Izzy Baer may be a year into a successful web development career at Microsoft, but she didn’t always know she wanted to become a coder. She struggled to find a major, so college was difficult for her—nothing struck her as something she would want to do for the rest of her life.
After studying abroad her senior year, Izzy decided to change her major from sociology to Arabic. “I’ve always been good at languages, and I enjoy being challenged,” she says. But as fulfilling as it was to study Arabic, finding employment after graduation was a different kind of challenge.
“I quickly realized that [my major] wasn’t going to make me much money because I didn’t want to work for the government,” says Izzy. To make ends meet, she continued waitressing as she had throughout college. But when she lost her job in February of 2017, she decided it was time for a change. She knew there had to be more out there for her, something that would make her more money while also being something she could be passionate about.
“If they could do it, I could do it”
Though she didn’t know much about coding, Izzy knew it would challenge her in a way she had never been challenged before. So she decided to give it a try. “I signed up for a Code 101 class at Code Fellows and loved it,” she says. “It was really hard, and I was really frustrated, but I was like, ‘This is so cool.’” After speaking to some teaching assistants (TAs), Izzy decided to apply for a scholarship for women and minorities. “The TAs spoke about their experiences—many of them came from similar places and didn’t have any prior coding experience, but now they had jobs and were successful,” says Izzy. “It felt inspirational. If they could do it, I could do it.”
While coding is still a male-dominated industry, Izzy didn’t let that deter her from the field—in fact, she saw her gender as an opportunity. “I began to learn that women are underrepresented in the tech industry, and I saw it as something that might be able to benefit me,” she says. “People want to be more inclusive and hire more women.”
Izzy says that though she’d lived in Seattle for a while, it was when she enrolled at Code Fellows that she first began to feel like she was part of a community. “It just felt right,” she says. “I was making friends for the first time since I moved to Seattle. It felt like family.” But even with friends in her corner, for Izzy, the Code Fellows program was far from easy.
“There were several times when I had moments of, ‘OK, maybe I can’t do this,’” she says. “But then we were assigned to watch these two videos: one about grit and one about the growth mindset. They explained that the most successful children in school aren’t the ones who didn’t struggle, but the ones who just kept going and didn’t give up. Something went off in my brain, and I was like, ‘I just have to keep trying. If I stick to it, I will be successful.’”
Giving back to her community
And successful she is. After graduation, Izzy went on to become a web development contractor at Microsoft after working as a Code Fellows teaching assistant for six months. For her, the TA position was more than a job—it was a way to give back. “I wanted to become a teaching assistant because of the effect my TA had on me when I was a student,” she says. “I don’t know if I would have gotten through the program without them.”
Izzy says it’s this feeling of community that she’ll remember most about her time at Code Fellows. “The instructors, staff, TAs, and the rest of the people I met were really special,” she says. “If I had the choice, I would definitely do it all over again. It felt like home.”
Feel inspired by Izzy and her story? Interested in joining Code Fellows and making a career change? Whether you’re already experienced in tech or you’re looking to shift your career (or life) path, we believe in you. Check out our coding course map to see where you can take that first step.