Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Programming, Why Now? (Really...Why?!)

I wanted to talk a little bit about why I chose to take up programming now. I've mentioned some major life shifts earlier this year which prompted me to go a different direction, but if you know anything at all about me, you know that I've been partnered with a fairly prominent programmer for more than 15 years. I've been around you techy types for many years, so it's kind of a mystery as to why it took so long to pique my interest. So, why now?

I've had my own projects and interest in the past, but the timing, along with other changes, has coincided with a lull in those projects. I've been having many conversations about job hunting, trying to figure out what to do after 14 years as a mom and volunteer with a degree that's not exactly lucrative. I have been told over and over that programming is something any reasonably intelligent person can pick up and learn on their own with some time, commitment, and gumption. I like to think that I'm a reasonably intelligent person most of the time.

The seed had been planted. Around the same time, I ran across a New York Times article on twitter about women in tech and some of the challenges they face, including some of the more recent controversial incidents. I'd been following this particular topic for the last couple years through my partner because my background, in part, is in Women's Studies. The gender discrepancies, occasional hostile attitudes, and active movements to address these issues were very interesting to me. As I read the article, I found myself thinking "Wow, this sounds incredibly discouraging to women thinking about going into tech." However, immediately upon finishing the article, I realized that my personality is very well suited to both the current and evolving tech culture. So why the hell not? I *want* the opportunity to be a participant in change and possibly even a voice in the community should I ever figure out what I'm doing. :)

Just today I read a blog post about a RailsConf experience that was overwhelming positive despite low expectations based on past anecdotes of sexism and racism at tech conferences. It was both funny and encouraging for someone like me who is just starting to test out these waters. I'm a confident, opinionated, logical, occasionally outspoken person and I still have trepidation about merely attending a tech conf as someone who doesn't yet "belong" (although this nervousness is diminishing).

Since I made the decision to go down this road just a few weeks ago, I've gotten nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm. That says a lot. And it keeps me going. It's worth the frustration and pain of pushing through my weak spots because the payoff will be worth it. I've spent years around someone who loves what he does, who was so passionate about his project that he took a vacation from his day job to spend a week in the basement working on his "fun project." Now his fun project is his bread and butter. I have always found this inspiring. It's an exciting challenge that I'm definitely up for.


  1. We helped setup a computer programming club for 4th and 5th graders to code (two years in a row for most of the school year). Over 1/2 of the club members are girls. (Which was a goal!) And the top programmer in the club (this last year which just ended) was a girl. There are many top programmer in the class. Smart group. The stuff they come up with is awesome. I think programming clubs and socializing takes some of the stigma away. My oldest daughter (now in college) programmed at a very early age, but later decided it was no longer cool. So forming clubs might help. Programming support group. LOL

  2. I agree! I think the gap is generational. It's likely to disappear by the time that generation of programmers are entering the workforce. I love that so many people are doing great work to speed that process along...and I'm happy to be swept up in the tide. :)