It was well-timed good luck. Only about six months ago a former co-worker of my husband and YWeb graduate from Cohort 1 brought the program to my attention, just as I was trying to maneuver going back to school for web development or graphic design. I’ve spent the last several years mostly figuring out how I don’t want to spend my life and in doing so, I realized that one, I wanted work that served as a creative outlet and two, I wanted work that wasn’t going to commit me to staying in one place all the time. With regards to creating that sort of career for myself, I knew gaining hard tech-related skills was not so much a question of if, but rather when and how. I’m not really a believer in fate, but YWeb couldn’t have presented itself at a more opportune time.
Fast forward to late May as Cohort 5 is wrapping up and I’m taking some time to reflect on the past fifteen weeks. I think what I most appreciate about the program is what I didn’t anticipate. Despite the fact that YWeb’s primary goal is to encourage diversity in the tech industry, I didn’t expect the truly diverse group of classmates that I have, or how much I would learn from them. Every day I’m inspired, surprised, enlightened, etc. by something someone does or shares with me. A story from home or trying a bite of an Algerian lunch. Our varied past experiences, interests, talents and personalities have fostered a very unique learning environment as well as warm friendships.
I also didn’t anticipate the emphasis on general professional development or how beneficial I would find it. I arrogantly and ignorantly assumed that I had already developed my soft skills, but I learned that there is always something more to learn. A resume can always be updated, a project can always be more organized. I doubt I will ever enjoy public speaking; it’s just not part of who I am, and that’s fine. Still, our daily stand-up, mock interviews and required participation in meet-ups have taught me the importance of being able to tell my own story and that it certainly isn’t something to fear.
Lastly, the community support and involvement have been invaluable components of the program. This being my introduction to Madison’s tech community, I was pleasantly surprised (to say the least) by how welcoming, encouraging and genuinely interested in YWeb people have been. The amount of weekly volunteers and guest speakers demonstrates this. Even as I prepare to pursue freelancing, I feel like I have a good support net and a wealth of resources to help me as I get started.
I’m leaving this program largely the same person, but fuller and richer than three months ago. Now instead of just wanting a more creative path for myself, I have a plan and the confidence to make it happen. I’m sure there is a lot that I’ve learned and been influenced by in this program that I won’t even realized until further down the road. I’m looking forward to seeing my classmates and myself succeed and find our paths into tech.
– Jill Neitzel