whole page better.

Frustration: Now if you don’t like being frustrated, I would recommend not being a cook or software developer. There are definitely more frustrations with coding than with cooking (at least for me). Missing a semicolon? Fatal error. Pan too hot? Burnt food.

I will always love to cook. But with software development, I’ve found a career that lets me be creative in many of the same ways that cooking does.

Knowing the similarities made my transition over much easier. Now I can proudly say that I am a software engineer and that I love my new line of work!

Want to try out coding for yourself? Check out an upcoming Code 101 workshop »

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