Posted at 11:36 AM
Guest blog post by Savannah Worth, Creative Writer & Software Developer, IBM Bluemix Garage and Graduate of the Galvanize Web Development Program
A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting Commerce Secretary Pritzker when she visited Galvanize—a startup that believes in making education and growth accessible to anyone – especially underrepresented groups in the tech industry. As a recent graduate of Galvanize, I understood the importance of the Secretary’s message on training students for the most in –demand jobs of the 21st century, especially in the tech sector. Two years ago, I was a new graduate with a creative writing degree, a desire to create, and no idea how to achieve it. Then, I would never have imagined my life as it is now. In the last two years, I've built multiple applications using technologies I'd only seen on TV — blockchain, Watson, augmented reality. I've been to London and China to work with teams on their projects. I've helped major enterprise companies disrupt their old ways of working. I am a twenty-two year old software developer with the IBM Bluemix Garage in San Francisco and I’ve done all that in two short years thanks to the Galvanize Web Development program.
The Galvanize Web Development program takes people from a huge range of backgrounds and teaches them to be software developers over the course of six months. The Galvanize instructors are developers themselves, fresh from the field. The coursework is focused on modern languages and agile methodologies — skills that make junior developers valuable contributors to a team from day one.
Like most people who go to college, I had learned so much there — how to question, how to communicate, how to work with diverse people and on complex issues. But, after, I struggled to find work that was creative, engaging, and more than anything, work that would set me up to support myself. Then one of my professors suggested the Galvanize program. He noticed I was taking a math class in between all my English requirements and told me, if I had skills in these different areas, why didn't I do something that would use them?
I applied and got accepted into the Web Development program in Denver with no real idea what I was in for. I had no coding experience. The pre-work for the program was the first time I touched arrays, learned what the difference between a string and an integer was. I knew software development was a rapidly growing field and I knew that if I survived the program, I would be able to find a job. There was something magic in watching my first tiny programs run. But I still didn't know where someone like me fit into the world of coding.
Then I went to my first day of the Web Development program. I was amazed at the huge variety of people in the class. There were philosophy students! Bartenders! Accountants! There were a few students in my class who had prior coding experience, but most people were brand new. Our backgrounds helped shape the coding we did, pushing our projects in more creative directions.
We hit the ground running. By the end of the first month I had deployed my first website to the cloud. By graduation, I had three complete web apps in my portfolio. When I spoke to potential employers, I could say, “Look, I don't have a computer science degree, but I do have working code.”
The Bluemix Garage is a software consultancy located in Galvanize in San Francisco. Using IBM Cloud technology, design thinking, and extreme programming agile development, we help our clients create apps that solve real people's needs. We build on Bluemix, IBM's cloud platform.
The Bluemix Garage is disruptive — not only do we help our clients and find more innovative and user centric ways of working, but we are also transforming the rest of IBM with our methodology. This mission brought the Garage to startup communities like Galvanize. This isn't business as usual — the Garage needed to be somewhere that had an adventurous energy. In addition, they needed people who thought differently. So one day, a representative from the Garage spoke to my web dev class.
This was five months into my program. I'd learned so much. More than that, I had found the parts of software development that I loved. I had had this perception of programming as solitary, abstract, dry — but found it to be a much more creative field. My classes covered everything from database queries to colorful animations to writing good user stories to break down technical tasks. I wanted to go into consulting so that I would have more opportunity to learn new skills and work with people. The Garage was a perfect match. I applied right away.
I received my job offer two days before I graduated from the Web Development Program. My job title was simply, "Software Developer." It was a little surreal. I packed my bags, moved to San Francisco, and started life at the Bluemix Garage.
I've now been with the Bluemix Garage for a year and a half. There were less than ten people on the Garage team when I started. Now we have seventy employees at six locations worldwide. I've gotten to play a part in shaping the culture we've created — one built around courage, communication, and diverse viewpoints. We combine startup speed with IBM's large catalog of cloud offerings.
In my time at the Garage, I've worked with both startups like the ones I'd come to know at Galvanize, and Fortune 500 companies. I've presented our approach to agile development to teams around the world. I've worked with translators. I watched an app I built get presented at IBM's Interconnect conference to a room of a hundred people. Our development team is a mix of people from traditional computer science backgrounds and other folks who've had a more circuitous route, and the combination of those experiences makes our team stand out.
My liberal arts background combined with my programming knowledge from Galvanize helps me everyday, just like my professor said at the start of all this. My job is not only to build apps for our clients, but to build the right apps. Ones that people will actually use. Figuring out the right thing to do means that I have to be good at communicating my thoughts, and helping my clients make meaning out of theirs. It's easy to feel like an imposter when I don't have a computer science degree and I don't fit the programmer stereotype, but I am part of tech, and I'm building some pretty cool stuff.