Jennifer Wong started out her career as a civil engineer. But things were slow paced, and not too exciting. Like many of us, it wasn't the career she thought it would be. After seeing a friend work with CSS, Jenn decided to take a HTML/CSS class. And, as the story goes, the rest is history.
Jenn never had “formal” training. Instead, she attended workshops, took part in hackathons, and dove into self-learning.
Switching Paths: Civil Engineering to Web Development
Jenn explains how she first got into web development and design, despite having been trained as a civil engineer.
“Civil engineering, while interesting and challenging, uses a lot of old technology in its designs. The pace of projects is excruciatingly slow, so you don't get to see completed projects for many years. I wanted to be in an industry that was more fast paced and innovative and decided that was Tech.”
After realizing she wanted to make a switch into the tech industry, Jenn got a foot in the door by working as a customer support specialist at a tech company, RentJuice (now acquired by Zillow).
“Around the same time, a friend of mine who's a fashion designer created her own website and mentioned CSS to me, which piqued my interest. I took an HTML/CSS workshop and fell in love.”
How Jenn Began Learning Web Dev Basics
Jenn initially began learning through workshops.
After taking two workshops, Jenn continued learning with side projects,
“With my new found knowledge, I built a project, Dairy & Dill in collaboration with a coworker for our company's hack week. Once I'd done completed those projects, I spent a lot of time scouring Meetups or Hackathons to attend, hacking with friends, and working on side projects.”
Landing Her First “Real” Developer Position
Remember, as Jenn was picking up these skills, she was already working as a Customer Engagement Manager at the real estate based startup RentJuice. (Again, which was acquired by Zillow.)
“I basically cornered the two co-founders and Director of Technology at a press party for the opening of our new office, and said, ‘I heard you guys are looking to hire a front end developer. Would you consider me if I applied?' They told me to send over my portfolio. After that, the rest is history.”
The story is a little confusing: she started at RentJuice, the company got acquired by Zillow. Zillow also acquired HotPads, and that's where she got her first Front-End Developer position. (Make sense?)
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Jenn's Favorite Learning Resources
Jenn has absorbed knowledge from a range of places. However,
“Some of my favorite resources are Meetup, Stack Overflow, Code Academy, awesome, knowledgeable friends and coworkers, and my super-duper endlessly-teaching smarty-pants boyfriend!”
From my conversations with Jenn, it seems like she has learned a great deal from those around her. Moreover, now that she has been a developer at HotPads for over a year and a half, I am sure she has absorbed a ton on the job. (In my opinion, that's always the best way to learn!)
What's Next for Jenn?
More professionally speaking,
“Now, I am doing a lot of design and front-end work – I have a side project I'm currently doing for a friend. Also, I am set to speak about responsive emails at a few upcoming conferences, so I am preparing for those.”
Interesting stuff — thanks Jenn!
I always love hearing stories of self-taught developers/programmers. Remember, it's never “easy”, but it is possible.