April 16th, 2013 (Memories from the past)
The Seattle Rails educational and networking meet-up was an evening-long event with two technical talks, dinner, and networking. I was pretty nervous going into this, since my programming skills are rusty at best, and I am completely new to Ruby.
The Seattle Rails community was very welcoming. I felt encouraged and came away eager to continue forward learning Ruby and Rails as well as networking with folks in that community. “Matz Is Nice And So We Are Nice.”, sometimes pronounced aloud: MINASWAN. This is a phrase I learned at this event referring to the ruby language designer, Mr. Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz). It seems very true. I am looking forward to becoming a part of this community.
April and May 2013 (Memories from the past)
I remembered a nudge towards Ruby Koans that I’d been given by a friend and colleague a couple years back and so worked my way through the koans again. A very good reminder of the fun I had exploring this new language and how easy thing were to implement in Ruby. Ruby saves developers the extreme pain of memory allocation and pointers and string manipulation. This made Ruby seem like something to investigate further, so I did a bit of research investigating online learning resources to further my knowledge of Ruby.
I was rapidly starting to believe that Ruby on Rails may well be a good and enjoyable start along my path towards my goal.
April 11th, 2013 (Memories from the past)
This was the first in my networking event line up. A meet-up for the purpose of networking with other geeky women. It seemed like a good first step to get me started on networking. I was very nervous going into this, since this sort of thing is way outside of my comfort zone. Ok, deep breath, I can do this.
It turned out that these were good and friendly folk. We were all mostly new to this whole networking thing, but that helped somewhat. I introduced myself to a number of folks and worked on those introduction sorts of conversations. Some were more successful that others. I’m glad I went. This was a good training event in how to network.
March 28-31st, 2013 (Memories from the past)
Spring brought with it the local literary convention, NorWesCon. There were several panels that got me giving a great deal of thought about:
- women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math),
- the importance of networking within my industry,
- and how to re-find my passion in technology
I decided it was time to pick back up my long abandoned pursuit of programming and to start networking with other women in technology for mutual support and growth.
Most of my social connections previously have been with men, so networking with women was a frightening notion for me. I have long shied away from Ladies Nights Out as being very foreign and uncomfortable and not very applicable to who I was. But, I needed to get out more and freshen my networking skills as a preparation for interviewing so I time to plunge forward right outside my comfort zone.
First, some history to know where I come from, technologically.
I discovered my passion for computers in a programming class I took in high school. My gradual route through post-high school education eventually took me to the University of California at Santa Cruz. I had initially planned to major in Computer Science, but when I discovered that they had a Computer Engineering program where I could learn all about hardware and still take programming classes as my upper division electives, I knew I’d found the right program for me. Years of hard work later saw me successfully earn my degree and employed in the computer industry as a software tester.
Whoops, a job in test!
I had initially planned to become a developer, but landed my first industry job at a startup that needed a tester immediately and I was the only one on their list willing to come in the very next day, a Saturday. Yes, I had social plans, but the opportunity was not to be missed, considering the huge hiring freeze in Silicon Valley at the time.
Several industry quality engineering positions later, I decided that I very much liked testing, as long as I was working very much inside the development process. I wanted to be in on the design decisions and debug the specs (specifications) before they were implemented and it was too late.
Slowly the industry changed, turning quality engineers into SDETs and requiring automation of monolithic systems where it’s hard to feel like your testing, your coding, or your opinions matter much. I had managed to avoid this side of the industry. But now, it seemed to be the standard. Another failed SDET interview in February seemed to confirm this.
Winter, 2012/2013 (A turning point)
An old friend from my long ago Santa Cruz days visited over Thanksgiving, 2012. I was pretty uncomfortable in my own skin at the time and had been been feeling like I didn’t have anyone I felt like I could turn to.
Turning to others can be very hard.
You see, I’m a rather strong personality. Small surprise there, I know. But what this ends up meaning is that for all I seem very strong and capable on the outside, I have a lot of doubt and weakness on the inside. I feel like many people look up to me (I still am perplexed by this), but none of them feel (to me) like they are strong enough and have the perspective to be someone I can lean on and turn to when I’m feeling week and in need of someone who sees me as just a person. Sees me with my faults and foibles, but loves me deeply and so can give me that support that only a friend who has known you for many years can give you. The kind of support that sometimes involves a boot in the arse. Thank you, dear Kallie.
She helped me remember the things I find important. And that my weakness is part of my strength and definitely part of my appeal. She showed me the beginnings of the support that women can give one another. And I started to discover some of the strength found from the support of other engineering women. She reminded me, through many delightfully geeky conversations about my love for engineering, right down to the 1’s and 0’s of circuit design. To be sure I’d learned my lesson, this valued friend sent me a LED clock engineering kit (AdaFruit is awesome!) for my birthday in the beginning of 2013. It wasn’t very long before I took the time to start soldering the pieces of that clock. So. Much. Fun.
Hey! There it is. My joy in engineering. Still there, without a doubt. Oh good!
OK, so now what…?
Early years through Fall 2011 (How I got here)
To make a goal, I find it important to know who you are, why you are that way, and what is important to you.
The most important aspects of my life all fall into three categories. My horses, my family, and my geekiness. Everything I do in life ties into at least one of these. That is the short version. For the long version, to learn more about me and what I find most important, read on.
I’ve been involved with horses my entire life. They inspire me. I love them deeply and their presence in my life is one of the foundations of my happiness and life satisfaction. After hoping and planning from my early teens, I finally have my dream ranch and my horse breeding program. I am working toward breeding honest, clever, and well-moving young horses that will, I hope, become that long sought after equine partner for the aspiring rider looking for just the right equine friend. A challenging goal. Intelligent horses can be a wonderful challenge to raise, but very rewarding as well. My careful breeding choices are taking care of the intelligence and athleticism. The daily focus is to raise and train up these youngsters in a loving but disciplined environment to produce and nurture their good and willing nature.
I am blessed with a wonderful family and most of all, by my son. I am absolutely biased as any mother would be. I find my son to be beautiful, very bright, energetic, loving and kind, gentle, a great adventuring partner, and a delight to watch learn and grow. I am also incredibly lucky in that he seems to share my love of horses and things geeky. I felt like I won the baby lottery when he was born back in 2009 and have felt that way even more so as the years pass. Certainly, he goes through the various challenges and foibles of every youngster, but I still feel like we have an easier time of it than most, and am very grateful to be so blessed. I am also fortunate, especially in this journey of re-discovery, to have an understanding and supportive family. It can be very difficult to change a career in midlife, especially with all the learning, studying, and growing that are involved in that process. My family was very worried about me as I thought and feared I’d lost my passion in technology. And now they are encouraging, patient, and supportive as I learn and grow. It can be very hard for a family during such a time. I am so glad that they are behind me all the way. I am very lucky. I could be making these changes without their loving support.
My geeky history
In some ways, I was very sheltered while growing up in California’s San Joaquin valley. I had my horses, my books, a few friends, and a hugely active imagination. I was mostly busy in my own world of pretend, but not too much so. I was an adequate student without trying. I was somewhat social as well as somewhat athletic. I was also a voracious reader. This last was probably what led me to declare myself “weird” in ninth grade. I’m not sure what I was going for at the time, but in hindsight, I was very right. It was hard to be interested in eclectic, odd, and alternative things in the area where I grew up, since mainstream culture was almost all that was available. But libraries were a good friend to me, and my active imagination combined with new ideas and worlds and creatures from books allowed me to explore my “weirdness” or what I now call my geekiness. As an adult, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and then to Santa Cruz where I found many other geeky people and interests to pursue. I discovered Sci Fi/Fantasy conventions, the SCA, gaming, electronics, and so much more. I worked hard at the local community college getting my core classes out of the way, then transferred to UC Santa Cruz, where I discovered that instead of majoring in programming, I could major in computer engineering, playing with hardware in the form of chips, resistors, capacitors, and wiring, while taking programming classes as upper division electives. So much fun!
My career so far
When just beginning my career with computers out in the work force, there was a huge hiring freeze all through Silicon Valley. This made finding a programming job very difficult for someone still in college. I got an opportunity, but it started me on the path of software testing instead of programming. I was initially a little unsatisfied, but grew to love breaking software. This satisfied me for a very long while. But as things went on, it was not enough.
I landed my dream job in testing. I was working with a product that I respected, with technology I enjoyed, with colleagues that were fun and challenging to work with, creating a product that was making a real difference in the world. But it was a very small company. And small companies must grow. And when small companies grow, they change. And often, those changes create a culture and a company mission that was not what it once was. Parting with my dream job in the end was painful and made me question myself, my abilities, and my passion in technology entirely. I spent that next year pursuing interests around my family and my horses in order to recover, since I was in no condition to market myself to a new company. I eventually found my balance again, updated and polished up the ole resume, and dove into the job search.
I was ready to return to work. I thought. But as the weeks and then months passed, none of the job listings seemed right. They were looking for skills I neither had nor wanted, or were working on things that held no interest. I felt my passion for technology falling to the wayside, in the face of the drab, the mundane, the stultifying. It was a low moment indeed.
Thus begins my journey.
2011 and 2012 (At the beginning of the journey)
Hello old friends. Hello new friends. Hello colleagues. Hello young learners. Hello respected professionals. I am the GeekyMamaMare. Welcome to my blog.
Please enjoy sharing my journey re-discovering my passion in technology and changing my career from software testing to software development. A wordy intro statement indeed, but very relevant to my journey as you will see in time. Let’s start by looking at the dilemma I found myself in.
I had been a quality engineer in the computer industry for 20 years, when, in the summer of 2011, what I thought was my dream job fell through my hands. I was devastated. I quickly realized that I was far too emotionally fragile for the moment and needed to take some time away from the industry to recover from my heart ache. Tears and interviews do not mix.
A year passed and I refreshed my resume and leapt back into the job search. I have been fortunate in the past in that each job came along just as it was needed, usually through networking, and generally right along the lines of where I wanted my career to go. This time though, it was a different experience. None of the jobs available seemed to be a good fit for my skills or my experience. I also was beginning to discover a lack of motivation in my search. It was as if my passion for technology and computers was missing.
Time to step back and take the time to figure out my priorities and what made me eager to go to work in the morning, since I sure wasn’t seeing anything available in the job market that made me eager to leave my family, my son, my ranch, and my horses every morning.
My new goal started to become clear.
I wanted to renew my passion for technology such that I could find a company to contribute to that made me as eager to head to the office in the morning as I was to return to my beloved ranch in the evening.
Ok, good goal. Now to develop a plan to take me towards that goal.