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From Admin Assistant and Cancer Survivor to Software Developer With Stacey Graham (S8E5)

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Dealing with cancer is already a huge burden to bear. But if you pair that up with deaths in the family, economic recession, and the global pandemic, the weight becomes a hundred times heavier. Amidst these difficult situations in her life, Stacey Graham was still able to find a successful career in tech.

It took Stacey 13 years to get an IT degree. She’s gone through a lot – moving into another state, becoming a mother of three, and losing a six-month-old son. But even after all that, her tech career took time to grow. Unemployment rates were high, and she couldn’t get a job. And when she decided to start job-searching, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. Thankfully, she recovered and got back on track by learning various coding languages and getting certified. Currently, she’s working at a digital financial services company.

In this episode, Stacey talks about how she learned to code while dealing with multiple challenging life circumstances, advice on switching careers, and the power of perseverance.

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

Laurence Bradford 0:00
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I'm your host, Laurence Bradford and today's episode is all about a cancer survivor who overcame many roadblocks in her journey of becoming a software developer. But first, a quick word about this season's wonderful sponsor.

Laurence Bradford 0:32
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And we're back in today's episode I talk with Stacey Graham. Stacey is a software developer at a digital financial services company. She made the switch into tech after many years as an admin assistant. I reached out to Stacey because her story is really inspiring and motivating. Throughout her career journey. She has had many twists and turns along the way. And she started and stopped again many times. Stacey is a cancer survivor. She also has faced being unemployed and personal tragedies like losing a child. And today she is a software engineer. That's what we're going to be talking about today how Stacey learned to code while dealing with challenging life circumstances. Advice she has to give about switching careers, the power of perseverance, and a whole lot more. If you want to be inspired to learn how to code, especially if you're a woman a person of color, or have experienced setbacks, or other struggles in life, this episode is for you. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 2:18
Hey, Stacey, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you so much for having me. So could you just tell me a bit about your story and what led you to start learning how to code?

Stacey Graham 2:32
Definitely. So I've always had an interest in tech since I was in middle school. Just from being a my first I remember my first computer class, I was so excited. I was in seventh grade. From there, I just had a huge interest in technology. When I got into high school, I got the opportunity to get into a program through the Mayor's Office of Community service where I'm from Philadelphia. And they had a whole program where they will teach you how to build your own PC. And we'll help you with learning how to type I love you remember me to speak and we use that. From there. I just really had an interest that into like my last year of high school, I was able to get a job as a computer instructor and taught some elementary students. There was just a huge interest for me, and that women to when I went to college, I decided to go into management information systems. And so that was like the first major that I decided to go into to get into the technology field.

Laurence Bradford 3:44
Oh, wow, I didn't even realize that you studied that in college but actually want to circle back to something said, Did you grew up in Philadelphia? Yeah. Oh, okay. So I grew up like in the Lehigh Valley, like an hour ish away from Philly. So that's pretty cool. Yeah, yeah. And where are you based? Today? I'm in Atlanta, Georgia. Okay, cool. And how long have you lived there for? I've been here for about 12 years now. Oh, okay. Wow. Okay. I always forget to ask people at the start where they're currently living. And I feel like that's always a good question for you know, listeners to have in mind. So I want to circle back to that. But back to your story. So okay, so you studied information management in college. And then what happened after that, like after you graduated? What is your life look like?

Stacey Graham 4:28
When I graduated, so I was going classes, one line, first, I went to community college, I was an adult degree program, transferred to Drexel University. Then I just, I couldn't continue to do to stay there. The tuition was like pretty expensive. So I transferred to another school, Pierce College and you could do all your courses online. And I was working at the time as an administrative assistant. So that was perfect and the company out word for gave me tuition reimbursement. So that was awesome. So I continue to do that when I ended up graduating. I had we actually moved to Atlanta, Georgia, me and my family. During that process. It looks like a lot of starts and stops. I'm a wife and a mother of three girls. Doron actually my process of going through college before we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. I had a son, and he was six months old, and he passed away. And I was that was the time I was going to school and everything. So that was a tough period for me and my family. I took a break from college during that time. Then I eventually came back and we moved to Atlanta, Georgia. I had another child. And from there, I was able to just take a break and come back. And eventually I graduated and got my bachelor's degree in information technology. So I had during that process, I had changed like my major. When I transferred from Drexel to Pierce College. We moved like at a pretty not a great time when I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, because the unemployment rate was really high. It was hard for me to get a job in the tech field. So I decided to just be a stay at home mom take care of my kids for a while. So things changed and got better in the job market. And then decided to get back into your job searching. Once my kids got no school age, were able to get into the garden. And right when I was about to start my job search, I started having these health issues. I would have headaches every day fevers, night sweats, went to the ER found that I had cancer. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, cancer. And so that was another detour that stopped me from pursuing my tech career. And I went through chemo for about six months. After I was done chemo, I went back to job searching and tried to get into tech again, it was really hard. A lot of recruiters I talked to were asking me to get certifications. But that just wasn't something I was trying to do at the time. So I went back to working as administrative assistant, and did that for about five years.

Laurence Bradford 7:30
Wow. So it sounds you mean you've had quite the journey? Right? Like lots of lots of ups and downs. But as you're saying that I'm like, That's life, right? I feel like we always have all these different curveballs. Some peoples are, you know, bigger than others, or it may look different. But there's always going to be unexpected events that we can't plan for. Right. So I want to go back. Yeah, and ask a few things about some of the stuff you just you just talked about. So the one is that I thought was really interesting is that you had the company that you were working for as an admin assistant. They helped pay for your college like at Pierce. How did that come about? Like because I feel like that's rare. Nowadays. I have one friend I can think of maybe a few more but one close friend, at least that her company paid for her to get her MBA, but I feel like it's not as common nowadays.

Stacey Graham 8:22
I don't know. Yeah, well, they had a tuition reimbursement program. And they didn't pay the whole thing. I think it might have been half or was some percentage, but it was really good. It helped me a ton to lower my cost of tuition.

Laurence Bradford 8:38
It was that a reason why you chose to work there. Like Did you know that going into it?

Stacey Graham 8:43
Actually, I didn't. I actually started that position is a contract. But I got the job to a staffing agency. So I didn't even know about their benefits. And once I had my daughter and went back, they asked me to come back to work for them. Because I had took a break, you know, maternity leave. When I started working for them, I found out all the great benefits they had. So I was like, This is perfect. I can work and get tuition reimbursement, you know, while working and continue to go to school and take classes online. So it was great. Yeah, that

Laurence Bradford 9:15
sounds awesome. Another thing I wanted to ask about was, you mentioned when you moved to Atlanta initially in the unemployment was really high was that like around the the great recession or whatever the proper term is of it in like, 2008 2009.

Stacey Graham 9:31
Yeah, it was like, I think, well, we moved it was 2011. And it was still like, pretty tough to get, you know, a job at that time. I remember calling recruiters and you're like, yeah, we just don't have anything right now. It's just really tough to help people get jobs and he had told me to consider getting a certification that may help and you know, I felt like it took me forever to get this bachelor's degree and I was like, You're telling me I need to Get another certification or something I was like, I think about it. I got the books, but like, I just couldn't get myself to like study them to take the test.

Laurence Bradford 10:11
Yeah. And Wait, how long did it take you to get the bachelor's degree? You said how you were like at Drexel and you transferred and but like how long did it take total? man took a long time. I think it's I think it's great for people to hear because I feel like at least in I don't know, like the way I grew up. I always thought like, people go to school for years, they get out, they get a job. Again, everyone's journey looks different. So I think it's Yeah, it's really it's helpful for people to hear it, you know. It took me about 13 years. But like, but you never lost like any of the credits or anything like that. They were able to rollover and what

Stacey Graham 10:52
I did, I think I did lose some credits when I left from Drexel to pierce, but they took a good amount of them. So it was still good. And I didn't feel like I lost a whole lot and then discouraged me, you know, from pursuing a bachelor's degree.

Laurence Bradford 11:10
Yeah. Wow. So you're telling your story. You mentioned how you had it was Hodgkin's lymphoma, right? Yeah. And could you just tell us slash me what that is, because I feel like I know, but I don't want to assume the wrong thing

Stacey Graham 11:25
is one of the cancers they consider like a blood cancer similar to leukemia. And it has to do with like your lymphatic system, like a lot of toxins, they can be in your blood, and the lymphatic system goes throughout your whole body. So I'm not even sure how I got to cancer doesn't even run in my family. I honestly, when I think back to it, I think about the stress that I went through, like after losing a child and just things that went went throughout my life, it could have just been like, so many things going going on through my life that I just didn't take the time to like, take a break and really focus on what was going along with me because, you know, when my son that I didn't even do any therapy or counseling afterwards, I think I just like how much I'm a person of faith. I believe in God. So I think just the support I had from my church family and my family, I felt like that was enough. But I realized, like, when I went, when I moved to Atlanta, I was still dealing with it. That that death of my son, I was still dealing with it at that time. So I don't know what causes cancer. But some people do say things that go on through your life could contribute to it. Especially if you're not taking care of yourself, as far as your health and mentally.

Laurence Bradford 12:50
Yeah, wow, I had a feeling it had to do with the blood. It's interesting. You just mentioned the lymphatic system, though. Because I've been before we got into this call Ray, I was telling you about some stuff with my arm going on and some pain. And there are other things the last few weeks that I was researching, and like learning more about the lymphatic system, which I've never really like I've heard of lymph nodes before, but I never knew all that much about it. And I haven't done it yet. But I was looking into even things like lymphatic massage, which isn't. I'm sure you're familiar with this. But for people listening, it's not like a normal relaxing massage. It's like where they try to move like the toxins like around your body right with the lymph nodes and some other things like just related to that. So But yeah, I didn't know those two things like the cancer and lymphatic system like with Hodgkin's lymphoma, but I guess lymph is in the name.

Stacey Graham 13:40
So those injured those toxins. That's why they say exercise is so important. Like even if you exercise 30 minutes a day, because you're flushing those toxins like out of your body. And so it's really important.

Laurence Bradford 13:57
Yeah, again, these are all things I feel like I at least I never really even think about and how it's also interconnected. And I think the point you made about like the stress. And again, of course you don't know exactly what caused it, you know, never will or you don't know, but like how it can just manifest in different ways. Like physically, not just emotionally and it's Yeah, it's something that's good to think about. So I'm sort of like jumping off the cuff here. Not going with your path. But I'm curious like nowadays, after you've gone through all of this and like where you are today, like, is there stuff that you do differently to manage stress?

Stacey Graham 14:33
Yeah, definitely. I do. Yoga, I love going into yoga. I try to do that every day. I've changed my diet. my diet is more plant based. I eat less meat. I tried to go totally vegan, but I always start and stop. It's never like consistent. So those are some of the things I've tried to implement in my life to just help. And Yoga has been a tremendous help for me. I remember Even another part of my tech journey is when I enrolled in a boot camp during a pandemic. And I remember I was stressing about a project I had. And yoga was so helpful, like, I learned a breathing technique. And that was so helpful to help me like continuing to push through my process in the boot camp, because it's fast paced, so it can be stressful.

Laurence Bradford 15:24
Yeah, well, that's means great, you have those things in your in your life exercise. And yeah, yoga obviously has tons of benefits in the, in the healthy eating, and yet all of that. So obviously, you just mentioned that you were in a boot camp, and it was during the pandemic, which was obviously pretty recently. So like, how did you end up back there? Like, what was your decision to go to boot camp, especially since you do have a degree like in it?

Stacey Graham 15:48
Right, right. I guess I'll say like 2018. Tech was like really big. I kept hearing about web development, I decided to attend this workshop that a boot camp was having. And I, I didn't really have an interest in coding. When I was in college, I took the C++ class. And it's like tarawih off the code to coding, I was like, I don't want to code I just want to do like networking and network administration, because that was like my concentration in college. And so I decided to look more into web development. After this, this workshop, I actually got the opportunity after doing a workshop to do a two week intro, like trial class with this boot camp. And so I tried that, and really liked it. I wanted to enroll in a boot camp, but I couldn't get approved for financing. That was a another stat for me, as I was really interested. So I decided to just learn online, there was so many free resources out there. And I joined a couple organizations, Women Who Code many Atlanta, a lot of people and women co was really helpful in giving me information about coding and where I can look. And so I tried Free Code Camp, I try to Code Academy is probably a holster. So those are the main ones that I can remember I was trying to learn on my own. And then in 2019, I got the opportunity to get into apprenticeship program through true treehouse, I was able to get into that program I applied, it was a program where for seven months, you would learn web development to get the full, full stack JavaScript tech degree program that they have. And after those seven months, you would Yeah, partnered up with a employer in Atlanta. And you would be able to work full time with them for about six months to get that experience. So I went into that program. And it was another staff because the company they have partnered with Treehouse, pull it out of the program. So I was not one of those people that were able to get into that program where they could transfer and work with an employer. So then they gave us an opportunity to continue to learn on Treehouse on our own. But during that time, I was working through it, I was being pretty consistent, I would wake up at five o'clock in the morning before I went to work. And we go through the curriculum, sometimes I would do it at night, if I could, and better. But eventually, I had another death in the family, my mother in law who left who live with us, she passed away. And like that was just hard for us. And like I couldn't get back. It took me a while to get back to that productive schedule and momentum that I had in web development. And so I kind of fell off. But it was hard for me to get back to being consistent like I was there. So I did continue to like learn on my own. But I was I was thinking about what could I do next that can help me to be more consistent and really get into a job where I could work as a software developer. So I decided maybe I'll just get a job in tech support. So and maybe transfer into a software developer program later. So I ended up doing a pandemic. Well, right before the pandemic, like march of 2020 I got a job offer to work is as a tech support technician at a company and then the pandemic like really kicked off and I lost a job offer in a furlough some employees. So I was like, Okay, what I'm gonna do next. So I was like said I go into web development, and then I started looking at Project Management because of my administrative experience. I Project Management might have been a good path for me as well. But then ultimately, I was able to connect with someone who told me about a program in Georgia called worksource, Georgia, and they give you assistance to pay for a training program if you're underemployed or unemployed, they give you $7,000. So I applied for that program, got into the program, and they had a boot camp training program listed digital crepes, and that was the program that I enrolled in.

Laurence Bradford 20:32
Wow. Yeah, that is, I mean, the the whole apprenticeship thing I am familiar with the Team Treehouse apprenticeships, that's a bummer that the company pulled out, of course. And then the other thing with COVID, I mean, right, like bad timing, I mean, bad timing for like the whole world, right, like a lot of stuff. Goodness. But that's awesome that you found out about that workforce ga program in digital craft, I have heard of them. I want to talk more about that. But we have to take a quick break for our sponsor spot. And we'll be back in a moment.

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Laurence Bradford 22:17
Okay, so you started the boot camp in 2020. During the pandemic, how long did it last for was it fully remote. And what was like that experience like especially with you know, COVID it was fully remote. And it was six months.

Stacey Graham 22:30
So I started in July of 2020. I graduated in January of 2020. And it was a great experience being able to I had two instructors. And it was about maybe like 15 people in our class. It was I didn't know how I was going to do doing it virtually like we use zoom. But it was it was pretty good with the breakout rooms made it a lot easier like to kind of collaborate with the other students in my class as we worked on projects. So I mean, it was a great experience. We learned JavaScript, Postgres SQL, React, NodeJS. So it was a pretty good program to get us experience in a lot of different technologies.

Laurence Bradford 23:20
Yeah, that's great. And from what I understand you're working full time now. Right? Yes. And tell us about your job and like what you're doing? Definitely. So

Stacey Graham 23:29
right now I'm working as a software developer, and a financial services company. And it's been great. I can't believe how quickly I got this out. During the boot camp. Like I networked like crazy, like I was reaching out to people on LinkedIn, on Twitter, you know, introducing myself, had a lot of chat virtually with people. And that kind of helped me to continue to get motivated. And even some people gave me referrals to jobs. And I found out about this job by attending a virtual conference, that Women Who Code had, after the conference, the recruiter had reached out to me and asked me what I was interested in what kind of position and I told her and at the time, she didn't have a position available right now with the skills that I had. But she reached back out to me and said that she had she had showed my resume to a manager, and they had a position. And so I interviewed for that position. I thought I did horrible. But she reached out to me and said, I got great event. You want to give you a job offer. I was shocked. I was like what? And that was like, What 37 days after I had graduated from my boot camp. So I had a goal to get a job like three months after my boot camp and during the time of networking, my birthday was March 20 I was like, maybe I could make a goal to get a job before my birthday. And I ended up getting a job right before my birthday.

Laurence Bradford 25:08
Wow, that's awesome. And okay, so you met her at a virtual conference. Okay, so that's like, that's like, so cool. But also like so 20. Rex, everything's virtual. When? When was the conference? Like, what?

Stacey Graham 25:22
What month? Was it in? It was in I believe it was in December of 2020. Nothing.

Laurence Bradford 25:29
Okay, so then she reached out to you, like, how much time was like a few months later?

Stacey Graham 25:33
Yeah, it was about like, the next month in January, she reached out to me via email.

Laurence Bradford 25:38
Wow. So it kind of just like that just like goes to show you never know, like, who you meet and how it could evolve later, right. Like far into the future.

Stacey Graham 25:48
Right. I think that was like my first virtual conference that I attended was there was a lot of virtual conferences happening during the pandemic, like I was attending, like, so many i was i was networking, virtual meetings that people were having. It was pretty awesome how they use this platform called happen. And they had like booths, virtual booths, and you go to the booth and the recruiters or the representative from the company will talk about the company talking about about the positions they had open, you could get their contact information and connect with them on LinkedIn, just just follow up. But I wasn't expecting, like get a direct email, like from a recruiter. But as I attend to more events, that's how they did it. They were reached out to you, after you attended that events, and to see what you were interested in. So did

Laurence Bradford 26:40
the recruiter work for the company? Yeah, you know, work at or was it like a, you know, like, a third party kind of thing. The recruiter actually worked for the company. Okay, cool. Okay, so for people listening, I feel like I don't know the proper term to use here. But a lot of companies, especially bigger ones, or Heck, even when I used to work at a startup, when we got to be like 50 people, they start to hire like in house recruiters to help, you know, hiring and all that. But sometimes people like companies will use like a third party recruiting or staffing agency or something like that. So they don't actually aren't actually employed by like the company that you're going to be working at. But anyhow, so that yeah, that's really neat that that ended up evolving into, you know, your first like, full time job as a software engineer. So what Yes, like, what do you do? Like, what kind of job are you doing now? Like, what technologies do you work with?

Stacey Graham 27:31
So the technologies I work with now is Angular, which is totally different, because I learned react in my bootcamp. And so it's definitely a learning curve. I'm learning more about Angular in Java as well. And continuing to hone in on my skills in JavaScript as well.

Laurence Bradford 27:50
Yeah, and What's it like being on like, a team, like a bigger team of like software engineers?

Stacey Graham 27:58
This pretty cool. Like all of my teammates are, like, really open and helpful. They always say, you know, reach out, if you have any questions, one of the developers on my team that reached out to me, I don't care if it's 100 questions, I don't mind answering questions. So you know, that's really helpful for someone who's like new, working as a software developer, you kind of feel nervous about asking questions, or you might feel like, the question you're gonna ask is stupid, or you should know it. So it's really helpful to be in a in a team environment like that.

Laurence Bradford 28:32
That's amazing. And I'm guessing that you're working remotely or maybe not. Yes, I'm working remotely. So how has that been? I mean, I guess you went to college remotely like Pierce College, and you did the coding boot camp remotely. So maybe this is like your, what you're most familiar with?

Stacey Graham 28:51
Yeah, it's pretty familiar. You know, it's different. You have to be more intentional about reaching out to people when you're remote, like because your mode of communication and slack and zoom. So you have to be more intentional about checking in with people because you can't just it's not like when you're in person and you're walking by or, you know, yet having a water cooler, you know, compensation is a lot different.

Laurence Bradford 29:15
Yeah, that would make a lot of sense. So I want to like switch gears a little bit and ask some questions about things that I saw online before the interview. And one of the things that we saw and I just want to confirm is that you're a homeschooler. Do you is that is that

Stacey Graham 29:32
accurate? I did homeschool? So during that period when I decided to stay at home with my kids. When it was hard for me to find a job after I graduated I homeschool my oldest daughter who is now 15. That was a great experience. I believe I homeschooled her for about two years. And so I was like, Okay, I'm ready to start looking for work again. She enjoyed this. She She still told me like she really liked this. She was remember things I told her? I was like, oh, wow, you remember that? She was like, I was still like you're a homeschool baby. So I feel good. I give myself a pat on the back. I did a great job, because I was like, totally clueless. At first,

Laurence Bradford 30:16
so you're not well, okay, I guess the pandemic then maybe changed this? At least I guess every state is different with the school closures. But you're Are you still like homeschooling? Or were you homeschooling like over the last year while you were in the boot camp and all that?

Stacey Graham 30:33
No, I was not homeschooling. I don't know how I could have done that. But I do have some friends that are doing it. But I don't know how I could have done it during the boot camp. And everything. My kids were actually in school. But it was interesting, because they were in school virtually with me. So we're all on zoom. Like during the day when I was in a boot camp, thank God, I was in a boot camp, my classes were at night we were in the evenings. Because I noticed when I wasn't on zoom, during the day, I would have an unstable connection because we were all on. So it was interesting.

Laurence Bradford 31:09
Oh, gotcha. But I mean, of course, like not saying that all the schools closing down is nice or something because the pandemic but that I could see being like kind of a decent fit. If you're all at home together, like learning. So you're all kind of doing the same thing. And you're all like watching the computer together. But it makes sense that the internet would go down. That's funny, you say that because our last apartment, we had a different internet service provider. And I remember, oh my gosh, at the start of the pandemic, as my husband and I were doing two things. Like if I was trying to do a podcast interview, he was doing a zoom call or something at the same time, you would notice it and was like really frustrating, but very lucky that our new place has a different internet provider. And it's way better now. But yeah, again, these are things you don't even think about until you're like in that situation, you know, right, right. Exactly. Yeah. So okay, so I'd love to talk about how you stay motivated during your journey, because you may be even more than like, anyone else I've ever interviewed, to be, to be totally honest, has had so many obstacles and roadblocks that you went through from like health death in the family moving the economic recession, how have you, how have you stay motivated?

Stacey Graham 32:25
Think I'm a person of faith. So I believe in God, I think that was a huge help to me, as well as my family, my husband, he was so supportive, like, whenever I was trying to do and sometimes I would be like all over the place. He'd be like, you need to focus on one thing. Because it was one point when I was interested in cyber security. So but um, I think just the support of my family was a huge help. And I even had like vision boards. And like, I had like, printed out like my Why, why am I pursuing this position as a software engineer, and I like had that posted up on my wall. So you know, my mirror, so the things that are constantly there to like, help motivate me to keep going. And even my daughters were encouraged, you know, they would encourage them to listen and coding, they actually took classes with coding online. So they everybody was so supportive. So I think that was a huge help. And I wanted to show them that you can continue to persevere, and in spite of all the things that you know, happening in your life, I want them to keep going and to not quit. And so that's important for them to see me, you know, continue to pursue something I'm really passionate about, and to not give up.

Laurence Bradford 33:47
As far as like, your husband goes in anyone's, you know, spouse, I feel like that is like the number one thing, so many times of a person's success, like if you have a supportive spouse and someone who is encouraging you and motivating you along the way. So I'm really happy to hear you know about that. And also, I feel like, if that wasn't the case, you know, maybe things would be different. I don't know. But that's awesome that you're not just your husband, but your whole family was so supportive along the way. Yeah. Yeah, that's great. So another thing that I wanted to talk about is just like your experience so far, being a woman, being a mom being a person of color working in tech, how yet like how has that been?

Stacey Graham 34:35
It's been really good. You know, the company I work for, they're like really big on diversity and inclusion, which is huge. And so I think that that's super important when you're a person of color. Being a woman, it's like, you have to have that support and like a community around you like being a part of women who co rhasspy women are kind Slowly, you know, being promoted and doing great things in the field is, is so encouraging. So that helps me to continue to be motivated. And having mentors is super important. And I have mentors that continue to encourage me, they are women as well in technology. So that's why he's helped as well. Being a mother can be challenging. Kids always come to mind first, for everything and be a virtual, but my kids are older, thank God. So when I'm like, Hey, I'm in a meeting, or I'm working, you know, like, you know, okay, we know mom's working there. My youngest is getting better with it, you know, she sees me looks like I'm on the zoom call or something, she leaves the room and asked me something later. So you know, they're, they're adjusting to this. This new career I, yeah, it's,

Laurence Bradford 35:53
it's so important to have a community, your family and people around you, supporting you and cheering you along the way. You mentioned mentors, how have you gone about finding those.

Stacey Graham 36:05
So the boot camp was a huge help, because they started a mentoring program when I was in the boot camp. So that was a way I was able to get my first mentor. Then I recently got a mentor, just by reaching out on LinkedIn, I reached out to a software developer. During our conversation, he asked, Hey, are you interested in a mentor? And I was like, Sure. So and then the company that I work for, and now they are open to mentors, as well, like they hit suggest that you get a mentor within the company and maybe outside of your life, or team. So there, that's huge. So So I recently got a mentor, through my company as well.

Laurence Bradford 36:47
Oh, yeah, that's, that's so great. Okay, the other thing I wanted to ask was with your current job, and you said, they really prioritize diversity inclusion, when you were like, wrapping up the coding boot camp looking for jobs, was that something that you were really mindful of when you were thinking of where to go to work?

Stacey Graham 37:06
Your was definitely something I was mindful of. And I wasn't sure going into it, how, unless they, they were a good proponent of diversity. But I'm going into it as I continue to research the company and look into them, I saw how important it was for them. And so that was a big like, I would actually look at, when I would look at a company, I would actually look on LinkedIn, and look at the developers that were at the company and see if there were people at the company that look like me, because, you know, I just wanted to be at a company where I felt comfortable. And it just wouldn't be awkward, you know, and I wouldn't have to deal with, you know, any kind of bias or anything. So that was something that was huge for me. Yeah,

Laurence Bradford 37:56
that's a really good tip, looking at the LinkedIn profiles of who works there. Another thing that I would do in the past is I would go just to like the about page of the company. And of course, like, well, a really big company, really big, small company, and may look different, but a lot of companies will have at least their leadership team, photos of them and like their bios, like a C level suite. And I would see, okay, like, what do those faces look like? You know, like, like, yeah, is it you know, all white men that are older? Or is there a blend of people that are on the leadership team? And I would be aware of that, if I was, you know, thinking of working somewhere, even just working with a company in like, a lesser capacity, not a full time job, but just like seeing like, Who's the Who are the people in charge? And yeah, is there anyone that looks like me that is there, which you said, Yeah, it's a it's a good tip. Is there anything? Is there anything else though, like for someone who, like is trying to think about that, and they're interviewing at companies? And they're not sure. Like, is there aside from the LinkedIn in like the about page on the website? Is there anything else they can look at or kind of take note of?

Stacey Graham 39:06
I've noticed a lot of companies have like, something listed on our website about diversity and inclusion. And a lot of the companies are hiring people that have that title. I think it's like diversity and inclusion. managers. I'm not sure the title, but I've noticed like a lot of those people that are working in companies, and now actually connect with me on LinkedIn. And so I think that's important in that also think that there are organizations out there like let tech pipeline and diversify tech that spotlight companies that are diverse, I love diversified tech, their website, where they actually will show a profile of a company and list how many women how many people color work at The company. So that's huge too. Those are some websites that you could go to, and be able to find companies that way. And diversify tech also allows you to create, you can put a profile on their page, so company employers can find you. And I actually did that. And I was told I was reached out to companies, because I did. So I think that's another reason to do as well.

Laurence Bradford 40:29
Oh, yeah, that's, that's really helpful. We'll definitely include a link to that so many other websites that you mentioned, where people can learn more about those things in the data of companies. Unfortunately, we're running out of time, and we have to come to a close. But I did want to ask, like just one final question to wrap things up. And it's just any final advice or thoughts you have for listeners, especially those that are learning to code and they're starting, they're stopping, they're facing a lot of obstacles along the way, similar to yourself, what advice do you have?

Stacey Graham 40:58
My number one advice would be don't quit, keep going, it's gonna be tough coding is not easy. And definitely, you need to have a support system around you. There are so many different organizations out there, where you can connect with people. I'm a part of Women Who Code and Lambda, like I mentioned, and they have virtual lunches, they have all kinds of events that they have not going to a few of their in person events before the pandemic. There's another organization and we insights in text technologies of color. So there are organizations out there, where you can connect with other people, they can help you stay motivated. And you know, you can vent to people and tell them what you're going through. And there's so many people that are so helpful. And on Twitter, just reach out to people like I'm an introvert, but I just stepped out of the out there and just reach out to people, even on LinkedIn, and networking is so huge. Your job searching. That's one thing that I made sure I networked because I was that person that, you know, in the very beginning, when I was job searching, I was just applying for jobs. Sometimes I wouldn't hear back from the companies. So you know, I think networking is huge. You know, you can talk to someone and maybe give them the get them to give you a referral, you know, for a position. So, that's some of my advice.

Laurence Bradford 42:30
Thank you so much. Those are all great tips and things people should keep in mind. 100% agree with all them. Thank you so much again, Stacey, for coming on the show today. Where can people find you online?

Stacey Graham 42:41
You can find me on Twitter at Staceyluvstech.

Laurence Bradford 42:51
Awesome. Thank you again.

Laurence Bradford 42:58
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 guests name. If you enjoyed this episode, and are interested in learning how to code, there's no better time to start than right now. To help you out we have a free downloadable resource with our 10 learning strategies for new coders. It's perfect for beginners, no matter your experience or background. And you can download your free copy at learn to code with.me It was great to have you with me on the Learn to Code With Me podcast today. I'll see you next time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Use benefits and programs to your advantage. Stacey cut tuition costs in college through her employer and later applied for a program to get $7000 in assistance for training.
  • Everyone’s journey is different. For some, getting a degree takes four years. Stacey took thirteen years, but the long wait didn’t stop her.
  • Stress is not something you should underestimate. Whatever you find helpful to minimize and manage stress, continue implementing them in your life.
  • A strong support group goes a long way for your mental health. Stacey’s husband and daughters were there for her throughout her whole journey.
  • The values of the organization you’re going to work for matter a lot. As a person of color, it was essential for Stacey to know if she’d be working with people like her.

Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!

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