Hello, dear readers! NSBE Pro-PDX is excited to announce the very first two interns to temporarily join the team. As one of these interns, I’d love to share the story of my internship experience at NSBE alongside my fellow intern, Eric Stratton.
My journey to Epicodus and NSBE started back at the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020. I was settling into a new role as Bar & Venue Manager for a (wonderful) local catering company after many years on the leadership side of the hospitality industry, when of course covid happened, and my job very quickly disappeared. I loved my work in hospitality, but I had already been wondering how I wanted to grow in my career next, even before the pandemic started. I had had some experience in web development years prior at a job I held for a company that worked to increase levels of technology for schools, and had taken on web design roles for several volunteer organizations I was a part of in college. I had also done some graphic design work for social media marketing for various hospitality projects over the years, and had taken some course in GIS (geographic information systems), and knew that the interest for development was there. Once we were several months into the outbreak, I realized there was no feasible way to go back to hospitality for me, at least not in the full-time capacity I had been doing. The time for reinvention had come.
With a lot of support from my partner and several friends who are also in tech, I made the decision to attend Epicodus to become a software developer, based on their explicitly inclusive environment and their structure that is designed to mimic a development role. Additionally, I would have an internship baked into the program, which I knew would be vital to securing a full-time development job. The six months I spent rigorously shoving programming skills and knowledge into my brain taught me plenty of technical skills, to be sure. (For any burgeoning code school attendees interested in some of these technical skills I learned, I wrote another piece during my time as a peer mentor in the program that I have since published on Medium here, outlining what I found to be of utmost help for getting me through the program.) Most importantly, Epicodus taught me the value of technical collaboration and how to learn more software development. While a program like the school’s will absolutely be what you make of it, I am grateful for the largely positive, supportive experience Epicodus provided me and the doors it has opened for me, especially to NSBE.
Epicodus employs an internship program for the full-time tracks that pairs recently graduated students with a company or organization to get hands-on developer experience for five or more weeks. This “matchmaking” is based on a students’ top picks and the company’s top picks. While there were several companies I was interested in the internship matchmaking process, NSBE really stood out because of the incredible impact they have in the Portland STEM community. Personally, I feel like a lot of what draws me to tech is the mission statement of bringing more folks into tech with non-traditional backgrounds and any other folks that haven’t traditionally been welcomed into or allowed to hold much space in the industry, including women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and people who identify as neuro-diverse or having disabilities. I had an amazing support system and pre-existing tech network before I ever entered the industry, and I know that is a privilege most people don’t have coming into tech. Knowing that NSBE’s mission is to increase the STEM pipeline for the black community and support them professionally once there, my top internship choice was clear. I knew I would have the opportunity to step back into tech with my first foundational steps in the industry focused on making a positive social impact for an incredibly needed and important organization like NSBE PRO-PDX.
At the close of my internship with NSBE PRO-PDX, I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate the conclusion of the previous seven months of my time at Epicodus and with NSBE in person with the NSBE board and my peer, Eric (safely and socially distanced, of course). The group got into a deep discussion reflecting on the past year in a pandemic and on all the hard work we had put into school and the internship. One board member asked, “What have you learned personally and professionally during quarantine over the last year?” and the question really got me thinking. So much has changed over the last year and counting since covid hit. Books could and will be written about the many devastating effects the pandemic has had, and I don’t want to minimize that reality. For me, I lost a new job - and one I was passionate about at a company I adore. As I mentioned before, I deeply loved my work in the hospitality industry, and have every intention of holding my beloved service industry close to my heart and my resume moving forward. But this question helped me realize that over the last several years since graduating from college, I had been doing something resembling hiding from my full professional potential out of fear of failure, fear of not being “enough” to whomever decides that arbitrary and ever-moving goal post. In the past year, I have looked that fear in the eyes and confronted it head-on by embarking upon this new career path into software engineering - a career path that ironically will require me to fail and persevere on a near-daily basis to find creative programming solutions and make improvements. I have found clarity around my personal and professional mission statement. I have been able to come back to myself, and what’s most important to me - positioning myself so that I am always learning and growing, and making a positive impact in the world along the way.
While our time with NSBE has officially come to its conclusion, Eric and I are both excited about continuing to grow our relationship with the NSBE community, and our careers as software developers. We will be maintaining the website for the foreseeable future and continuing to help NSBE Pro-PDX grow its website and online presence. Additionally, the two of us have been working so well as a team throughout school and the internship that we’ve decided to take on some contract work together post-internship. I know I speak for us both when I say we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity and support the NSBE PRO-PDX board gave and continues to give us as we build our careers.
Written by Danielle Thompson, May 2021.