This Alum Is Helping Make Tech More Inclusive in Austin

Posted by Flatiron School  /  April 17, 2019

Kelsey H., a Flatiron School Online Software Engineering graduate, first encountered code as a junior at the University of Oklahoma. Kelsey enrolled in Computer Science, a required course, but didn’t expect to find her passion. “It was the first time I ever sat in the front row and the first time I wanted to stand up and demonstrate something on the whiteboard,” she says.

She found the course engaging, but didn’t pursue programming because there weren’t many women in the class.

Even worse, Kelsey remembers not seeing “anyone who I could look up to in the community that was like me.” Lacking female role models in the coding community, she switched directions.

Kelsey would return to coding and is now a software engineer in Austin. Learn how she is helping to inspire change below.

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After graduation, Kelsey started her career in healthcare IT. She realized that sending data between people came naturally to her. As her career took her from client-to-client, Kelsey developed friendships with developers. Through them, she returned to code and discovered Flatiron School. “Once I started looking into Flatiron School’s program, I was sold,” she says.

She chose Flatiron School based on her great experience with Online Bootcamp Prep. “I liked the lesson structure and how it was test-driven. Other bootcamps were just a follow along thing,” she says. “You don’t really absorb what you were doing and couldn’t recreate it on your own. With Flatiron School, I was actually learning.”

Once Kelsey started the program, she knew she had made the right choice. “I would get home from work, make some tea, and start working on lessons because it was so much fun,” she says. “I love solving problems and puzzles and that was exactly what it was.”

There were some challenges along the way. Kelsey started to doubt that code was right for her when she began her job search. To get through it, she became scrappy. “You’re always learning and you have to find the resources that help you,” she says.

Kelsey also reached out to Flatiron School’s online Slack community. “Does anyone else feel like you don’t want to code anymore? That it’s not fun anymore and you want to give up?”

That’s when Avi, Flatiron School’s co-founder, reached out with a simple, “let’s talk.”

She worked through her feelings with Avi. “He told me that this was normal,” she says. “He said, ‘Not many people know what they want to do. People pursue something because their parents wanted them to or society told them to do it.’ He reminded me, ‘You know you love it, you need to take some time to breathe. You’re going to make it.”

Her chat with Avi motivated her to continue with code.

She’s now working as a Technical Support Engineer at Pingboard Org Chart Software in Austin. Kelsey enjoys building products that people want to use and the opportunity to be the role model she needed years ago in college. “I missed out on years where I could have been doing something that I love, so I want to be that inspiration for other girls.”

Kelsey knows there’s a lot to be done about gender parity in tech and it all begins with passion.  “Anyone who is passionate about code needs to look at their strengths,” she says. She likes to teach, so that’s why she spent a summer as a lead instructor for Girls Who Code in New York City.

As she inspires other girls to code, she continues to learn and challenge herself. “I learned to code and discovered that I could really learn anything if put my mind to it,” she says. “And that feels like a superpower.”

Her advice for others learning to code? “Celebrate your accomplishments. It can feel daunting – like there’s too much to learn and that you’re inadequate. But remember to be proud of what you’ve learned and don’t focus on all that you have left to learn. You can do it!”