By Sarah June Fischer February 14, 2017

Meet Selena & Disa: The Mother-Daughter Pair Learning to Code Together

Many of our students come to Code Fellows because of testimonials from friends who excelled in the program. It’s more rare that parents see the success their children experience and decide to enroll themselves—but that’s exactly what happened when Disa saw her daughter, Selena, successfully learn to code.

When Selena came back as a teaching assistant for our advanced Python course, Disa was also on campus as a student in Code 201. We talk with both Disa and Selena about their own challenges in class, what it was like seeing a family member go through the program (and randomly bump into them on campus), and their advice for incoming students.

selena-and-disa

How did you first hear about Code Fellows?

Selena: I heard about Code Fellows after a friend of mine graduated from a similar program in California. I researched a number of bootcamps in the area.

What made you decide to enroll?

Selena: After playing around a bit on my own, I came to Code Fellows’ open house. I was blown away by the people involved and how much they cared about the mission and the students. I enrolled that night.

Why did you decide to study Python?

Selena: Coming from studying Biology, I was excited about the scientific applications. I was also eager to learn a second language. As I continued my programming education, I found myself preferring backend development and Data Science—big data and APIs—something that Python excels in.

What’s it like having your mom going through the same program you just completed?

Selena: It is a little funny running into her on campus. But honestly, it is incredible to watch her learn and adapt to so much so quickly. I am incredibly proud of the work she has put in and the things she has accomplished.

Disa, tell us about watching Selena go through the program.

Disa: She was crazy—clearly there was an amazing amount of work involved—but happy. She connected with it in a way I hadn’t seen her connect with anything before.

What made you take the leap and apply for Code 201?

Disa: I was complaining in front of Selena and Tanner—another Code Fellows alum—about an accessibility glitch in one of my favorite pieces of software, and they said, “You know who could fix that?”

Are you planning to continue all the way to Code 401?

Disa: I am. Now that I’ve started, I’m not giving up.

What was each of your biggest challenge?

Selena: Time management has always been my biggest struggle—I was crazy and sleep deprived the whole time.

Disa: The building, believe it or not. I’m legally blind and very light sensitive, and some of the lights are aggressively bright and blue-white, which is the hardest light for me to handle. The staff has been incredibly helpful in sorting that out and finding a place for me to work.

Tell us a little more about learning to code while being legally blind. How has that affected your journey?

Disa: I feel like this world is not made for me. So many of the tools we use are not accessible for people with low vision—or they are only half accessible. You can zoom in to make your code text larger in Atom, for instance, but you can’t zoom in on the file tree. It stays the same size no matter what. Another glitch is the light in the building. It is commercial lighting, of course, so it’s very bright and very blue. If I wear my dark glasses or light-filtering contact lenses, which would make the blue light tolerable, I lose the blue that I need on my computer screen. The upshot of this stuff is that I spend as much my time troubleshooting my tools and environment as I do learning to code.

How has past training or experience helped you during the program?

Disa: Strangely enough, I’m glad I entered this program after I lost a lot of my sight. It means that I have recently been an absolute beginner at something. The great pitfall for adults returning to school is that they don’t remember what it was like to feel incompetent. It’s hard for them to get past their identity as an expert or an authority to learn something difficult.

What has been the most rewarding and enjoyable part of your experience?

Selena: Building things is incredibly rewarding—putting work into a problem with a tangible outcome. Frankly, I have never found anything that I have been this excited and passionate about, and being able to see something with real world applications come from that passion is one of the best feelings there is.

Disa: All of it. I do logic puzzles for fun. This is a whole class full of puzzles.

Selena, can you share a little bit about your transition from bootcamp student to TA?

Selena: It is funny to watch these students come down the same path you went down one month, three months, six months ago. It is incredibly humbling and makes me both proud of where I have come from and unbelievably excited to see what the students I teach will do. I am constantly learning from them.

Do you have any insight you’d like to share with incoming students?

Selena: Breathe. You are doing better than you think. The work you put in will absolutely show.

Disa: Make the leap. Commit the time. And never miss a day.


Interested in the path that helped both Disa and Selena learn to code? Learn more about our beginner-friendly web development class »