Silver Ehiwario’s new career started with one wish: “I want to be creative.”
With a BS from Nigeria and a master’s from Colorado, Silver was on a career path that wasn’t conducive to her passions. It was only when her family relocated to Houston—an oil hub—that Silver had a sudden realization. If she wanted to give herself an edge in the market and find a job where she could be creative, she had to upskill. So she decided to explore coding boot camps.
“I love designing websites and developing software applications to solve business challenges,” Silver said. “The way things are built here in the US is different than how we did it back home. The interactiveness and creativity are amazing. I wanted to do it.”
After a little online research, she found the Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin. After one conversation with the team, Silver realized this was the path she’d been searching for.
“This is really what I want,” she said. “I want to be creative. I want to develop software applications to improve businesses.”
Coding for two
Before the boot camp, Silver didn’t have a lot of experience with coding. None, to be exact.
“Everything was new. Basically, I just knew how to run Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint,” she said. But with a chemical engineering degree, Silver already had an advantage. “I understand chemical processes and also have strong problem solving and critical thinking skills. I know how to take the next step, and how things connect to each other. That helped me a lot in the boot camp.”
Still, the pace could be overwhelming at times, and Silver had to work hard to keep up. To make things even more challenging, she was working for two.
“I was pregnant at the time, which made things a bit more difficult. I had to juggle a lot and so I worked all the time. My husband said I made him look lazy,” Silver laughed.
On top of learning essential coding languages, Silver practiced and mastered some crucial soft skills—particularly teamwork. She was thrilled to be able to work with people from so many different backgrounds.
“When I came to the boot camp I got to understand what diversity means,” she said. “I got to understand how different people see things, and how to relate to everyone. I discovered how to work well in a team.”
Overcoming gender struggles
As her boot camp completion date loomed closer, Silver became more and more pressed to find a job. Nothing was landing. Despite her skills, she was anxious about being a woman looking to join a male-dominated field and feared her gender would limit her opportunities.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey, but it was one I was willing to pursue. I knew going in that coding was a male-dominated field, but I was determined to get a breakthrough. Working in the tech industry was more that a job to me. It was about fulfilling a passion and a dream,” Silver said.
On top of caring for her children, Silver spent her period of unemployment rigorously improving her tech skills. She wanted to be ready to leap into action when an opportunity came into view.
“I kept practicing every day to make sure that I not only retained the skills I acquired but also built on them. The software industry is fast-paced and ever-changing so to stay competitive you have to keep practicing. I would even help people by creating websites and developing apps for free,” Silver said.
On a whim, she reached out to Women Who Code and worked with them to open a chapter in Houston, becoming one of the directors.
“I thought Maybe I can use my time to volunteer and help women like me,” Silver said.
Finding her footing
Volunteering at Women Who Code has been a life-changing experience for Silver. By helping women find the confidence they need to succeed in their careers, she’s working to close the gender gap in tech.
“When you encourage women and educate them and truly mentor them, then they’ll be confident in their careers,” Silver said. “I met with a lot of people who connected with my story and all the challenges. I was able to encourage them to get their hands dirty, to keep applying and networking and meeting people.”
Following her own advice eventually paid off for Silver. In February, she started her new job at UniverseIT as a software developer—and she’s loving it.
“I’m perfectly enjoying my job. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” she said. “I’m bringing creativity into my job. I’m using skills from the boot camp.”
Beyond the programming languages she’s already honed, Silver is using her boot camp skills to overcome new obstacles every day. Her newfound confidence is certainly helping.
“My boss recently asked how much I can do with .NET. I said that I can do anything,” Silver said. “The boot camp taught me how to solve any problem, even if I don’t know the language.”
Despite the challenges she faced along the way, Silver has achieved her dream of finding a career where she can be creative. She says that if you’re willing to put in the effort, nothing can stop you.
“I had to put in three times the work that everyone else will put in, and I still succeeded,” she said. “It shows that you shouldn’t have any excuses if you have a goal. If a mother of three who was pregnant can come out successfully, nobody has an excuse.”
This article was originally published on techbootcamps.utexas.edu.