How an English Professor Became a Front-End Web Developer with Bekah Hawrot Weigel (S7E2)

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Bekah Hawrot WeigelBekah Hawrot Weigel is a mother of four and a former part-time English teacher who redefined her life through coding after a traumatic experience.

As she was giving birth to her fourth child, Bekah experienced trauma that left her with PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. With nothing else in reach, this former English teacher decided to get into the world of software development.

Feeling lost at the time, Bekah finally took on her husband’s crazy suggestion to learn to code (as he had a few years ago). What she found was that coding became a therapeutic activity that kept her away from painful memories. A few years later, she graduated from Flatiron School and now works as a front-end web developer with React and React Native.

In this episode, Bekah shares her experience learning how to code as a mother and teacher going through a difficult time. She gets into her bootcamp experience, which aspects from her teaching career translated into her current life, the value of education, and the many ways that coding helped her cope with past mental health issues.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:09
Hey, and welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford. Today we're going to be talking to someone who is a mother of four who went to a coding boot camp and what that experience was like. All of that is coming up after this quick message.

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And we're back. In today's episode I talk with Bekah Hawrot Weigel. Bekah is a mother of four who lives in Ohio. And I think for the first time in Learn to Code With Me podcast history, I have someone who is a self taught developer, and not only that, her husband is actually also self taught. Her story is so fascinating. We talk about how she is balancing working from home during COVID-19 with her four children at home and her husband, we also talked about how she got started learning how learning to code helped her with her PTSD, why she ultimately decided to go to a coding boot camp and so much more. The reason why I invited Bekah on is because her story is fascinating. And I think you're really going to enjoy it no matter where you are in your life or you're learning to code with me journey. Alright, enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 2:11
Hey Bekah, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 2:14
Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:18
I'm really excited to talk to you and just to get things going, I would love to hear about how you first got started in software development?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 2:25
Okay, so I'm a career changer. And I taught college English part time for 10 years before I got into software development. And the way that I got into it was not the typical story. So when I was giving birth to my fourth child, I had some severe birth trauma to my organs ruptured and the doctor sent me home and told me I was fine, which I wasn't. And then a month later I had major surgery, which was really complicated and left me kind of hung up on the couch for a long time, but also with that A lot of mental health issues. So I had PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks and depression. And I just felt really lost at the time. And so my husband was a, he is a software developer. And he encouraged me to learn coding, which I thought sounded insane because I literally felt like I had lost my mind. And he's like, here, here's one more thing, try it. And so finally, he kept bugging me and bugging me and I thought, well, alright, if he shut up, then I'll I'll do it. And so I started Free Code Camp. And what I found was, when I was coding, my PTSD was like comms and I was actually able to feel relaxed. And so it was really therapeutic because I was cycling these memories from my trauma, probably 1000 times a day, and the only time it would stop was when I was coding. And so that's kind of how I got started and it became therapeutic. And then I kind of fell in love with it along the way.

Laurence Bradford 3:55
Wow, that is like, that's like awesome, but I've never had anyone On the show who has had a story similar to this and found coding therapeutic. So I'm so excited to talk to you about that. Because what an interesting, like perspective and experience, I mean, horrible that you went through that trauma, and we're going through that, but this is like, so fascinating. So how long ago was that? Like that you first started it? Yeah, the error Free Code Camp.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 4:22
Okay, so the trauma was about three and a half years ago. And I think I started two and a half years ago, just a little bit at a time. So I would do about 15 minutes of coding on Free Code Camp, do a couple of the activities, and maybe every couple of days, and then until I just kept progressing, the more that I liked it, the more that I did it, and then when I finally entered boot camp, then I was so consistent with doing it every day.

Laurence Bradford 4:51
So okay,sorry, God you mentioned this, but what were you doing before? I think you did say this quickly, but what was your career before for this?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 4:59
I was an adjunct English instructor for 10 years.

Laurence Bradford 5:02
Okay, right. So at a university, so work standing from a classroom. Okay. So I'm assuming you never went back to that since you start coding.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 5:11
You know, I did. So I all through my trauma even when I was in the hospital, I was still teaching, I was teaching online. And then I think I did another semester after. And then one of the interesting things is, you know, I'd been doing it so long that I almost forgot what it felt like to really love what you're doing. Because I think at some point, like the joy in teaching went away. It was really kind of clouded by school politics and things like that. And when I started learning to code, and I'm learning this new skill, I'm like, I really love this. Like, I want to get up every day and do it. And at that point, I think that's right about the time I entered flat iron school and I knew this is going to be more than just a hobby for me. This is going to be a new chapter in my life and that's when I stopped teaching.

Laurence Bradford 6:10
So I may be jumping around here, but I'm just very curious what was it like when you were learning initially, and even when you're going through Flatiron School because you have four children, and I assume they're all pretty young, right? Like you had just basically given birth, start learning to code and then went to a coding boot camp?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 6:19
It was challenging. So at the time, I had a one year old, a three year old, a six year old and an eight year old. And we had transitioned them from homeschooling into going to school. So two of them were in school, and then the two youngest ones were at home with me. And it was, I mean, the whole scenario was challenging because I was redefining my life. I had never imagined that this would be a part of my story. So you know, people ask you that question. What's your life gonna look like in five years and like, I never would have dreamed that this is what my life would have looked like five years ago. Not only was I redefining what my career was, but I was redefining who I was as a person coming out of a trauma. And so I really had to find for me I find schedule, very comforting. And so I was working hard to find blocks of time. And so eventually what that turned into was I was waking up at 430 in the morning and coding a couple hours before getting the kids to school. Now, when I started, it wasn't that 430 wake up because I had a baby that was still waking up at night. And so it was maybe six o'clock in the morning until 630, I would do a little bit and then at nap time, I would do a little bit and then like after 4pm I start to like go brain dead I can't think straight and so it's harder for me to code then. But if I if I had to there were some late nights that I've just muscled through it in order to get done what I needed to get done. So it was like at every possible Actually, it's not unlike now living through the pandemic with poor kids at home like trying to find all of those bits of time to do the thing that I really enjoy doing.

Laurence Bradford 7:59
Yeah, wow. But what a story. And when you're chatting, I was just thinking about there's a lot of folks I've had on the show or people I've spoken to over email who are learning to code, maybe they're few months, few years, whatever. And they'll do similar will though, they'll wake up really early before anyone else is awake, if they you know, have a family and they'll learn to code for a few hours and then get on with their day. And then I've actually spoken to people it's kind of the opposite. They wait till everyone goes to bed, they stay up really late. And then that's when they do stuff on like, sort of like the houses you know, quiet, they can actually focus for, you know, a prolonged period of time.

Okay, so you start learning with Free Code Camp, he went to flat iron. I assume that was their remote program because they have the remote learning.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 8:40
Right, right. It was part time self paced, or it was not part time it was self paced. full stack.

Laurence Bradford 8:48
Okay. And then about how long were you going through that?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 8:51
It took me 11 months and I think I was pretty proud of the pace that I said I really had to challenge myself with, you know, working with them. Kids and and having a couple of part time jobs and making it through that. So for me, it was 11 months. I went through a lot of recovery over those 1111 months as well. And when you wrap that up

Unknown Speaker 9:17
about like, how long ago was that, like two

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 9:20
years ago or one year ago at this point, it'll be one year exactly on Saturday.

Laurence Bradford 9:25
Oh, wow. Congratulations. You're hitting hitting a milestone for people watching this. We are recording a bit before airs. So I guess by the time this comes out, it'll be it'll be past that. But that's exciting. So you finished that about a year ago? And did you get a full time job almost immediately after or you started looking for jobs right away.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 9:43
So I knew early on that I didn't want a full time job with my kid Tom. I wanted to be flexible and still be able to do things like take them on field trips and to doctor's appointments and be home with them in the summer and so I was looking for something part time flexible and remote. And I kind of put feelers out early on through Twitter and other social media. And so I finally I think maybe a week or two after I finished my final project, I put a message out on Twitter that I was looking for work. This is what I'm looking for. And almost immediately I found a job and I started July 1, so I had vacation and then I started so not a typical story, but it's been one that's worked out really well for me.

Laurence Bradford 10:30
That's awesome. And I love that you found it through Twitter. I think that's really cool. A ton of folks, obviously, we'll find jobs through these social media channels to varying degrees. I feel like for software engineering, though, Twitter's probably the most common or I guess maybe somehow through like GitHub or StackOverflow or connecting with people, you know, on a site like that and then bring the conversation further. One of the other guests on the show this season, he actually got his first job, his first software engineering job through a hackathon meeting his future employer. They're just during hackathon. So yeah, that's, that's really cool. So is that where you still are today then about? Well, not a full year yet, but almost a year later the same job or have you moved around at all?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 11:12
Yeah, no. So at the beginning of the pandemic, I lost my job. But two weeks ago, I picked back up so I'm still working at the same place. And I'm an independent contractor. And I'm also working for a startup building an app with them, too.

Laurence Bradford 11:29
Oh, that's so awesome. And yeah, when you were when you were speaking about getting your first position, I was like, wow, that I know, you got that a year ago before all this pandemic craziness. I'm like having a job that's, you know, remote flexible part time would come super handy when everything just gets turned upside down, you know?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 11:47
Right. And I feel like I'm really, I could have transitioned into it really well at this point. And so the whole pandemic situation was so such a roller coaster because I never really interviewed for jobs to begin with, because I got this job and it turned out to be a fantastic place for me to be. And then when I lost the job a couple months ago, I started immediately interviewing and it was soul crushing. I don't know, like, I've heard people describe it as that. And I always felt like well, you know, that's a that's really strong. But then I also felt the same way. It was really intense process and a lot of heartbreak. A lot of it was specifically due to the pandemic, because jobs that were going to be offered were rescinded because of pandemic related hiring freezes. And so it was really challenging, but I was really fortunate to early on pick up this React Native contract, which was smaller than what I was working on before but I was working with react and I and I always kind of felt nervous about moving into the React Native world thinking like wow, I don't know if I can do that. But I did. And I felt like I learned a lot about myself through that. process because I thought like, Hey, I know more than I thought I did. And I can find the answers to questions way faster than I did when I first started about a year ago. So I think that it was a good learning experience for me to kind of evaluate myself as a developer and how far along I've come in my journey.

Laurence Bradford 13:20
Yeah. Wow. So when we like when I booked the interview with you, I didn't realize everything that like gone through, I guess in the last year because sort of laughing It's like, you have like five different things we could talk about. Like, it's like job searching during a pandemic. That's like a whole thing itself, right. And then being a mother of four transitioning into tech later in life going through coding boot camp, that's a whole other thing that's like could be its own theme. And then probably a few, a few other things as well. So Wow, what an interesting story. So obviously, you do have two jobs that you went back to the one you were working at before and then you have this other contract, but they're both part time they're both flexible. I would love to just hear like what You're so I kind of want like to break them to questions like, what was your day? Like maybe before the pandemic maybe changed a lot? Maybe it hasn't. And then what's it sort of like now that you have you know, the kids at home? I assume your husband is at home, too. What was he at home before? He was at home two days a week before? Okay, because I guess if he was already home before, maybe wouldn't be that big of a shift. But I feel like that in itself is like, like working together. If you're not used to working together and then being together 24 seven, and like seeing the work personalities and stuff. That's a transition as well. Yes. Like, what does your day look like now? versus maybe a few months ago.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 14:35
It is drastically different now than it was a couple of months ago. So a couple months ago, my basic I had my basic routine down, so I would be up at 430. And I would code from 430 to 630 or seven depending on when I got the kid up. Or if I went and worked out in the morning. And then I would take the kids to school and that was my time for working out or for coding. And then I would pick up my daughter from her Montessori School around lunchtime. And then it was time for the kids. So it was a really structured in terms of what I did. But every day, essentially from 430 in the morning until 1130, I was either coding or working out, which is super important to my mental health, so I just have to do it. And then then I could switch roles more easily into like the mom role and do that for the rest of the day. And then Saturdays, I would usually work some too. Now, there's there's not that clear distinction of like my dev role and my mom role because my kids are home all the time. Luckily, they're done with school this week, but was a real challenge, moving into school at home, trying to interview trying to work and do all of these things. And so it's become a bit sporadic. I start my morning with a workout. I do Just I have to for where I am now because it makes me happier. And it gets me through the day. And then I try and move into a little bit of coding, but it's like coding, help a kid with school coding, and make a snack coding, play outside, you know, and so like, there's this just constant flow of trying to be everyone at once, which is really challenging. I think that we've worked really hard on establishing a schedule and activities for the kids to be doing. So it's definitely easier than it was the first three weeks that we were all at home and everybody was crying. So so now we're not we're not all crying anymore most of the time. But it's just this constant. I feel like I'm constantly doing something from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep and there's never any clear, distinct Of what should be done at what time?

Laurence Bradford 17:03
Yeah, you know, you and me I think are except I don't you know have children but as far as the structure like I thrive on structure, I need structure I need to create structure for myself so even though now that I'm at home, I always could work from home but in the past I chose to go to a we work and I liked that time that I was like commuting and having that sort of like structure and that break from working from home versus working from like an actual office space. Bear in mind for you and everyone listening I live in like a small apartment. I don't you know, I don't have like a house with like a separate office. That could be quite different if that was the case. But

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 17:43
yeah, totally with you there. The other thing I'm toying with you is the exercise. I'm the same way like I don't exercise in the morning though, but there's a certain period like later in the afternoon that I will exercise and I like need to be again in a small apartment with my husband by like either try to have him stay in the other room or go out on a walk, because it's like, I just want to pretend I'm like in a gym and by myself. And it's like, Yeah, really important to me just for distressing and whatever, like to Yeah, to exercise and to have that kind of alone time. But anyhow, yeah, so we're very similar there. Well, I'm glad you're still able to fit in the workouts and somehow manage it all. But I was also thinking about this when you're when you're speaking, because kids are home during the summer, right? Like, if there wasn't a pandemic going on? Were they going to be at summer camp or like would things look drastically different than they were before? So last summer, and that's when I first started working. So it was just kind of a transition into what life was going to look like for us. And before as an adjunct, I always had summers off. So this is the first time I'm ever experiencing working through a summer. And so what I did last summer was I hired a babysitter two days a week, I think, and she would come for 10 hours, and then my dad would take the kids when my parents would take the kids Another morning a week, I think that I probably was working less last summer just because I was learning and easing into it. Then I had been working in in the fall. But so yeah, I would definitely have somebody that was here, either here or I would be dropping them off at my parents so they would be able to watch them and then I would have that free time. And again, my husband was driving to work usually. And so it was, the house was mine to myself, I had quiet or you know, I like to have my music on, but there were no interruptions at all, so it would be much simpler to get things done. Yeah,

Laurence Bradford 19:37
yeah, that definitely makes sense. But I guess like everyone right now, pretty much in America, people's like, yeah, their whole schedules are shifting and figuring out like how to live life differently now that Yeah, everything's turned upside down. It's, I can't even imagine with kids. I keep saying I say that, like every day I'm like, Yeah, I can't even imagine what it'd be like to go through Through all this and then in the area that we live is what the New York City area. So everyone has apartments, and I'm like, Oh my gosh, if I was inside, because a lot of families live in apartments, you know, and they live in like a two bedroom or whatever apartment and I'm like, I feel, you know, kind of like claustrophobic already with just two people and two pets, but I'm like, oh, my goodness, if there was then you know, more humans on top of that, yeah, be really, really difficult to create the structure and have the space and, and all of that. So I kind of want to switch gears a little bit. And we talked obviously, just a ton about your background, and you didn't mention how you started learning. I want to dive more into that. So you mentioned Free Free Code Camp is where you got your start. And then you mentioned Flatiron School. How long were you doing Free Code Camp ish before you decided to do a more like intensive coding boot camp. Um,

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 20:49
I think I was casually doing it. So not necessarily consistently, for maybe about four or five months and Then I learned about Flatiron School and to be honest with you, I didn't even know boot camps were a thing. I had no idea. My husband is self taught. He went through Free Code Camp and then maybe did a Udacity certification for react. But I like I said, I had never dreamed about this becoming part of my path. And so everything was super brand new to me. And I was just trying to navigate through this. So I found out about flat iron school, and I tried their free boot camp prep. And I just loved it the way that the curriculum spoke to me the community that was around there, the encouragement of the people that were there was really important to me, I think, the co founder and Dean of Students, Avi flambeau, was super supportive of me and the beginning. And so I just kind of had this sense like I if I want to continue this, I want to do it and a community that supportive that values the student where they are and not just as a student, but as a person and a human being And as a member of the community, and I really got that through flat iron school and so I started flat iron. It was June at the very I got a full scholarship to Flatiron School. And I started not last June, but the June before so 2018. And then I really was able to dive into it because I had burnt out with Free Code Camp in JavaScript, I was like, I'm never going to be able to do JavaScript. This is not for me like this is over my head and I can't figure out any of this stuff. And so I was really happy to go through flat iron because they start with Ruby and Ruby is just kind of a gentle language I think to get started with so it really made it something that was enjoyable and something that I thought like okay, I can do this and I had thought you know, I will probably get a job doing back end and never work as a front end dev because I I struggled hard to really learn those concepts, but you know, here I am as a front end devs

Laurence Bradford 22:59
Yeah. So that you never know where things take you. And I know like when I was first learning and this feels like so long ago, but yeah, JavaScript was really hard and discouraging, and I would give up all the time. And then I would want to, like never even do it again. And then I would I would regret not learning it better because then I like because it just is so used, you know, like, I would need it for something really simple, like fixing something on my website, and I'm like, oh, gosh, anyhow, so I could definitely relate to that. I'm sure a lot of people listening can too because I know so many people will say everything was going great, but then I started doing that. And now I just feel like I don't know anything. Like I feel like I'm back at you know, zero. So I'm sure a lot of people will like hearing you say that. I was also wondering like, if your background as an adjunct professor and working in humanities and in all of that has any of that translated into what you're doing now?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 23:56
For sure. I think that I have a master's in English and it was maybe one of the best things I could have done to prepare me for where I am now. Because so much of what I was learning for my degree was how to research how to dive into complex topics, how to think more theoretically about things. And I think that maybe people don't see that when they think about learning English. But what you're essentially doing is preparing you to Redux and to apply that logic to what you're doing. And then if you think about it in terms of language, like we're looking at sentence structures, and we're looking at poetry and we're, we're pulling it apart and in finding the different techniques that are used and things like that. And I don't think that that's unlike code because everything that you write, there's a there's a structure to it, there's an approach to it. And I think one of the things that was really important for me to recognize as I was learning was that there are different styles of coding in the same way that there are different styles of writing. So you know, somebody might write really Long, you might find an example online and think I know that this happened for me at least, I looked at an example. And I was like, this is the way that you do this thing. But then that didn't work for me. And then I looked at another example. And they did it in a much different way. And I kept thinking, like, what is going on here. And then it was just in the approach and in the style of the coder. Not not, neither of them were wrong. Both of them worked in the context of the project, but it was just implemented differently. And so kind of learning the different styles of the people that you're working with is a fun, a fun thing to do. I don't know, there's like a personality in the code that you write. And so I think that understanding texts and understanding how to break things down was really helpful in and learning how to understand and write code.

Laurence Bradford 25:54
I've never heard anyone like make that comparison before but it makes a lot of sense. And that is your Really interesting way to think about like how like if people have different writing styles, and the same thing can apply to code and yeah, it's really cool. The one thing that and I have had lots of Fairmount, people on the show who transitioned from music to software engineering are similar. And we've always talked about how like writing and reading music is maybe similar parts of the brain as writing and reading and understanding programming. I'm not musical though. So I don't know from firsthand experience what that's like, but from others I've talked to in the past, it sounds like there can be a lot of similarities there for someone who's really great at music. So that's interesting to hear. Similarly, how it can be for like some studied English and writing and all that Do you still write today, like, whether it's blog posts or things for your work in some way, like documentation or something?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 26:53
I try and keep up with my blog, which I was doing a much better job of doing when I wasn't working so much. Much. So now I think it's been a couple of weeks I've got a blog post sitting there just needs to be edited. But it for me, I write a lot about my journey, because that's important to me. And I know that like, when I was learning how to code, it was really helpful for me to hear other people talk about their struggles or their pain points, because then I didn't feel so alone in what I was doing. Because there were a lot of times where I had self doubt, like, Why Why can't I get this? Why is everybody else getting this? And I'm not. So for me, it's more important to write that right now than it is to write some technical content. And so, yeah, I write my blog, I still write creatively. It's just really important for me to like, balance my brain in terms of, you know, logic and create creativity.

Laurence Bradford 27:45
Yeah, that's, um, I mean, heck, that's one of the reasons why I started my blog, which was now back in 2014. But there are a few reasons but one of them was I just wanted a way to write and to help others and I always loved writing and I as you just said, with the balance Like, if I was just doing like coding all day, which I was a lot for that point of starting the blog, I felt a little, I don't know, almost like, like jittery or Cabin Fever II or like, I wasn't using like, the full my full brain or something. So then starting to write and blog that was like, Yeah, really nice balance. But I've always liked writing. I know for people who don't enjoy writing, it may not be similar. Yeah, right. So I want to actually circle back to something we did talk about in the beginning. And that was when you started learning and your PTSD and how it helped you cope, or how coding helped you, you cope during that. Could you just speak a bit more about that and like, how,

Unknown Speaker 28:43
I guess like how or if you even know how, like how it helped or why it helped.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 28:48
Yeah, so I'm just going to talk a little bit about the PTSD first, just in case anybody doesn't really understand it. So for me the PTSD there were two specific moments that would cycle through my head over and over, there's one I went in to see my doctor after everything happened and she told me Well, you're not my problem anymore. Go see another doctor. And I replayed that in my mind 1000 times a day and then the second one was post surgery. I overdosed on morphine because they didn't properly cap my pump. And they had to give me no can which was like hell on earth because I just had had major surgery and organs removed and stitched together and stuff and I had no narcotics to negate that pain. So there were these just two instances that would just constantly be triggered in my mind and so during the day, it was a situation with the doctor and thinking that over hearing it over and over and over and then also playing in my mind like well, what should I have done? What should I have said Why did I do nothing about that? And then in the evening that's when the situation with the narc and kicked in, because I just kept thinking like, I'm gonna die. I'm gonna stop breathing. In a day, and both of those moments, I think really stuck out because I felt like I had no control over the situation. I had no power in my life. And I set these this very low point where I was just totally and completely vulnerable. And I felt like there was no one there to help me. And so I think, for me, coding did a couple of things. One, it required my complete focus. Because I didn't know very much at all about coding to this point, I had maybe done a little bit of HTML and CSS, updating a website with Dreamweaver years ago, but I had to learn to understand error messages, and I had to focus on what was happening. So it required this complete focus of my brain. But I think the second thing that was really important is I had control over what was happening on the screen. So is able to gain some of that control back, I'm able to feel empowered by writing hello world on a screen because I created something and it happened. And for me, it was a lot of self worth that was tied to that, like, Look, I can do things. And for a long time, I felt like I can't do anything. So it really felt good to do that. And then the third thing that was important about learning to code and moving away from or calming sense over my PTSD was that there was this great community that was there to support me. And so people that I didn't know, I was very new to Twitter, I like remember getting 70 followers on Twitter. What is 70 followers like these people are cheering me on, because I'm talking about coding, and I don't even know what I'm talking about. Right. And so, you know, I met a lot of moms through different mom's coding groups, and they were going through the same thing and we were able to kind of cheer each other along and to have that sense of community was super important because I felt isolated and where I was for so long, like, I'm the only one that has experienced this thing that's happened to me. And like, it's what happened to me during labor and delivery, it happens to, like 1% of people. And the percentage of those people that it happens to in the United States is so much lower than that. And so I did feel like in this bubble of like, I'm the only one that understands what I'm going through. But now, going on this journey with people who were supporting me who were cheering me on and watching myself actually accomplish something really allowed me to take control over my life in a way that I hadn't been able to, through that trauma, but also probably four years before because as an adjunct, you're not involved in a community, you're just kind of going through things and nobody really cares what you're doing and you're under appreciated. And it's not just the one school I was at. This is just generally throughout the entire United States. There's not much community for adjuncts or acknowledgement for the work that they do. And so to feel I was part of something bigger became really important in my growth and my healing.

Laurence Bradford 33:12
Yeah. Wow, that is so like, thank you for sharing. And thanks for being so vulnerable and talking about this because I feel like I've never again, I've never had anyone on the show who's talked to something quite like this. I have had some in the past who talked all about like, pregnancy and maternity leave. And she worked at Microsoft and her whole experience on going on, you know, paternal leave. But this is really this is really interesting. So I love the community stuff that you're talking about, and people will ask me a lot about about that. And I do think coding has such a great community. There's so many different communities like you just said, like you found ones just for moms learning to code and I can't think of the name but I know I've seen like a Facebook group before just for single moms learning to code, I think. So it is really cool how there's all these like a little like, support communities, kind of like new down within like the broader learn to code, movement or ecosystem, whatever you want to call it. So that's awesome that you found that kind of support. And I know Free Code Camp has a ton of like community support and Oh gosh, not not full forums. But they have what what is it called? They're Don't they have I'm blanking on the name that the chat. It's like it's kind of like Slack, but it's not right.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 34:23
Yeah. But I don't also don't know.

Laurence Bradford 34:24
Yeah, I'm like, totally. Like, yeah, whatever the name is, but yes, they have that they have that thing where you can interact with people. And I'm sure then once you're in flat iron, it was a whole other level of the community aspect. Actually, I would love to talk about that a little bit. Because I get tons of questions about Should I go to a coding boot camp? Should I not? I always say, Well, no, like, you don't have to tons of people learn to code get jobs, and they don't go to a coding boot camp at all. They don't pay anything to learn. But obviously there can be tons of benefits to going to a coding boot camp, whether it's in person or online. So like if someone was in a situation where they were considering that like what would you have I have to say like if they were trying to decide, Is it right for me or should I go to one?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 35:04
Right? I think for me, I always want to disclose that I had a full scholarship so for me it would not have been doable had I not had that and those are few and far between but there are resources to help you get funding and and things like that. I think that flat iron, I loved it so much and so I can't talk enough about how great it was for me at the beginning of your journey into flat iron school. They have a an educational coach who helps you to set goals and to helps you to navigate the curriculum and my coach was amazing. She had gone through trauma and so we were able to bond on a really deep level. She had been run over by a semi track and she has a book called How to get run over by a truck. So you're looking for a good memoir. It's definitely on the top of my list but she was such a great support. court system for me, not just through education, but for what I was going through. And I think that most of the educational coaches are very fantastic and helping you and and allowing you to ask all of the questions that you have. And then when I was in the beta cohort then and I think that they have cohorts now more permanently, but that was amazing because I was doing these one on ones and I was learning how to push myself. And I would say that I'm a go getter. I'm the type of person that likes to push myself really hard and maybe too hard in some circumstances. But at the beginning, I was really reticent to do that. And so I was kind of holding back and thinking like, I can't, I still had in my mind, I can't do this. Why am I doing this? I can't do it. And she said, Come on, you can do this. And she was a mom, too. And she was like, her daughter would sit on her lap sometimes and we're doing our one on ones and it was a great example for me to say like, Okay, look, she did this too, and I can do it. And so having that accountability and having a solid connection lm is really important. And so I know that before, when I was before I get flat iron, I was kind of hopping around to different curriculums and trying to piecemeal together what looked like what helped me to find a job. And I was using some outdated resources that I didn't know about. So unless you have a mentor or somebody that can guide you in the right direction, it can be a little bit tricky to navigate that it is definitely doable. And if you are a person that can really set up a plan and outline what you need, or ask around, I mean, tech, Twitter is always happy to answer questions, then it's definitely doable, but I loved the accountability. I loved that I knew I could depend on the curriculum. And I also loved being part of a community and being able to ask somebody questions. So I mean, my husband's a dev, but I was learning Ruby and Rails and so there weren't questions that I could really ask him at that point because he does react and React Native and flat iron offers you the ability to ask people Question. And I think when you're learning, learning to ask questions is one of the most important things that you can do. And I wish that I would have actually asked more questions and attended more study sessions, because that's huge and developing your communication skills, because when you get a job, that's going to be really, really important.

Laurence Bradford 38:19
Yeah, for sure. I actually, um, I wanted to ask about your husband because I, before getting into this interview, I didn't know that he was also a software engineer or worked in tech at all, to be candid, I didn't really think much about it so much, but I just I just was thinking you know about you and the questions you've prepared for the guests. But when did he get into tech? Because it sounds like he taught himself as well. And did that happen when you guys were already married?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 38:46
Yes, it did. I'm trying to think here. So he taught high school. He was a manager at Burger King. He taught high school religion, and then he was working for this Catholic school and He didn't have a teaching degree, he had a business degree. And they said, you know, you have to have a teaching degree starting next year. So you need to start classes this summer, and we're not going to pay for it. And they were paying in pennies to begin with. And we're like, Okay, this is just not even worth it. And so he started working for a friend from high school and started, he had a background, he knew how to create websites. He had done HTML and CSS and stuff way back when he was in high school. And so it's always been on his mind. But so as he started working with this friend, he started taking on bigger and bigger projects. And he started to teach himself how to code through Free Code Camp. And at the time, I thought, What are you doing? Like? I was working as an adjunct, I was working as an academic affairs events coordinator, and I was surprised pregnant with our third kid. And I just thought like, why are you spending all this time learning learning these things like we don't have time to learn right now, like we need to be working right. And now obviously, in retrospect, it makes way more sense to me what he did, but it was really challenging. And I think that now I talked to a lot of people who have gone to boot camps. And it's really hard to prepare your partner for what you're going to be going through in a boot camp, because it's not just you, but it's exhausting, because you're putting everything that you have into this boot camp, and mine was over 11 months. So I'm not even talking like three month intensive, but you're exhausted from learning all of these things, and you're spending all of your extra time and you're giving up things that you used to have maybe sitting down and watching TV together. And so it I feel like it really needs to be a conversation with everybody, but it's still going to be really hard for your partner to understand unless they've been in a similar situation.

Laurence Bradford 40:54
Yeah, and I guess lucky. I mean, he he sure was very understanding and knew what it took and how hard it Was and everything. So while that's like so, yeah, you have so many interesting like

Unknown Speaker 41:05
angles to your story your because

Laurence Bradford 41:07
your husband is also self taught. You're both self taught now you're both working as developers. So by the time that you began teaching yourself, he was already working full time, I'm assuming Yeah.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 41:18
And I want to say so he did find a job. And he was working as a developer at a small university. And I want to say that was a year or two. And then he started working at Dick's Sporting Goods as a senior software engineer. I just want to say like, I know that a lot of people are concerned, am I able to advance my career if I'm self taught and like he went from being self taught to being a senior software engineer in just a couple of years, so it's definitely something that's doable. You build your portfolio and you network with the people around you. And and that's one of the great things about tech. Mm hmm. Wow.

Laurence Bradford 41:51
Yeah. And not I don't want to talk too much about his story because obviously as your interview but it's interesting that you're both self taught. Again, I don't know if I've ever seen We'll continue on with that with like, you know, a married couple where both people were or maybe they maybe they are now eating because I started the show in 2016. So a lot of time has gone by since the early folks I spoke to, nonetheless, did he help you though, in other ways? Like, I guess you did go to Free Code Camp, probably because that's where he got most of his like, education from right. He's self taught education. Right.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 42:22
Yeah. And he live streams for Free Code Camp too. So for it was just a natural place for me to start. And once I think that having somebody that's gone through the journey before that can kind of reassure you, when I graduated flat iron, I felt zero percent ready to apply for a job that's not reflected on flat iron at all that is reflected on my view of myself, where I just thought, I'm not ready. I'm never gonna be ready like I'm probably not in the first position that I interviewed for was a tech adjacent job where I would just be talking to tech companies open source and trying to get them to support open source. And I thought like that would be a great job for Me, I know about tech, but I'm not good enough to to code. And he said, nobody feels ready to to apply for a job. He said, you just have to do it, you just have to put yourself out there. And honestly, I didn't feel even like I should be in tech until probably like, six or seven months in. And I think that for most people I talked to that that range between six to 12 months is right around the time where they start actually acknowledging to themselves like, Oh, I am a developer like I can be doing this. So I think that there's just a lot of self doubt, especially coming from a different background where I had worked in that field for 10 years. So I was confident in what I was doing. I had taught the things over and over and I felt I wasn't an expert on the material, but I knew it more than anybody else that was in the room. And so now I was starting totally new at the student level and kind of working my way up. And so for me, that was a huge change from, from where I had been to starting over and having these feelings of newness and whether or not I was I could do this.

Laurence Bradford 44:15
Yeah, it's like such a different dynamic going from leaving a classroom of students and as you just said, You're the one with the most knowledge on the topic to then starting at a company full time, part time contractor, whatever, but your first job your like Junior dev level, so you're kind of like on the lowest, right? Wrong or whatever, right? Looking up to people asking people you know, above you are more experienced than you for helping questions. So it's like a total like reversal of what you were used to. I want to also mention earlier, we were briefly talking about how your past experience like transported into today.

Laurence Bradford 44:48
Maybe I'm wrong, but I would imagine that being in front of a classroom like public speaking, being able to articulate and communicate verbally that could help a lot during job interviews or just communicating People once you're working in like others on your team.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 45:03
Yeah, I think that it both helped and it didn't help me. So I think overall in terms of interviews, I feel very confident in going in interviews and answering questions that are not about go about my style of learning or things like that. I think that it certainly helps there in terms of being able to articulate what my process is. I think that I also realized recently, I probably developed some bad habits as an adjunct because I was working by myself, I didn't really have anyone that I can go ask questions, too. So if there was a problem, I was going to find the answer. And I think that what that translated to early on and when I was working, was having this mentality where I was just going to hammer out these things and figure out the answers. And it's also the same with boot camp. There's not always someone to answer your questions. If you're coding late. You can't ask a question or if you're coding early, you can't and so I was just trying really hard to find the answers myself. And sometimes this would take me down a path hours away from where I needed to be. And so what I needed to realize was, Hey, there is somebody that I'm working with who is an expert, and who is a great teacher, I can ask that person. So again, it was like that role reversal into student because as a teacher, I'm not asking questions to find answers, right? I'm trying to get my students to tell me something. And now here, I had to remind myself like, I'm kind of a student in this situation. And so and I have a problem, there's a point that I need to stop and say, You know what, maybe this is the perfect opportunity for me to ask a question, and then this is going to, you know, allow me to grow through learning from somebody else who who can teach me how to approach this problem. And sometimes those questions are, what am I doing? Because I don't know, or can you clarify this or am I on the right track? So it was learning how to be a student again. And to ask those questions that became really important in how I was developing my communication.

Laurence Bradford 47:07
Got it interesting. So unfortunately, we are out of time, I feel like I could talk to you, you could do a whole like, multiple, multiple interviews, all these different like sub topics of your story. But I wanted to ask if you have any final, like parting advice, just like a little little nugget of advice for people who are currently you know, where were where you were a couple years ago, and they're just starting out and teaching themselves?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 47:31
Yeah, I would say that. Even the most senior devs are looking things up online. So first of all, we're all looking things up. It's okay to look things up. Actually. It's really good to look things up. That's how you learn and that's how you grow. And don't judge your where you are in your journey based on anybody else's journey because you don't know what factors go into that where you are is where you need to be and so finding your own loan learning style, your process your communication, define that by who you are and what you need to grow is really important.

Laurence Bradford 48:08
Awesome. Thank you again for coming on. And where can people find you online?

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 48:12
Twitter's the best place you can find me @BekahHW So it's BEKAH and then another H and w. I'm there. And I think that my blog is linked on there, too.

Laurence Bradford 48:24
All right, awesome. We'll definitely include those in the show notes. Thank you again for coming on. It was great to talk to you.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel 48:29
Yeah, you too. Thanks so much.

Laurence Bradford 48:35
Thanks for listening today! If you missed anything or would like a recap, you can find the show notes at learntocodewith.me/podcast. If you’re listening to this episode in the future, simply click the search icon in the upper navigation and search for the guest’s name.

If you’re listening to this interview around the time that it airs, then I want to tell you about something special that we’re doing — our annual bundle sale. Also known as the Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox.

This is the biggest thing we do all year — for five days only you can get access to over 30 tech products, which together amounts to $4,000, for a fraction of that. You’ll pay for one essentially but get over 30.

The sale is happening in 2020 from Monday June 22nd - Friday June 26th.

When you invest in our 2020 bundle, you’ll get access to a collection of products that can help you level up your coding skills and break into the tech industry.

As a buyer from last year’s bundle sale says: "I was skeptical at first. Thousands of dollars in courses for hundreds of dollars sounded too good to be true…But the Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox turned out to be the best way to save a whole bunch of time and spend a fraction of the price you would trying to get all these courses separately.”

Get notified when the sale opens up by signing up at learntocodewith.me/toolbox2020.

All right, I'll see you next week!

Key Takeaways from Bekah Hawrot Weigel:

  • You can always find the time to learn a new skill and do the things you enjoy doing. Bekah did it by waking up earlier than her kids. (Season 4 guest Michael Tombor also talks about working full time with a family.)
  • It’s essential to build a structure for your workflow and create processes to get things done efficiently.
  • You don't need a background in tech to get started. Bekah found that some aspects of teaching English translated into her understanding of writing code. Just because something is seemingly unrelated, don’t be afraid to try new things out!
  • Open your doors. Being part of a community helps you understand yourself, see things from different perspectives, and build an accountability system.
  • Always look to learn more. Be more proactive in finding experts in your field, asking questions, and continuing to educate yourself.

Links and mentions from the episode:

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Coming Soon: The 2020 Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox

The biggest Learn to Code With Me event of the year is right around the corner — the 2020 Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox bundle sale. When you invest in our 2020 bundle, you’ll get access to a collection of products that can help you level up your coding skills and break into the tech industry.

And for five days only, you can get access to over 30 tech products, which together amounts to $4,000, for a fraction of the cost.

The sale is happening from Monday June 22nd, 2020 – Friday June 26th, 2020.

As a buyer from last year’s bundle sale says: “I was skeptical at first. Thousands of dollars in courses for hundreds of dollars sounded too good to be true…But the Ultimate Tech Career Toolbox turned out to be the best way to save a whole bunch of time and spend a fraction of the price you would trying to get all these courses separately.”

Get notified when the sale opens up by signing up at learntocodewith.me/toolbox2020.


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