I’ve been meaning to write this post for over a month, but deferred because I’m busier than I’ve ever been, to the point where my approach is now to just get things off my to do list by any means possible. A few weeks ago, I actually resorted to using a simplified scrum board to track my obligations and priorities; as a result, I’m finally making progress on all those need-to-do-this-sometime-but-nobody’s-paying-me-to-do-it-right-now things that have been clogging up my mind for the last 6+ months.
I wrote my last Outreachy blog post on February 1st, detailing that I was a month away from finishing up my internship. The period between March 1st to around June 1st was kind of a bummer. I put in a lot of applications, generally didn’t hear back, bombed the interviews when I did, did a number of frustrating coding challenges, and anxiously started to wonder if this whole programming thing was, in fact, the expression of some latent mental illness I hadn’t quite put my finger on.
And then my (much wiser) friend mentioned that I’d done pretty well rustling up short-term contract work, and that people, you know, did that full time. Which I think I’d never really considered–I’d been so used to having a job and everything that entailed that the idea of just continuing to drive my own ship the way I’d been already driving it just hadn’t popped into my mind. And I had so many doubts, like: can I develop as a programmer if I don’t have strong mentorship, a good team, one of those in-house development plans?
But I had nothing to lose. So I decided to shift my focus. I reached out via twitter and in my personal network, and within a few weeks, I had not one, but two offers for regular, long-term contract work.
As you can imagine, this was the part where I started sobbing. Although I didn’t strictly move into programming for the money, per se, it definitely pays better than healthcare. I’d gotten sick and then quit my job and my career and taken this huge leap of blind faith, dragging my husband along for a ride–and here it was, the proof that this hadn’t been a mistake all along, that I hadn’t been crazy, that people were actually going to pay me a living wage for doing this.
The decision, as you can imagine, was agonizing. The first offer was at an agency that seemed like it would be amazing to work at, doing a number of sequential django client-facing projects, and it seemed like they really wanted me, to the point where they pivoted mid-process and asked if I wanted to come on as an employee instead. I couldn’t believe it. That said, they also seemed like the kind of place where everybody gives 110% all the time, and to be honest, after reinventing my entire life over the course of the year, I was feeling a bit burnt out. I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work, but I was also worried about taking on more than I could handle.
The second offer was at a headless CMS, and the project looked really exciting, and I really liked the idea of staying with a single project long term and kind of getting to know it on a really deep and fundamental level. They actually had me use the product during the coding challenge, and I have to say–it’s really slick! Drop in blog with Django (or any other stack) that allows you to use your own templates, styling, etc., with totally minimal fuss? Um, yeah, I’m into that. They were also offering more flexibility in terms of hours per week, less meetings, etc.
I thought hard about it. I cried a lot. I contacted every programmer I’d ever talked to for advice, sure there was some huge, big red flag I was missing on either side or both that would make this decision easy for me, but there really wasn’t one. The truth was that I had two really good offers. They were different in some ways, and similar in others, and I was just going to have to make a decision.
I wound up taking the second offer, and on July 1st, almost four months exactly after finishing my Outreachy internship, I came on as a long term contractor at ButterCMS. I have to say, it’s been really great. I’ve learned a ton just over the last month, including during the process of pushing up my first big ticket, which was the new landing page! (EEEEEP check out that cutaway mask on the video!) There are a number of people on the team that are just freaking aces at what they do, and they’ve been so kind about taking the time out of their day to mentor me, and now I’m cramming stuff into my brain at the speed of light–back-end, front-end, best practices, it’s all there and great. I work a fairly regular schedule (by my own choice), but take off time when I want or need, which is such a godsend at this stage of my development–because there are a lot of days where I get four hours of work in and realize that yep, that’s it, that’s all the productivity my brain is going to make happen today, and then I can jet out early and read a book or go for a walk or go to the beach.
In other words, this whole, crazy experiment? It worked. I’m a paid developer. It feels like living the dream, and sure, there will be bad days and good days and bad jobs and good jobs, but I know for sure that I can do this and that people will pay me to do it, and I have to say, that’s pretty sweet, and I’ll be forever grateful to Outreachy for giving me that massive push to get me here.