From kinesiology to coding: Jenessa’s story

Jenessa White was first exposed to coding in high school through an intro to web development course. There, she learned the basics of HTML/CSS and built her first website which “was terrible but at least the font was awesome.” Jenessa loved the course and couldn’t wait to register for the next level, but soon found out that there was no next course.

A few years later, she found programming again mid-way through her junior year in college. “I thought to myself, ‘I should have been a computer science major,’ but at that point it was too late and what I really liked was actually building things more than I liked the theory,” Jenessa explained.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a degree in Kinesiology and Sport Science, Jenessa started work at SportsEngine, a local Minneapolis startup, as a registration consultant, a role that primarily focused on customer service. “They built software so I was still getting a little bit of exposure, but not a significant amount. Since it was an interest of mine, I paid attention and was always like ‘this is broken, this is broken, how can we fix it?’ I was always the really interested person.”

Next, Jenessa worked in customer service at DirecTV, before deciding she wanted to pursue new opportunities. As she was planning to leave her job, her best friend sat her down and said, “You don’t actually want to do customer service work, do you? You want to be a developer, so why don’t you do it?”

So she decided to take the leap. Jenessa’s next step was figuring out how to learn the technical skills she needed in the most efficient way, while still getting a quality education. She soon found that teaching herself wasn’t enough so she started doing interviews with online and local code schools until she found The Iron Yard.

“I just knew it was for me,” Jenessa said. “The pre-work was great because I had been trying to teach myself, but once we got into the classroom there were some things you just need to talk through. Being able to talk with Jim (the Front-End instructor in Minneapolis) and interact, it made it easier, even though the work was still challenging.”

And like many students do, Jenessa had a major ‘a ha!’ moment that made everything click, “You hit this point – and everyone’s point is different – and you break through. It’s like drilling through a concrete wall. You see a little light, then a little more and then all of a sudden you just break through.”

“What’s great is that it hits different people at different points throughout the class,” she continued. “We can all play off each others strengths and weaknesses, you’re never going to work alone in the real world. You learn you don’t have to be perfect at everything to be successful and a good developer.”

And now, Jenessa is starting the next phase of her journey: professional developer. She received a job offer before she even graduated from her Front-End course, and just this month started as a project manager and developer at Rocket 55, a web design, SEO, & digital marketing services agency in Minneapolis.

The role is a perfect fusion between Jenessa’s customer service skills and newly learned tech skills, “I like talking to clients about what they want to see but they also need someone who can be technical and understand what the developers are saying. It made the role so suited to me because I can reconcile the two.”

Jenessa also has big goals for her future, “Eventually I would like to be in charge of development. Having worked at a smaller company, and then at a bigger company, I saw the disconnect that can occur between c-level executives and the people who work on the products day-to-day. I would love to be in a higher up position where I have the authority to make decisions, but will always want to stay hands-on writing code. I want to find the balance between being in management but also making sure each line of code is good, and won’t cause us problems down the road.”

Now, looking back on her road to coding, Jenessa is able to give advice to others who may be considering a career in code, “There’s never going to be a perfect time to do it. There’s no time like the present. The longer you wait, the more behind you’ll feel and you might talk yourself out of it. Just do it.”

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