I started college in the fall of 2013 as a Chemical Engineering major at a small private engineering school in Indiana. That first quarter ended very poorly for me and had me questioning whether or not I could make it at the school. From what I could see, everyone else was so smart and doing so well! (In reality, I think a ton of us were struggling silently and alone.)
The next two quarters went much better. I loved my chemistry courses and had to work really hard in my math and physics ones. That spring term, I had an Excel programming course. That was my first time ever writing code and I loved it! It was probably the first time outside of the chemistry classes that I really felt like I knew what I was doing. So, I decided to take the introductory programming course the next fall.
They taught us how to program in Python. (I highly recommend Python for learning to code!) It was amazing to me. Having power over my computer and telling it exactly what I wanted to do gave me such a feeling of accomplishment. For the term project, we had to program an iRobot. I learned how to program a robot! What a rush. I felt so smart until...
I got my final grades for all the other courses I was taking. I did terrible in my Chemical Engineering courses. I could handle chemistry and physics individually, but I couldn't seem to put the two together. I did decent in organic chemistry, but I really didn't love chemistry anymore. I had a decision to make.
- Take the classes over either in the summer or fall, depending on when they'd be offered
- Switch to a different major
- Drop out of the school altogether
The third wasn't really an option for me. I'd moved out of my parents' at this point and was completely independent. There's no way I'd be able to pay off what loans I already had if I didn't get that degree. The first option was terrifying: there was no guarantee I'd pass the second time around. The material just didn't make sense to me. With how well I did in the introductory programming course, and how much I enjoyed writing code, I went with the second option.
The journey from then until I got out of college felt like actual hell, but it wasn't because of the courses. I enjoyed almost every single Software Engineering course I took. I even took some of them twice. 😉 Being on my own was really hard, and there were a lot of things that got in the way of my education.
When I look back, I wish I had known about all of my options and not felt so pressured to hurry up and graduate college. I'm not sure I'd recommend the college route to everyone. Especially in the last several months, I don't see why someone who's self-taught can't be as successful as someone with a heckin' expensive piece of paper. It's all about hard work, which you can't see at surface level. The same thing is true about GPA, something that might as well have not existed for me.
Hearing everyone's stories over the past few days has really opened my eyes. There's a ton of talent in this industry coming from all backgrounds. Let's continue to build an inclusive culture in tech! So much possibility awaits.