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How one grad’s passion for gaming led her to software engineering

Hack Reactor

Stephanye Blakely

Stephanye Blakely’s interest in software engineering began before she even knew what software engineering was. She took an early interest in text-based games like King’s Quest and Space Quest, and while she enjoyed playing them, she was even more interested in how they were built – and how she could build her own. 

“I got into teaching myself little bits and pieces of languages just to create things,” said Stephanye. “I loved the fact that it was always a challenge. It was like solving a puzzle every time.” 

It was addicting, too. For years, she continued coding as a hobby, using online resources to learn new languages and skills in her spare time. It was abundantly clear that she’d found something she loved, but she wasn’t sure if or how it could translate into a career.

Eventually, she decided to take courses toward a computer science degree, but the timing wasn’t right, and she had to leave the program halfway through. For another couple years, she “bounced around odd jobs,” she said, before being laid off at the onset of the Coronavirus in the spring of 2020. 

“I kind of took that to maybe be a sign that I needed to look toward more fulfilling work for myself,” she said. 

She decided to go for it, applying and enrolling in our remote software engineering bootcamp. She graduated three months later with a renewed sense of confidence in her long-held passion. 

“The biggest and most important thing that I got out of the program was confidence in my own skills,” she said. “I'd spent all those years teaching myself little bits and pieces of programming, but I never considered myself to be good at it. It was only through this experience that I realized not only can I do this for a living, but the experience I had in the class is actually going to contribute to that.” 

And it did soon after graduation when Stephanye landed her current role as a Full Stack Engineer at DentalHQ, a company with a mission she believes in: offering alternative pathways to dental care for those without insurance. 

In her role, she implements new features and does frontend work. She also performs day-to-day bug hunting, solving whatever problems arise for both the internal team and the customer. As a member of a small team (just seven employees), she’s been given significant responsibility from the start, which she views as an exciting challenge and opportunity to grow quickly. 

Additionally, her position is remote, and much like she felt during the remote bootcamp, this type of structure allows her to balance work with her responsibilities and interests outside of work. 

Of those interests, gaming is still one. Whenever time allows, she dives back into it as a way to decompress, connect with her son through play, and enjoy herself while continuing to hone and expand her craft. While most of her work at DentalHQ is in React and JavaScript, gaming helps her stay up-to-date with C# and Java. 

This approach to learning, including the idea that it’s a continuous process, is what helped Stephanye get the most out of her bootcamp experience and what helped her connect with others in her cohort. 

“My cohort had people in it who were teachers, people who had been in marketing, and a lot of them didn't have a background in coding. But I think the one thing that we all had in common was that we really wanted to reach the same goal,” she said. “The bootcamp is definitely a good path, especially if you’re trying to change your life.”