Access Lab Alum Shares How Coming Back After Quitting Was The Best Decision She Ever Made

Posted by Flatiron School  /  March 26, 2019

Attending a 15-week immersive Software Engineering program is a commitment. Most students come from different careers, so Impostor Syndrome happens. For Scarlett P., an Access Labs alumna, not seeing many women in her cohort exacerbated her feelings. So much so that she quit her first week!

Luckily, her story didn’t end there.

Scarlett challenged herself and returned to Access Labs. She’s now a Solutions Engineer at TripleLift where she’s shaping the tech industry from within.

Blog post image: scarlett-banner.jpg

Love at first sight

Scarlett majored in art history, but decided to take a computer science based on her interest in tech. What started as something to cross off her college bucket list turned out to be what she wanted to do as a career.

“I love programming, it’s very similar to learning a foreign language,” she says. “Starting out, you’re looking at individual pieces. As you advance, you see how everything comes together. With a foreign language, you start building complex sentences. With code, you build complicated apps.”

Even though Scarlett loved coding, she didn’t want the added financial burden of more schooling for her parents. She decided to take a job in the education industry.

A little coding on the side

Scarlett learned about a coding bootcamp from a friend. She started taking free courses online, but working alone was more difficult than she anticipated. “I would constantly delay completing the work,” she says. “I didn’t have a structure to hold myself accountable.”

If she wasn’t able to complete the online course, then she wasn’t ready to handle the rigors of a full-time bootcamp, she thought. So, she decided to attend one-off workshops to see if learning in a more traditional setting was a better fit. Everyone has a different learning style, and Scarlett needed to learn what hers was.

“I like learning alongside people and having an instructor in front of me if I have questions,” she says. “I love the feeling of being around like-minded individuals striving toward the same goal.”

When searching for the right bootcamp, a welcoming and supportive community was a necessity. After going to an Access Labs event, she felt the deferred payment was ideal for her financial situation and would also attract students she could relate to. “I thought I would be surrounded by a diverse community who might have immigrant parents or are first-generation college grads like me and are trying to change their lives for the better.”

Where my ladies at?

Scarlett’s excitement quickly turned into disappointment because there weren’t as many women in the program as she expected — she expected more gender parity, which affected her enrollment.

“In fact, I quit the program in my first week,” she says.” But, she realized there was something else that was bothering her. “Looking back, it also had to do with me feeling like I wasn’t ready.”

Unsure if she made the right decision by quitting, Scarlett sought advice from engineers, specifically women who had trained in bootcamps. “The general consensus was that if being in a cohort with mostly men made me uncomfortable, then it’s going to be difficult for me to work in the industry where that same imbalance exists,” she says.

Back like she never left

After chatting with other women engineers, Scarlett was motivated to return to Access Labs and has not regretted the decision.  “I went back and it was the best decision I’ve ever made! It’s scary to think how close I was to giving it up.” she says. “I’m truly grateful for my community’s support.”

Scarlett sees her choice to stay as important one because there must be women willing to co-exist within the male dominated space. “This experience prepared me for the workforce because I don’t feel uncomfortable in spaces where I work with mostly men,” she says.

Flatiron School is honored to have Scarlett featured as one of our panelists for the Women Trailblazers in Tech panel on March 26 in Brooklyn.