Kate Jefferson’s nudge to become a Software Engineer started as a frustration with what she was doing. After seven years working at accounting jobs, she felt her impact was limited by the tech tools she had to work with in her role. Furthermore, she didn’t have the skills to create better tools to manage the databases she worked with.
“I’m done feeling that I can’t make an impact,” she recalls thinking. Her life started to change when a friend told her of a unique opportunity: she could volunteer for a coffee house and artist community in New Orleans in exchange for room and board. A key motivating factor for Jefferson was that the person heading up this project, Tim, was a freelance app developer, and she would be able to learn from him.
“Five weeks later I had sold all my stuff, quit my job and moved to New Orleans with what could fit in my car.”
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had the stars align that neatly at any point in my life,” says Jefferson. “It was like the universe dropped me into a funnel that landed at Hack Reactor’s door.”
She moved to Wisconsin to live with her parents as she took the course. Jefferson chronicled her journey in an inspiring blog post.
As many have found before, the pair programming and video chats that are daily features of the digital classroom quickly spawned emotional bonds within Jefferson’s cohort.
“You get close to them really quickly because you’ve done a lot of intense work together.”
The Remote Beta program incorporated social activities that helped bring the group together.
“We had a show and tell night, which was really fun. We got to see people’s living space, their pets. We had the first Remote Beta talent night. People were reciting Shakespeare, someone rapped about our cohort. I sang. Hack Reactor really has the hang of making people who were in Korea, Colombia and Newfoundland feel like one group.”
The one major difficulty of using Meteor for some developers is that--among database technologies--Meteor only supports Mongo which is a no-SQL database. Meteor has a forum for developers to upvote issues that they want fixed, and a “SQL database for Meteor is one of the highest ranked issues,” Jefferson notes.
In four weeks of work, Jefferson and her team created a solution to this problem: a library called Space Elephant that allows SQL to be used in Meteor apps, while conforming to Meteor’s standards. Their library, which developers are already using in their apps, has gained enough prominence that the group was invited by Meteor to give a talk about it at their office.
“I knew this was an important thing for Meteor, but I didn’t realize how much of an impact this could have,” says Jefferson. “I really like Software Engineering, because it lets you impact people’s lives. That project really helped me solidify that that’s what I want.”
As a woman and part of the LGBT community, Jefferson finds the tech world to be more safe and welcoming than other work environments she has experienced.
“Software Engineering is actively embracing diversity in a way that other fields are not. It’s a great time to be a woman in STEM. It’s important for women to know that you don’t have to be stuck. There’s a solution and it’s technology. The jobs are here, the interesting things to do at work are here. Everyday it’s becoming a more safe environment for women….The same thing could be said for LGBT people. There’s a bureaucratic idea of what professional people look and sound like, and it’s very gendered. If you are not in an environment that accepts diversity, you could feel really outcasted really fast. San Francisco tech is about being yourself, there’s a doorway there for LGBT people to come in and be themselves and be accepted.”
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