How An English Professor Fell in Love with Coding While Teaching Her Students

Posted by Flatiron School Students  /  November 18, 2019

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“I got an interview with a company just because I asked a stranger to meet me for coffee. After our coffee, he went to his boss and they went to HR so they could push my application through when it would have been tossed.”

Meet former English Professor Emily Morgan, who discovered and fell in love with code while planning lectures for her students.  Here she discusses the journey that ultimately led to a great first role at Pendo.

Prior to Flatiron School you were a College English Professor and freelance writer. What sparked your desire to learn to code?

The story I tell is about the changes in higher education. I went from teaching 5 face-to-face classes every semester to teaching 4 classes online and 1 face-to-face in my last semester. Teaching online requires a big change in teaching philosophy. I was trying to make the online courses good for my students, so I was exploring several different educational technologies, and just kept thinking, how do they do this? These groups had made great resources for students, which I didn’t feel like I was managing to do with the resources I had. And then I realized they made it with code, so I took my first coding class.

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What surprised you about the process of learning to code?

People are often surprised at my career change, and one of the explanations I give is that code combines creativity and logic. And that’s one of the things that surprised me in the process. At the beginning, I was focused on logic. There had to be an answer and it had to be right. But what I found as I kept learning is there is a lot of creativity in how you approach the problem and which way you choose to solve it

You ultimately accepted a role at Pendo, and sourced the original lead for that job yourself. How did you find out about that opportunity? Looking back, what do you believe made the critical differences that generated your offer?

I started going to meet-ups to network right after I moved to Raleigh last October. The first meet-up that I went to was hosted by Pendo, and I had never heard of the company. In January I was able to get more active in a couple specific meet-up groups here, and one offered free tickets to a conference if you manned the booth for a little while.  I jumped at the chance and Pendo also had a booth with their HR and in-house recruiters, so I went over and chatted with them. When they interviewed me, I was able to say, “I’ve been following what you’re doing since October because I’m interested in your work.” I think showing that I had a genuine interest made a difference.  I've also been told by some of the people who interviewed me that they were really impressed with my background and the variety of skills that I have because I'm not a traditional candidate.

What is your title and responsibilities in your new role?

I am an Associate Front-End Engineer. My team builds new analytics features for our core product. We use Vue and Highcharts to create data visualizations to help product managers understand how users use their products and how to make their software better.

What have you learned along the way about networking and job seeking that might be helpful to other Flatiron School grads?

There are two lessons that I learned along the way and I'm definitely going to keep them in mind in the future: First, my experience with Pendo makes "early and often" a key takeaway.  I didn't attend that October meet-up thinking I'd get a job, but I went and talked to people, and I'm so glad.  Second, my other lesson was "just ask."  People went way beyond what I expected with my asks.  I got an interview with a company just because I asked a stranger to meet me for coffee.  After our coffee, he went to his boss and they went to HR so they could push my application through when it would have been tossed.

What are you excited to use your new skills to build in the future?

We are working to solve some interesting problems and help our customers. I'm excited because we are always asked to take on big challenges that we don't know how to do yet, so we get to learn and try out new things. 

What’s next for you?

I'm continuing to learn and am working toward a promotion.

Emily’s career coach Maya Hormaldy shares her experience in working with Emily on her job search:

“Emily brought a breadth of experience in higher education. She was excited to learn and approached this new career chapter of hers with curiosity and openness. Emily was innovative and scrappy, and once made a video of the reasons she should be hired for a company she hadn't heard back from. Her consistency and inventiveness were a huge asset for the job seeking process.”