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Artist Turned Software Engineer Finds Creativity in Code

By Flatiron SchoolFebruary 15, 2019

Code can be art, just take it from Patti C., a Flatiron School Washington D.C. graduate. Before starting her coding career, she worked as an artist’s assistant for a sculptor in New York City. But, she needed a job that could pay the bills. She switched to working in retail, later found time to volunteer as an English teacher, and also helped take care of her youngest siblings, twins 20 years her junior.

Hectic, as she described it, was an understatement. When life gave her an opportunity to explore her next career move, Patti found inspiration in a friend who was a software engineer. As a programmer, she could support herself and not lose her creative voice in the process.

Patti enrolled in Flatiron School after attending an event and working her way through the free Coding Bootcamp Prep online course. She’s now a full-stack engineer at Digitree and says she gets the same feeling working with code as she gets when she creates art.

Below, Patti discusses how her artistic streak remains alive as a software engineer. If you think you can’t be creative with code, think again.

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Making art, not money

Patti did not have a technical background. She went to the University of Rochester and graduated with a Bachelor’s in History and a minor in Studio Art. Patti worked as a sculptor’s assistant, but she needed something sustainable. She worked in retail as she figured out her next steps.

Patti volunteered for some time as an English teacher, but it was only temporary. Her family needed her and she helped take care of her twin siblings. When her life settled down, she turned her attention toward finding a career she loved with a salary that matched.

She was inspired to check out coding after talking to her friend who was a software engineer. Patti also had a lot of friends in the software industry, which further piqued her curiosity. “I decided to move into coding as a way to support and express myself,” said Patti.

Key takeaway: Sometimes it’s not enough to do what you love. Finding the right balance between life and a career can be tricky. Consider what’s important to you when making the next step.

The Flatiron School experience

Patti was interested in STEM as a kid, so it was no surprise to her that coding rekindled that passion. “Ultimately, getting into coding felt like coming home,” said Patti.

She did her research and attended a “Code and Pizza” event hosted by Flatiron School. Patti enjoyed it enough to take the free Coding Bootcamp Prep online course. Coding continued to connect with her and she was awarded a scholarship to attend the immersive Software Engineering course at Flatiron School’s Washington D.C. campus.

Diving into her coding education, she loved working on projects and creating her own apps. “Practically applying the skills I’d just learned helped solidify them in my brain and gave me a sense of how things work in the real world,” said Patti. There were always challenges to overcome, she recalls trying to figure out Websocket for her instant messaging app, but she found that she always knew where to find the answer. “I realized that I have the power to teach myself new technologies when I need to, which was a big self esteem boost,” said Patti.

She credits the teaching staff, Learn.co, and the curriculum for her success at Flatiron School. Career Services helped her in her job search from working on her resume to preparing for technical interviews. She initially thought she wanted to become a front-end developer, because of her creative background. But, she learned that code can be its own artistic expression.

Key takeaway: Hard work pays off. Challenges are learning opportunities. A coding bootcamp should be teaching you while empowering you to succeed.

The “flow state”

Patti describes the artistic process as a chance to lose yourself to the process. The “flow state,” as she describes it, is emotional and she gets to express herself in code much like she would when creating a work of art. “Coding is totally immersive and I find myself losing track of time,” said Patti.”I love that I can listen to music while I work and really get in the zone.”

She says coding is creative and that’s why pursued it instead of a different career. Whenever she has an idea for a website or app, she can make it herself. There’s a sense of accomplishment when everything comes together, much like painting. “One of the first assignments we did was an essay by Paul Graham on how hacking and painting are similar and that resonated a lot with me,” she recalls. “Both hacking and painting give us an opportunity to create something beautiful.”

You can be creative in tech, according to Patti. “I think a lot of people have an image of technology as being something that’s strictly cold and rational, but to me it feels just as much like a work of passion,” said Patti.

She’s now taking that attitude to Digitree where she’s a full-stack engineer. Patti said she uses the practical skills she developed at Flatiron School daily. Digitree was exactly what she was looking for and she’s excited about her career as a software engineer. “I grew so much over three months and what I learned at Flatiron School would have taken me years to learn,” said Patti.

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