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4 women describe their non-traditional journeys to tech

Sharon Florentine | Nov. 1, 2016
At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, four women shared how alternative education paths brought them to a career in technology.

Hannah Lehman, software developer, General Assembly

Hannah Lehman's degree is in architecture, but after being laid off four times during her first year out of college, she went into the fine dining industry; helping to open, run and grow restaurants. Even then, she says, she still felt bored and unfulfilled in her professional life.

An email she received while home sick from work, from online learning and training company General Assembly, offered immersive training in design, technology, marketing and data. It spurred her into action.

"I was so, so, incredibly sick that day, but something just pushed me to go interview for this program. I hauled myself off the couch, got dressed, put makeup on my deathly sick face; I had no tech experience whatsoever, but I really wanted this," Lehman says.

She got in and completed the boot camp, and then went to work in New York City for General Assembly. Recently, though, Lehman says she's become much more "homesick for the South," and has just returned to North Carolina to teach coding immersion camps.

Her advice to other women? Find and leverage mentoring relationships whenever possible to keep yourself energized and engaged, as it's easy to get discouraged and burned out. But don't forget to be your own biggest champion and advocate for your own needs, she says.

"When I entered tech, I realized it took me so long to get here because I had to find something that got me excited and kept me interested. If I start to feel down, or burned out, or bored, I have to go to a meetup, or do a hangout, call some friends or colleagues for inspiration. And don't be afraid to push back if something doesn't feel right -- as one of the only women at my company, I've had so many requests to volunteer, be on panels and be the public face of 'diversity.' Well, look, my male colleagues don't get pressured to do all that, and I shouldn't have to do it all myself," she says.

[ Related story: StubHub works to grow diversity inside and out ]

Joey Capolongo, Jr., quality assurance analyst, Lending Tree

Joey Capolongo had to borrow a laptop from a colleague at work to attend her first boot camp, but she's never wavered from her choice to change careers. After years working as a customer service rep for mortgage broker Lending Tree, she says she finally reached her breaking point.

"Once I hit age 40, I said, 'I'm done.' I got wind of a Rails Girls workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina, borrowed the laptop and the rest is history," Capolongo laughs. She completed three apps at the workshop and considered herself officially "bitten" by the coding bug.


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