Full Speed Ahead: Sarrah’s Story

For Sarrah Vesselov, life is all about being in motion. The former roller derby player worked in graphic and web design for nearly 10 years, most recently serving as the creative director for a national sign company. Sarrah also taught web design courses at the International Academy of Design and Technology focusing on HTML and CSS principles.

“After a while, I felt bored and stagnated in my career,” Sarrah said. “I knew that my skills were stagnating too. JavaScript had progressed and there was a lot that I didn’t know anymore. I knew I needed to change up what I was doing and try something else.”

Sarrah has always been active in the Tampa Bay community, attending Meetups and other professional groups. It was those activities, along with her teaching career, that prompted her to look into The Iron Yard.

“I first heard about The Iron Yard at WordCamp Orlando,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘that sounds pretty amazing,’ so I started to do some research. Knowing the education world, I wanted to see what the deal was, if people were happy, and most importantly, if they were getting jobs. All signs pointed to yes. Plus, I know what it costs to go to college and I know what salary you can make as a developer, so to me, it made sense.”

Like most of our students, Sarrah found the course to be tough. “It was harder than anything I’ve ever done, and I’ve sarrah-grad-day-2done a lot of hard things in my life.”  

But Sarrah also wasn’t the typical Iron Yard student. Going against the Tampa Bay campus director’s recommendation, Sarrah continued to work and teach during the course – making for long days and a crazy schedule.

“It required a lot of juggling – but that’s just the pace and speed that I live my life at,” Sarrah said. “And honestly the schedule wasn’t even why it was hard for me. The hardest thing was not feeling smart or like I knew what I was doing. The course is designed to push us to be uncomfortable, and I was.”

Sarrah found she was able to manage by leaning on the support system around her, “Everyday my boyfriend (now husband) would wake up before me, and make me breakfast and lunch for the day. I bonded with another student who became a great friend, and now coworker. Toni [the campus director] and our instructors were also amazing.”

After graduating in the spring of 2015, Sarrah landed a job at Mad Mobile as a developer. Now, more than a year later, she is still with the company and is the UI/UX Manager, overseeing a team of several UX and UI designers. She is also a senior UI developer on the team.

“After graduation, everything changed. I don’t know if it was so much that anyone saw me differently, as it was that I saw myself so differently. Before I felt like an imposter, I knew HTML and CSS very well – I even taught it – but I didn’t understand JavaScript and how everything worked together. My confidence was through the roof and that came through in how I talked to people.”

And as ever, Sarrah is continuing to keep herself busy and involved in the tech community. She is the director of Women Who Code in Tampa Bay and was recently appointed chapter leader for Girl Develop It Tampa. “I am so excited for these roles,” Sarrah said. “There is so much room for women to grow in tech. I’m passionate about making a more inclusive environment for women.”

In addition to her roles with these organizations, promoting women in tech is something she works hard to incorporate into her day-to-day life. “You have to speak up if something doesn’t feel right. It’s not worth it to get angry, so I focus on how I can do my job better, how I can communicate better and how I can frame my position in a way that people understand. If talking about my experience as a woman doesn’t get through, talking about my experience as a person does.”

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