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I discovered my passion for technology a year ago when I enrolled in a random statistics class. To be honest, I never imagined myself as a tech person. Perhaps because my parents convinced me that a career in tech is only for boys. Perhaps because my high school math teacher convinced me that I was bad at math (except statistics, miraculously). In my late junior year, inspired by a professor, I added a minor in creative coding. Many of my friends assumed I was “switching to tech,” but the truth is that I wanted to use technology to advance my career. I have enjoyed learning about my major, economics, throughout my undergraduate years. After teaching myself to code, I now have a different outlook on my future, and I hope to be in a position where I can use both my economic knowledge and my computer science skills in order to find computerized solutions to challenges I encounter in my career.

Most importantly, coding skills can be a valuable asset to your resume. Coding skills set you apart from the crowd of candidates with similar educational backgrounds. If you work in business or finance, coding can help you with the technical and mathematical aspects of your job. Technology is used often in marketing, business management, data analysis and business intelligence. If you are studying the sciences or social sciences, skills in data science can help you process information, data and research more efficiently and accurately than traditional methods. Finally, if you are a creative person, learning web development skills can help you promote your own work or advance your career in social media and many other types of media.

Popular Coding Languages

Here is a list of popular coding languages and their common uses. Don’t be intimidated by the number of coding languages that exist out there. It’s more important to figure out one, or a few, that actually aids what you do. 

  1. Python (my personal fave): artificial intelligence, financial services, and data science.  
  2. JavaScript: website and mobile applications development. 
  3. Java: Android mobile applications development.
  4. C#: Microsoft and Windows applications development. 
  5. C: automobile hardware and healthcare devices. 
  6. C++: computer games and mathematical simulations. 
  7. Golang: applications that need to process a lot of data. 
  8. R: statistics. 
  9. Swift: iOS and macOS applications.
  10. PHP: content-oriented websites. 

Online Courses

Learning to code on my own can be frustrating and isolating at times, but I discovered many online platforms that taught me useful information and communities that encouraged me on my journey. While completing a coding bootcamp or having a Computer Science degree from a university on your resume is highly desirable, there are numerous other ways to learn how to code online on your own. At the end of the day, coding is a skill that you can hone, and GitHub is a Git repository hosting service where you can show off your work to potential employers.

Following my college courses, I started advancing my skills in R with Codecademy. Codecademy is a self-paced learning environment that allows you to learn how to code interactively. It offers a range of career paths and guidance while you navigate hands-on coding with real projects from day one. It also offers a student discount on its Pro membership for 20 percent off, but you can also use its “basic” version for most content that it offers. I think this is a good choice for people who learn better through hands-on practice, rather than through lectures, and want to enrich their portfolio with projects. 

Another platform I’ve used to learn is Coursera where I took IBM’s online data science classes (mainly Python and SQL). Coursera offers a variety of online courses, which are mostly free to sign up and audit but has an option to pay for a certificate upon passing the course. Additionally, you get a permanent IBM badge that states your completion of the course and the corresponding skills. This series of courses that I’ve taken were mostly lectures and small quizzes, with a few projects that you can complete on IBM’s Watson Studio interface. I think these classes are useful to people who want a certificate that they can include in their resume and their LinkedIn profile. While some employers prefer to see your actual coding skills during an interview, many think these certificates show determination and effort on behalf of the applicant. 

If you are a woman or a gender-expansive adult, older than 21 and an American citizen, I’ve got good news for you. You are eligible to apply for Ada Developer’s Academy’s no-cost software development program. This program is compiled of six months of full-time classes and five months of interning, where you will get valuable work experience in tech.

Networking and Communities

People I know who work at large tech firms, like Amazon or Microsoft, have disclosed that they got their first internship through the introduction of a current employee. My data might be very biased since I only know a couple of them, but I also tell you through my own experience that I’ve acquired all my work and internship experiences through a friend or mentor’s reference and recommendation. I hope this shows at least some level of the importance of networking, no matter what field you are in. Here are a few organizations that have provided me with important knowledge and connections.

Networks like Women Who Code or Girls in Tech are networks of programmers and engineers who identify as women. They have a range of subdivisions all over the world in various cities. They both hold annual conferences and monthly events for you to connect with many other women in tech at different stages of their careers. Many of these conferences offer free tickets to current full-time students. Their websites also offer a members-only job board and information on scholarships. I personally value their conferences and consider them to be great opportunities for you to have an insight into what it’s like to work as a professional in various fields of technology as well as to find mentors, internship opportunities and build friendships. 

There are also organizations that are specific to coding languages. For instance, R Ladies and Pyladies. These organizations have consoles that are inclusive to all women who use these specific coding languages. I enjoy independent speakers from these organizations’ mini-conferences. They are usually held online during convenient after-school hours and teach you everything from how to build a perfect LinkedIn profile to debates on which open-source packages are better for data science. Additionally, you may ask fellow members of these organizations questions about your code any time of the day through their Slack portal. If you can’t find a satisfactory answer, make sure to check out Stack Overflow, a question and answer website that most, if not all, programmers use when they encounter problems. 

I know it can be tough navigating your career and finding out things that you are interested in working with. I’ve been there, and honestly, I’m still kind of there. I want you to know that even though some skills might seem intimidating and far away from what you’ve learned in college, some of them can prepare you to be a better candidate for your dream position. Most things in life are constantly changing and learning does not stop the moment you graduate from college, it accompanies you till the end of time. Embracing learning, as any skill is a valuable one. 

Venus Zhang

New School '22

Venus Zhang is a senior at The New School studying economics. She's based in New York City, originally from China, and lived briefly in Costa Rica. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking, gym, and coding. Instagram: @venusgoyard
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