Meet Morgan: From Technical Program Manager to Software Development Engineer

Meet Morgan Nomura! During her time as a TPM at Nordstrom, she got a front row seat to the work that software developers do every day. She studied at Code Fellows to quickly learn modern Python programming, and now works with the very developers who inspired her to try coding over a year ago.

Thanks for being willing to share your experience with us! How did you first hear about Code Fellows?

I’ve been on technology teams for six years before I joined Code Fellows, most recently as a technical program manager. A strong engineer on my team had gone through the program and recommended I take a look at it. I’d spent about six months learning to code on my own on the job, and I was realizing just how fun and interesting coding was for me.

How did you go about choosing which stack to specialize in and what attracted you to Python, specifically?

I chose the Python course because it included a heavier emphasis on data structures than the advanced JavaScript course. At the time I made that decision, I could’ve given you only the vaguest description of what a data structure was, but luckily my instincts were right and they were a highlight for me.

Why did you decide to attend Code Fellows over other schools?

Knowing a successful graduate—my teammate—was a big factor. I also had a good experience with the admissions team, and the advanced curriculum looked interesting.

What was your favorite part of your time on campus?

My time on campus was intense! As a student, you’re surrounded by people trying to learn more quickly than is comfortable in order to make a major life change, and there is a lot of group work. The stakes feel high. Given that backdrop, my favorite times were when my project teams and I knit together to execute something that seemed impossible.

Now that you are in your new career is there anything you wish you would have known or anything you would have done differently as you learned to code?

I overthink just about everything but I don’t have any regrets about how I learned to code. How you get started doesn’t matter as much as just continuing to do it. Code Fellows provides a good momentum.

What are you doing now?

I’m an SDE at Nordstrom on a data engineering and internal tools team.

During your job search, what helped you the most in landing your current role at Nordstrom?

I worked previously at Nordstrom and had stayed in touch with my teammates and colleagues while at Code Fellows. I also had a strong sense of the kind of work I wanted to do based on my previous time at Nordstrom. What I’d learned at Code Fellows (how to build infrastructure, internal tools, and data engineering) was a good fit for the team I ended up joining. Even though I was switching disciplines, I could convey my enthusiasm for specific elements of the work.

Communicating your enthusiasm seems like an important part of a the interview process. How did you make sure to convey this in your interviews?

Yes, I agree! We’re all different in how we convey enthusiasm, but being genuinely interested in what a team is doing and connecting it in some way to your own experience is a great way to demonstrate how you’d fit on the team.

Tell us about working at Nordstrom. Did you always want to go back and be a developer there?

I didn’t specifically have Nordstrom in mind. What I wanted most was interesting work on a team with smart, kind people and opportunities to learn a lot fast. I just happened to find it here!

In what ways did your education at Code Fellows (technical or soft skills) help you in your new role?

Code Fellows is a great way to get up to speed quickly on modern web/application development and deployment. As I told my instructor recently, I’ve used every scrap of what we covered in class on AWS cloud infrastructure. Code Fellows also does a good job including version control tools right away in the 201 class. For Python specifically, the time spent on data structures has helped me think about database operations in an optimized way.

How did receiving a Diversity Scholarship affect your career change?

After a couple of years working as a TPM, I knew I wanted to dive deeper into the technology. Receiving a Diversity Scholarship made my decision to change careers much easier and way faster. Without it, I likely would have spent longer learning on my own and questioning whether or not I should make the big jump.

Any advice for someone else starting to learn to code?

Yes, I have lots of thoughts about this! Here are a few of my favorites:

Ask yourself why you want to learn to code.

What feels rewarding to you when you’re learning? Starting something new can be disorienting, especially if you’re coming from a very different background. Get interested in the kinds of problems code can be used to solve, and you’ll have an easier time getting motivated to build projects that in turn build your skills.

Assess how you learn best.

For myself, I know that I like a lot of context. I want the fundamentals before I start building anything. But if I spend too long gathering information, I won’t build anything and my knowledge will remain theoretical. When I got started with playing around with JavaScript, I had to alternate between playing around with writing small programs, taking online classes, and doing my own research into how and where JavaScript programs could be executed.

Organize your brain.

I did (and still do) this by writing down the questions that come up while learning solo, in class, or on the job. Maybe they’re not critical for the problem you’re solving right now, but you can follow up later. We’ve all seen disorganized job postings that ask candidates to be “experts in JSON, APIs, and Node” or similar. As a new learner, it’s easy to see that list and think every item carries equal weight. As you gain more experience, you’ll learn that JSON is a way to format data, APIs can refer to any set of external-facing functionality but likely refers to web APIs that allow for accessing or transforming data, and Node is a runtime environment for JavaScript. Taking time to follow up on words you keep hearing and to categorize what you’ve learned into higher-level concepts will be a huge strength as you learn.

Work hard but also be patient with yourself.

Immersing yourself in code is the best way to learn quickly, but you need to be ok with the feeling of getting stuck. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be learning to code, even if it feels that way. Maybe it means you need to stand up and walk around, or ask for help. Getting stuck means you’ll feel that much more satisfaction when you solve the problem!

Thanks, Morgan! If you’re interested in taking the same path Morgan did, get started in an upcoming Code 101 course »

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