by Haley Tortorella
Hey, my name is Haley and I’m a software developer.
I mean, almost. I’m currently a software development student at Code Fellows PDX in downtown Portland.
How did I end up there? Well, I’m a first generation Mexican-American who grew up dreaming of being a professional ballerina. Alas, I didn’t end up a ballerina. Instead, I put myself through college by working summers in a greenhouse and outdoor garden center. I bounced around with a few majors and finally landed on psychology. At the time, I thought this was the perfect fit and I would get everything I wanted out of a career. But, like others, my first post-college job was in retail. I figured it would be a great placeholder while I found my “real job” or picked a master’s program to pursue. However, three years passed while that perfect career never came and I knew I’d make an awful therapist. I found myself dissatisfied with any potential avenue and felt lacking in purpose. It wasn’t until I discussed my interest in civil engineering with a friend that I was led to software development. The conversation went something like this:
“I think I’m going to go back to school and get a degree in civil engineering.”
“Why? Also won’t that cost like $50k or something?”
“Yeah, but I want to feel like I’m doing something important. I want to help make things that people use every day.”
“You should be a software developer. You can teach yourself for little cost and you’d be way better at it.”
“Haha, cool joke.”
“No, seriously. Here’s a website you can use.”
So, for me, there wasn’t some huge revelation or a sign that I should be a software developer, I just picked up my laptop and signed up for a free trial that promised to teach me the basics of becoming a full stack developer. I put in almost 30 hours of studying and lessons every week but one day I hit a wall. My code didn’t work. I had no one to ask, and I wanted to throw my laptop away.
In that moment, I recalled walking by a window recently that had some code jargon on it and I decided that the next day I’d stop in. I walked into the beautiful Code Fellows PDX space and saw groups of focused men and women. A student introduced me to Shayne and Megan in admissions and they answered my endless questions about what this program could offer. This was the right next step for me, I was certain.
Do I expect I’ll be the next Dennis Ritchie? No. Nevertheless, I’m excited daily about what I’m learning and I get to build things that make life a little easier and more fun. Thanks to the advanced level program I’m studying, I expect to come out of this experience with more than proficient skills to begin a career and have the confidence to say, “Hey, my name is Haley and I’m a software developer.”