Becoming a Developer/Mom after a Five-Year Hiatus

I entered my tech career at a startup and loved being a developer. But when I found out I was expecting, I knew that I wanted to take some time to focus on my growing family.

Five years in, and with two little ones that were sleeping through the night, it felt like the right time for me to get back to work. I loved the way another working mom described how I felt: “Being at home with kids is definitely fulfilling, but being at work is stimulating.” Of course, you can say both positions in society have similar values, depending on what you’re doing. But I knew in my heart that writing code and solving complex problems were what I wanted to do.

The problem was: how? How do you enter a fast-paced, ever-changing type of career when you’ve been out of the loop for five years? As I reflect back on my journey to where I am today, I can offer the following thoughts.

1. Talk to Someone

Whether it’s your best friend, significant other, mom, or neighbor, tell someone how you feel and where you want to be. I was lucky that my husband not only supported my desires but also encouraged me to work towards them. Find that person for you.

One of the most helpful but difficult conversations I had early on was with a friend who was also a senior engineer. After talking about what I wanted to do, he asked some tough questions about what I knew. He was honest and direct and told me that I really needed to do some preparatory work to even begin the job search. Although this seemed like a hurdle at that time, it pushed me to do the second thing that really helped: finding resources around me.

2. Utilize Resources

Udemy

After some conversations, I stumbled across Udemy and found a few helpful online courses to hone my skills. Based on my previous working experiences, I needed a course to fill gaps in my knowledge and keep me updated with the most recent technologies.

Andrei Neagoie’s Complete Web Developer course did exactly that. Not only is Andrei a reputable and skilled developer, but his course was easy to understand, and it encompassed everything I needed to get back in the job market. The course covered programming fundamentals, side projects, and even guidelines for building my portfolio. Moreover, Andrei’s previous and current students were a great resource on Discord.

Meetups

The benefits of going to meetups were not only in gaining more knowledge but also in having a community that was passionate about the things I cared about. The conversations with others in meetups were informative, challenging, and encouraging all at the same time.

Tech Ladies Facebook Group

This group let me hear the perspectives and experiences of other women in the tech industry. I found kindred spirits, many of whom had experienced the kinds of things I’d wondered about before returning to the field. This and similar groups gave me opportunities to be part of a greater tech community and encouraged me to keep pursuing what I wanted.

U of M Center for the Education of Women (CEW)

Living near a major university has so many perks, and this center is one of them. The CEW offers career counseling for the general public, plus connections to mentors within and outside the university community that one might not be able to find while searching alone! 

3. Find Mentors

The hardest part about finding a mentor is asking them to mentor you. What if they say no? What if they think I’m crazy? And what happens if they say yes?

I had an interview with a local tech company, and though I didn’t pass the technical interview, I decided to reach out to the hiring manager for further feedback. Her LinkedIn profile showed that she had given talks about family and workplace balance, and looking at her career path, I knew she would have words of wisdom for me.

In her generosity, she not only gave me helpful tips to move forward but also connected me with other working moms — one of whom pointed me to Atomic Object. I’d encourage you to take the initiative, go out on a limb, and trust that you can find mentors in the tech community who are willing and able to guide you forward.

4. Be Patient

Last but not least, be patient. It took me a long time to be okay with the fact that everything seemed to be moving slower than I like. The process — honing a skill set, finding resources, talking to people, interviewing, dealing with rejection — all takes time. And that’s not including the demands of everyday life with family.

But eventually, when the right job and time come along, the puzzle pieces will all connect.