How to Become a Strong Female Role Model

A portrait shows Ashley Hurlburt holding her daughter and smiling at the camera.

As a musician and massage therapist, Ashley Hurlburt always thought she was a clear-cut right-brain thinker. When she started doing data entry for a massage therapist association, though, she realized it wasn’t so black and white.

“I realized I really liked thinking in a bigger way, logically and linearly,” she said. “I enjoyed the sense of walking into a chaotic environment, with a lot of issues, and working to make things flow.”

Working with an information services (IS) department, Ashley was introduced to the world of code. “I would come up with ideas, and they would make them happen,” she said. “I loved that. I wanted to build them myself.”

Just like that, Ashley made a life-changing decision. She would learn to code.

Sealing the deal

Before she started her coding education, Ashley had to think about her long-term goals. 

“I loved my company. They’ve had my back since the beginning,” she said.

In a leap of faith, she reached out to the CEO, pitching the idea of boot camp and transitioning to the IS department. The CEO agreed and upped the ante—committing to reimbursing her boot camp tuition.

Within 24 hours, Ashley enrolled in the University of Denver Coding Boot Camp

Putting in the hours

As a single mom and a full-time professional, Ashley knew the boot camp wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. 

“My ex-husband actually started the boot camp just before I did,” she said. “I saw how stressed and busy he was. I thought How am I going to do this?”

The beginning was the hardest part for Ashley. “Having two kids, it was really distracting. The hardest part was not being home,” she said. “I had some mom guilt for sure.”

She knew it was temporary and that a better future was on the horizon for her entire family. With that thought in mind, she gave it everything she had, spending time with her kids when she could and working until 1am on her homework. Before long, she started to see her efforts pay off.

Going it alone

When she was tasked with completing a final project, Ashley decided to really push herself. 

“I decided to do it alone. No part of me was confident—but that’s why I did it,” she said. “I wanted to test what I’d learned.”

The biggest driver, though, was her gender. 

“I knew I was going into a field that was male-dominated. I was going to have to prove myself so much more because I’m a woman,” Ashley said. “If I could build a full-stack project myself, I could do this job.”

It turns out she could do both. Working solo, Ashley built an application for a music festival she loved. For years, the festival had been handing out paper schedules due to a lack of WiFi availability, which was both inefficient and terrible for the environment.

With Ashley’s application, attendees could see the performances, select their favorites, build their own lineups, and share on social media. It was so successful that she’s currently working with the founding band to bring it to this year’s festival. It was a true marriage of logic and creativity.

Becoming a role model

While Ashley learned a lot during the boot camp, one of the most impactful lessons was female empowerment—for her and for her daughter.

“It’s really important for my daughter to see me doing something completely out of my element, completely a challenge for me,” Ashley said. “She saw me in a place she’d never seen me before—forging ahead in something a lot of women don’t do while simultaneously showing her that we could excel if we left our comfort zone and challenged expectations.”

Boot camp gave Ashley confidence in her technical abilities. She’s hopeful that this confidence will rub off on others. 

“Girls are often uncomfortable showing their intelligence. Now I can show my daughter I’m owning my intelligence,” she said.

In her new role, Ashley is ecstatic to be in a scenario where women are helping women. “I got really lucky in my new job that my boss is a woman. I’ve worked with her for three years and always wanted her to be my manager,” she said. “She was so supportive of me going to the boot camp.”

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