The Impact of My Local STEM Group: Tipping Points and Turning Points

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My road to code is not short or straight, for that matter. Being a Gen Xer I did not grow up with the Internet we know today, so I’m not a Web developer that can say, “at age nine I made my first Web site.” Instead, I was the alien daughter of an engineer and a programmer that flourished in liberal arts. After graduating college, I spent fifteen years working at advertising agencies, and three pivotal events unfolded during that time period that would tip my world into a 180-degree spin.
            First, the Internet fundamentally changed how we consume media. Then the Great Recession cut all of the corporate fat, and the ad industry did not ever bounce back. And finally, the last blow was when my father passed away. By the end of these events, I found myself wondering why I was in a career that I did not believe in and was struggling to stay in.
            I will say that most people don’t know that what tipped the scales for me was the loss of a parent, but, truthfully, it is not something you casually mention in your career-change elevator pitch. However, when a loved one passes away, it makes you prioritize what is important. For me, that meant that life was too precious to spend it doing something that I was not passionate about every day. And that is where my local STEM group, Kansas City Women in Technology, entered the picture. 
            My interest in Web development started with a movie blog and some Codecademy tutorials, but my curiosity did not end there. Through a search, I found a class taught by Kansas City Women in Technology called “Coding & Cocktails.” At my first session in February 2016, I realized that this hobby could be a career. This discovery was significant because all of my life my interests did not translate into a career. However, now those two were finally converging via Web development. Additionally, at that first session, I learned that at least half of the women there did not have a traditional computer-science background. In other words, it was not too late for me to pursue a career as a Web developer.
            Fast forward to summer 2017, and my world has once again done a complete 180. I quit my dreaded ad job and am a full-time student in pursuit of an associate degree in Web development with a graduation date in May 2018. I feel useful, valued, excited, and confident about my future as a Web developer because I’ll be doing something that I not only enjoy but also something that people actually need. I guess you could sum it up by saying that the tipping point for me was when my dad passed away, but the turning point was that blistery cold winter night when a dozen or so women ditched their weekend plans to come teach me at that first Coding & Cocktails session.