coding

How a Woman Over 40 Broke Coding Stereotypes

 

Patricia Ehrhardt wanted to become a full time web developer so she enrolled at Bloc in the Web Developer Track.

Patricia spoke with Bloc about her experience of re-training to become a developer. Bloc shared the story with WeAreTheCity, which you will find below.

coding featurePatricia wanted to become a full time web developer, but being a woman in tech can be difficult. Women face stereotyping and imposter-syndrome and the best way to close the gender gap is to give female coders support systems that can help them thrive. That’s why in 2014, Women Who Code and Bloc partnered to create a Women Who Code scholarship program that offers two women each month a $1000 scholarship toward their Bloc tuition. To-date this scholarship program has funded over $48,000 in Bloc tuition.

Patricia had two mentors while completing the program. For backend web development she worked with John Sawyers, a 20 year software developer veteran who has previously worked as a software architect and CTO. And for frontend development, she was mentored by Alissa Likavec, formerly a City Director for Women Who Code who works as a software engineer at Bedrock Media Ventures in Seattle.

We sat down with Patricia to hear about her journey to becoming a developer. Patricia stated, “When I was accepted into Bloc’s Bootcamp it felt like I was making an Olympic team. I knew I would finally be getting the training I needed that eludes so many of us that don't want to go back to the traditional school environment. It felt fantastic, and like I was closer to reaching my goal. Bloc was the easiest choice because of the 1:1 mentorship commitment, and because it was 100% online.”

Patricia stated that her biggest challenge in her journey was the ever present imposter syndrome. She would constantly berate herself for not knowing general CS concepts, or not grasping the logic of an algorithm, and basically feeling like she didn't know what she was doing. Having a mentor there to help her through these doubts was key to her success.

Patricia experienced stereotyping, being a female developer. She loves attending hackathons, but every time she went to one, there would be teams of men that were not open to having a woman on their team. When asked about the hackathon she said, “The general vibe I get is that, we [women] are too slow, or want to learn things (GOD FORBID) or that we are only good for html and css. The way I get over it, is to correct people’s perceptions by actually saying my title “Hi, I’m Patricia I’m a RoR Engineer”, and let them know I am a polyglot (Ruby, Python and Javascript) then ask them to give me a task. They rarely say no to that.”

When asked what advice she would you give to women who are thinking about enrolling in a coding bootcamp she stated, “Invest in yourself. Don’t make excuses like you can’t afford it. If this is truly something you are passionate about, invest the money, invest the time, invest your heart and soul and it will all work out.”

Patricia says that Bloc changed her life by providing the one on one mentorship she so desperately needed to get over the hump of learning online and solo. It also provided a platform to work on real live projects and feature her skills to add to her GitHub and ultimately her resume.

Patricia is excited to continue learning and becoming an even better engineer at her new job at Epublishing. Eventually she hopes to create a piece of software that will be useful for organisations like the Innocence Project, Missing and Exploited Children, or the poverty abatement and battered women’s advocates.

Finally, you can read Patricia’s blog about her experience learning to code as someone over 40.

Patricia was born in Dover, DE but grew up in Southern California. Her interest in technology came from her father who was a nuclear physicist. He would always create techy experiments in the house while watching Star Trek. When everyone else in the neighbourhood had Atari, Patricia had Intellivision. Gaming was her first real introduction to tech, and she was hooked.

Patricia studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Emperor's College in Santa Monica, and then studied Cell and Molecular Bio/Pre-Med at Humbolt State University. She entered the workforce as a touring band member, playing the bass. Later she became a bartender, and lastly worked in Administration. She loved helping her co-workers in an administrative role but after 8 years she was bored and felt she wasn’t being challenged.

She decided she wanted to learn to code when she remembered she had been interested in coding, tech and gaming since she was 13 years old. She knew it was time to do what she had always wanted to do.

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