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If you’ve spent any time on the Skillcrush site, you know that founder Adda Birnir talks a lot about reaching women—and that’s a refreshing change in the tech world. But as a guy trying to learn to code, I wasn’t sure I’d be particularly welcome. I didn’t want to intrude on the dynamic I felt the company was trying to have with its students, because of my gender.
My First App Design Lit a Tech Spark
Let’s back up a bit.
I went to school for industrial design. My education was based on designing physical products like washers, dryers, and shoes—”real” products you can hold in your hand. I had a solid background in the fundamentals of design and my own aesthetic, and I was putting it to use in my school projects.
One day during my senior year, I saw a poster on campus asking for someone to design an app. It piqued my interest, even though I had no idea how to design an app. I reached out to the person who made the poster and we did the project together, muddling my way through my first app design. Looking back, I actually feel so proud of that very first try—even if I was stumbling blindly through it. It was my first design work for a digital product, and even though it wasn’t paid work, it lit a spark in me. I loved it. I realized I wanted to be a web designer and build apps instead of cars or furniture. I didn’t know much about it—even that phone and browser apps are different animals—I just thought it all sounded fun.
Later that year, I was walking through a job fair at my school with a tiny portfolio of my app design work. There wasn’t much going on, but as I was leaving, I walked by a table for a technology company in Birmingham. I really connected with the woman there, and she loved my portfolio. She ended up asking me to work with her on a side project, and the next week I signed a contract to design and develop a website for her startup.
Now to be clear, when I said yes, I still didn’t know what I was doing. I’d never designed or developed a webpage before. But I said yes anyway and learned the skills I needed along the way.
Free Learn-to-Code Sites Didn’t Work for Me. Skillcrush Did.
At the same time, I was working at my first job out of college modeling 3D utility trucks. It’s dull, repetitive work. You never make anything new. It’s like building the same thing out of Legos over and over and over again. When I got bored, I would open up code from websites to try to familiarize and teach myself to code so I could complete that website project. I didn’t have money to do a bootcamp and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a full blown career change, so I kept trying to learn on my own.
The problem was that free coding sites didn’t really work for me. Sites would tell me what HTML was or define CSS, but they wouldn’t tell me how to put everything together. It never really clicked. This brings me to Skillcrush.
I found Skillcrush’s blog because it had answers to so many of my questions. But I noticed the site had a definite feminine bent, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be the right fit as a student. I even looked into the classes and was super intrigued by the curriculum, but I still stayed away. I watched a Skillcrush webinar and really wanted to apply, but I was still worried that I would be disrupting Skillcrush’s mission to serve women.
“Our Mission is For Women, But Our Curriculum is For Everyone”
I wish I hadn’t been so hung up on this, because it was a problem with an easy solution. Just as I reached my wit’s end with the free resources I was using, I went back and reread Skillcrush’s website where I saw this phrase; Our mission is women, but our curriculum is for everyone no matter your gender!” I felt like that little phrase gave me permission to apply as a student. Skillcrush is aimed at women because so much of tech leaves them out, but that doesn’t mean Skillcrush is only for women. I enrolled in a blueprint that day.
It was a total game changer. Everything came together for me after that—the classes were story-based and logical, and had casual, colloquial language that made it accessible. I had breadcrumbs of knowledge from all of my research, but Skillcrush connected the dots.
I started doing websites regularly as a freelancer, and when a teaching assistant job opened up at Skillcrush, I applied. It was a great feeling that they remembered me from when I was a student!
I completely fell in love with development and now I’m a front-end developer at Skillcrush with zero plans to go anywhere else for a long, long time. Going from the mindless monotony of designing model trucks to this thrilling development community completely changed my life, and I love Skillcrush’s mission: Gender shouldn’t hold anyone back from learning tech. It’s all about the learning, for everyone.