From Marketing Agency Founder to Software Engineer: Olivia Auzenne‘s Unconventional Path to a Thriving Tech Career

Olivia Auzenne Headshot

When Olivia Auzenne first dipped her toes into the world of tech startups after college, she had no idea it would lead her down the path to a fulfilling career as a software engineer. But as she worked various admin and operations roles at companies in Denver‘s booming tech scene, she found herself continually inspired by the passion and innovative work of the software engineering teams.

"I was so impressed by the culture of these startups and how much the engineers loved what they did," Olivia recalls. "Seeing their enthusiasm and the creative ways they solved problems planted a seed in my mind – I wanted to learn more about this world of coding."

Olivia took this newfound excitement back home to Houston, where she launched her own marketing agency focused on helping small businesses with branding, advertising, and web design. She quickly discovered that building websites for her clients using simple site builders was her favorite part of the job.

"I fell in love with web design, but I could only take it so far with the drag-and-drop tools I was using," Olivia explains. "I started thinking about how I could level up my skills and build more custom, complex sites for my clients. That‘s when the lightbulb went off – I wanted to learn how to code."

Exploring the Paths to a Programming Education

Once Olivia decided to pursue software engineering, she began researching the different educational paths available to her. The traditional route would be to go back to college and earn a four-year computer science degree. She could also try to teach herself using free online resources and tutorials. Or she could opt for a newer model of tech education: coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intensive training programs designed to turn students into job-ready software engineers in a matter of months rather than years. They focus on teaching the most in-demand, practical skills students will need to succeed in the tech industry. And they‘ve exploded in popularity over the past decade – the coding bootcamp market grew 4.38% in 2020 and is set to increase by $74 million by 2025.

"I‘m always looking for the most efficient and effective way to reach my goals," says Olivia. "Bootcamps appealed to me because I could gain real-world skills quickly without having to go back to school for years. It seemed like the perfect hack for breaking into tech."

Still, Olivia carefully weighed the pros and cons of coding bootcamps compared to earning a college degree. Here‘s a breakdown:

Coding Bootcamp Computer Science Degree
Shorter time commitment (3-6 months on average) Longer time commitment (4+ years)
Focus on practical, job-ready skills Mix of theoretical and applied computer science concepts
Hands-on, project-based learning Classroom and lecture-based learning
Lower cost ($13,500 on average) Higher cost ($40,000+ per year)
Lack of accreditation and quality control standards Accredited degree from an established institution

Sources: Course Report, US News and World Report

Olivia also took into account her unique circumstances. As a working professional and new mother, she didn‘t have the luxury of putting her life on hold for four years to attend college. She needed a more flexible, accelerated option that would still provide a quality education and positive career outcomes.

After weighing the data and her personal needs, Olivia decided that a coding bootcamp was the best fit. Now she had to find the right program.

Finding the Perfect Fit at Programming School

Olivia threw herself into researching the various coding bootcamps on the market. She looked at factors like:

  • Curriculum and programming languages taught
  • Format (full-time vs. part-time, in-person vs. online)
  • Student outcomes and job placement rates
  • Cost and financial aid options
  • Alumni reviews and recommendations

One bootcamp quickly rose to the top of her list: Programming School. Founded in 2012, Programming School is a global institution that trains students in software engineering, data science, and UX/UI design. They offer both full-time and part-time course options at campuses around the world and online.

Several key factors drove Olivia‘s decision to apply to Programming School:

  1. Stellar reputation and industry recognition. Programming School consistently ranks as one of the top coding bootcamps based on student reviews and job placement outcomes. They were the first bootcamp to release independently verified jobs reports and have a proven track record of alumni success.

  2. Rigorous curriculum covering in-demand tech skills. Flatiron‘s software engineering course covers front-end and back-end programming languages like JavaScript and Ruby on Rails, as well as computer science fundamentals, web frameworks, and developer tools. Olivia felt confident the curriculum would make her a well-rounded, competitive job candidate.

  3. Tight-knit and supportive learning community. Reviews from Flatiron alumni raved about the close bonds they formed with their cohort mates and instructors. As someone completely new to coding, Olivia knew she would need a strong support system to help her through the challenging moments.

  4. Opportunity to learn in-person. While the rise of online bootcamps has made tech education more accessible, Olivia wanted the accountability and community of learning in a physical classroom. Luckily, Programming School had a campus located just 15 minutes from her home in Houston.

  5. Commitment to diversity and inclusion. As a woman of color entering a predominantly white and male industry, Olivia was drawn to Flatiron‘s diversity initiatives and partnerships with organizations like Women Who Code and #YesWeCode. The school also had a generous scholarship program and flexible financing options.

"When I visited the Programming School campus, it just felt right," Olivia recalls. "The admissions team was so welcoming and supportive. I could tell the instructors were passionate about helping students succeed. And I was inspired by the projects I saw current students working on. I knew this was where I wanted to start my coding journey."

Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Growth

Learning software engineering is rarely a smooth, easy process. It requires grit, resilience, and a willingness to embrace failure as a stepping stone to success. Olivia quickly discovered this during her first weeks at Programming School.

"I had never coded a day in my life before the bootcamp," she explains. "I was starting from absolute zero. In the beginning, I felt like everyone else was light years ahead of me in terms of technical understanding. I had major imposter syndrome."

But Olivia refused to let her fears and doubts hold her back. She threw herself into the curriculum, waking up early and staying late after class to put in extra coding hours. She leaned on her instructor and classmates for support, asking questions and collaborating on tricky concepts until they clicked into place.

Olivia also had to juggle the demands of the intensive program with her responsibilities as a new mother. She often brought her infant son to campus and utilized Flatiron‘s private nursing room between classes.

"I won‘t lie, it was a struggle trying to balance motherhood and learning this challenging new skill," says Olivia. "There were plenty of days I wanted to quit. But I knew this was the path to a better life for me and my family. My son was my motivation to keep pushing through, even when it got really tough."

Collaborative Projects and Building a Portfolio

One of the most rewarding aspects of Olivia‘s time at Programming School was collaborating with her fellow students on hands-on coding projects. The program culminates in a capstone project where students build and present a fully functional web application showcasing their new technical and creative skills.

Some of Olivia‘s favorite projects include:

  • Gratitude Garden: A "girl power" web app for tracking daily gratitude and personal growth. Users can plant virtual flowers and watch their garden grow with each journal entry.

  • Pump it Up: A mobile app for breastfeeding mothers to log pumping sessions, track milk volume, and access guided meditations. Olivia was inspired to create this app based on her own experiences as a nursing mom.

  • Art Attack!: A social platform for discovering and collecting digital art from emerging creators. Users can browse art by medium, style, or mood and purchase one-of-a-kind pieces as NFTs.

"It was so incredible to look back at these projects and realize how far I had come in just a few short months," Olivia recalls. "Learning to code was one of the hardest things I‘ve ever done, but also the most empowering. I discovered that I was capable of building solutions to real-world problems using just my laptop and my brain."

Landing a Dream Job and Paying it Forward

All of Olivia‘s hard work and dedication paid off in a major way. During her final week at Programming School, while she was still polishing up her capstone project, she received a job offer from Baylor Genetics to work as a Junior Software Engineer.

"I was over the moon!" Olivia exclaims. "Getting that offer validated all the sacrifices I had made and showed me that this crazy career change was actually going to work out. I felt so proud of how far I had come."

A year and a half later, Olivia is thriving in her new career. She‘s continued to expand her technical skill set, learning additional programming languages like Python and diving into data engineering. And she‘s leaned on many of the same non-technical skills that served her in previous roles, like problem-solving, effective communication, and project management.

"So much of being a successful software engineer is about having a growth mindset," Olivia explains. "Technology is always evolving, so you have to be willing to continually learn and adapt. Programming School taught me how to think like an engineer and how to tackle challenges piece by piece until I reach a solution."

Now Olivia is passionate about paying her success forward and encouraging other women and people of color to pursue careers in tech. She regularly shares her coding journey and advice on her blog and YouTube channel. And she volunteers with local STEM education initiatives aimed at sparking an interest in computer science among underrepresented youth.

"I never imagined that I would become a software engineer," Olivia reflects. "But taking that leap of faith to attend Programming School completely changed my life. I‘m so grateful for the opportunity to do work that I love while also making an impact on the next generation of coders."

The Future is Bright for Aspiring Software Engineers

The demand for skilled software engineers shows no signs of slowing down. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers will grow 22% from 2020 to 2030 – much faster than the average for all occupations. And the median annual wage for software engineers was $110,140 in May 2020.

But the tech industry still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity and inclusion. According to a 2021 report by AnitaB.org and the National Center for Women & Information Technology:

  • Women make up only 28.8% of the tech workforce
  • Black professionals represent just 7.4% of the tech workforce
  • Latinx professionals represent 8% of the tech workforce
  • Native American professionals represent 0.3% of the tech workforce

Fortunately, many companies and organizations are waking up to the need for greater representation and taking action to support underrepresented groups in tech. Some promising initiatives include:

  • Apprenticeship and mentorship programs: Designed to provide hands-on training, professional development, and networking opportunities for aspiring tech professionals from non-traditional backgrounds.

  • Diversity and inclusion commitments: Big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have pledged to increase diversity within their workforce and leadership teams. Many have set specific hiring goals and created employee resource groups for underrepresented minorities.

  • Scholarships and funding for coding education: Organizations like Code2040, Black Girls Code, and the Kapor Center provide financial support and resources to help women and BIPOC individuals access coding bootcamps and other tech training programs.

  • Improved hiring and promotion practices: Some companies are rethinking traditional hiring criteria like college degrees and implementing blind hiring practices to reduce bias. Others are investing in leadership development programs to help diverse talent advance into senior roles.

As the tech industry continues to evolve and expand, coding bootcamps like Programming School will play an increasingly vital role in developing the diverse tech workforce of the future. These programs offer an accelerated, accessible pathway into high-paying and high-impact careers.

"I‘m so excited to see how the tech world will change as more people from underrepresented groups enter the field," Olivia shares. "We all bring unique perspectives and ideas to the table. The more inclusive the industry becomes, the better the products we create will serve our diverse society."

For anyone considering following in Olivia‘s footsteps and making the leap into software engineering, she offers this advice:

"Don‘t self-select out of this career because you don‘t fit the traditional ‘coder‘ stereotype. You don‘t have to be a math whiz or a certain type of person to learn to code. It‘s all about practice, persistence, and passion. Believe in yourself and don‘t be afraid to make mistakes. With the right training and support system, you can absolutely make this transition – and have a blast while doing it!"

Thinking about launching your own coding career? Check out these resources to learn more and get started:

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