CodeCamp Graduate: An Open Letter to Myself

CodeCamp Graduate: An Open Letter to Myself

 What would it be like if you could travel back in time and talk to your past self before you had made life-changing decisions? Wouldn’t it be great to go back and encourage ourselves to trust others in certain situations, or empower ourselves to advocate for our worth, maybe even just give our past selves the nudge to go after a career change sooner than we had? Whatever the case may be, looking back on a time when we were scared, nervous, or maybe even a little oblivious to our situations may make us wish we had known things prior to them happening. Read on to hear from one recent LaunchCode grad who thought the same thing…

LaunchCode recently partnered with St. Louis Community College to provide our Immersive CodeCamp for free to students who are wanting to take a deep dive into coding. The class is a full-time course that asks for a lot of time and commitment from its students. A recent CodeCamp graduate and new Software Developer Apprentice, Kathryn Jones, took some time to write a letter to her past self after she took the course.

For anyone considering taking a CodeCamp class or thinking about entering into the field of tech for the first time, this is a great read.


Dear Past Self,

I’m forever grateful you have chosen to pursue something different in your life by accepting LaunchCode’s offer to attend CodeCamp. I know it has been difficult to take this step. You’ve had to put a lot of things in life on hold and walk away from a lot of things that felt familiar in place of something that feels very unfamiliar. This journey is going to be filled with so many things that will be daunting, fun, overwhelming, stabilizing, humbling and I could go on. It will become the solid foundation you need to explore all sorts of careers in the technology industry. As cliche as it sounds, I believe it will help you find your bliss. I also believe you are more than capable of it.

That being noted, here is just a little heads up about what is to come:

The code is such a small piece of what you will learn. They’ve tricked you into thinking you’ll take this class just to learn to code. You’re going to learn a great deal more than that. Be excited. So excited.

You must expand your comfort zone. You’re going to struggle in ways you haven’t before. You will see others succeed while you are beyond confused. You will question your own abilities. Completely ignoring this feeling will just enhance the struggle. Let others know when you feel like you’re not getting it; you will realize others feel the same! Speak up when you have questions. Allow yourself to be uncomfortable.

Let others know when you feel like you’re not getting it; you will realize others feel the same!

At some point, you will become really aware of being a woman. Speaking of discomfort, being a woman may be uncomfortable at times. I doubt it will be in the classroom that you become overly aware of this. There are enough women in LaunchCode that it may not be as noticeable. However at some juncture, maybe at a networking event or your new tech job, you will find yourself one of the only women in the room. Try to find your support systems for this early. It won’t be wrong that you are there, but it can feel weird and out of place. There may even be comments made that are supposedly harmless and yet carry a great deal of burden. For instance, when you show off your great new full-stack web application with data persistence where you researched UI/UX, someone may compliment you by saying “you can tell it was designed by a woman.” This is meant to praise your efforts. Instead, it may just tell you that a woman’s place is in design and not in code or that you being woman matters more to others than your technical aptitude. Seek out other women in the tech space. It’s worth talking about to people that get it and can help you address all the feels. Also, this will help you learn how to best advocate and inform when these situations happen.

At some juncture, maybe at a networking event or your new tech job, you will find yourself one of the only women in the room. Try to find your support systems for this early. Click To Tweet

You will not be alone if you don’t want to be. There are amazing personal connections to be made. You will be spending 40 hours a week with these new colleagues of yours. You will want to dedicate yourself to knowing everything because somehow you think that will help you get a job fastest. You will think knowing the code is the key to success. However, success will lie in the moments after your two-day battle to iterate over that ArrayList<HashMap<String, String>> when you exhaustingly offer to help a peer do the same even though you aren’t sure you even know what you did. That is when it will click, the lightbulb will go on, and your confidence will soar. Not a moment before. Not even when you solve the problem. Making it through the struggle, explaining it out loud to someone else, and having her celebrate that moment with you will be what makes you successful. This celebration and knowledge sharing can happen in the classroom or out. Go to meetups, networking events, and class hangouts. You will learn a more holistic view of tech and be able to apply your knowledge in ways you never would have imagined. You will be the most surprised by this.

Go to meetups, networking events, and class hangouts. You will learn a more holistic view of tech and be able to apply your knowledge in ways you never would have imagined.

Things are still uncertain. Your acceptance to CodeCamp has opened a great number of doors for you, yet you will realize that walking through them does not come easy. You will still have doubt. You will still have unanswered questions. You will still feel lost at times. The amount of uncertainty will waiver at times, but it will continue to come back – pretty much the whole way through. As terrifying as the uncertainty feels, if you hold on to your resolve, there is certainty ahead. It builds and eventually the certainty will outpace the uncertainty.

Life will continue to get in the way. All the unexpected ups and downs in life that led you to upend your previous career path and molded you into the type of person that is willing to take this leap of faith in yourself aren’t going to cease to exist. There may be personal tragedy, health issues, car troubles, and all sorts of other life matters that try to derail you. Don’t let it; you’re stronger than that. Build up your support system and use the resources LaunchCode provides.

Build up your support system and use the resources LaunchCode provides.

There is success ahead. At this moment in my life, I feel successful. I cannot express exactly how or when that feeling manifested. I know changing directions in your life and pivoting so greatly from what you thought you were going to be doing has left some internal conflict. You may even feel like you have failed or that you wasted parts of your life. You have success ahead of you. LaunchCode’s CodeCamp will become the catalyst that renews a feeling of success in your life.

You have success ahead of you. LaunchCode's CodeCamp will become the catalyst that renews a feeling of success in your life. Click To Tweet

Your past experience matters. Part of my feelings of success are very heavily tied to realizing that my past is as important as the code. You will try to trick yourself into thinking you don’t have any experiences that relate to the problem at hand. It will seem hard, too different from the way you usually think, or it will just stump you. It will be lying! You have managed projects before. You’ve had to break problems down into smaller objectives and even smaller tasks. You know how to Google things! It may seem like everything is new, but you have a lot of past experiences to draw from. Don’t discount them.

It may seem like everything is new, but you have a lot of past experiences to draw from. Don’t discount them.

And finally, there is a reason why they chose you. This is still hard for me even today. I wonder why out of all the applicants I was selected. Yet, I have faith that I was chosen because I showed someone that I could do this. I just need to continue to show this to myself.

With so much faith in your abilities, I thank you for starting this journey.

Sincerely,
Kathryn Jones


With a background in Social Work, Kathryn entered LaunchCode with the goal of finding ways to use tech to continue being of service to others. Upon completing the Spring 2019 CodeCamp, Kathryn began her full-time role as an Application Software Developer Apprentice with Centene Corporation. For part-time coding fun, she also works as a Mentor for LaunchCode’s CoderGirl and has found a passion for Android development by working with Takoda, a St. Louis based startup focused on creating mental health technology solutions.