Stories/Cecelia Martinez
Cecelia Martinez

Cecelia is a Full-Stack Developer with a background in digital journalism and finance.

#developer# bootcamp grad

Tell us about yourself

I am a full-stack software engineer in Atlanta, GA. I currently work remotely with C#, .NET, and Angular, but also have experience with the MERN stack -- MySQL/MongoDB, Express, React, and Node. I graduated the Full-Stack Software Engineering Boot Camp at Georgia Tech in July of this year.

In addition to my day job, I volunteer with Women Who Code Front End as a Track Evangelist and host of the Front End Friday Slack Study Group. I am a founding member of Out in Tech Atlanta launching in November, and blog about tech on Dev.to. I also stream live coding sessions of my MERN-stack side project on Twitch and spend too much time on Twitter.

Before getting into tech, I worked in journalism and then financial services. I have a B.A. in Public Communications from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y. and an MBA in Marketing from Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL. I am passionate about creating opportunities for underrepresented groups in the tech and finance industries, as well as educating on financial literacy. In what little spare time I have, I like going to concerts, traveling, reading fiction, and walking my dog Sunflower.

How did you first get started in your career in tech?

I started learning HTML, CSS, and Photoshop in high school so I could customize my LiveJournal, and in college rebuilt our student newspaper website using WordPress.

Web design was always something I considered a hobby as I moved through my careers in journalism and then financial services. While working in finance, I got my MBA and was able to work on some tech-adjacent projects that boosted my confidence in my technical abilities.

I moved to Atlanta at the end of 2017 and was at a crossroads career-wise. I saw an ad for the Georgia Tech Full-Stack Coding Boot Camp and started thinking seriously about programming as an option. I spent some time in 2018 teaching myself JavaScript and brushing up on my HTML and CSS skills (a lot had changed since my high school days!) and in January 2019 took the leap and enrolled for the April cohort. I spent as much time learning as possible -- attended any free class I could find, workshops, meetups, you name it. Organizations like Women Who Code and Atlanta JavaScript were critical as I navigated this new landscape.

The boot camp was intense, but I graduated on July 1st and by July 11th started my role as a Support Technician/Junior Developer. I am working with C#, .NET, and Angular, while I learned JavaScript, Node, and React in my boot camp, so there is definitely a learning curve but I’ve been given great resources and time to grow into the role. I have access to several senior engineers and get to work across all areas of the codebase, so it’s basically a dream role for me.

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What are the most important skills in your current position? How did you develop these skills?

The ability to learn quickly, find and use resources, and having a strong literacy and vocabulary around code have been vital in my role. Because I am typically working across the entire code base, learning the system architecture and how the layers work together has helped me zero in on the errors more quickly when debugging. I often need to ask other developers for help, and I need to be able to articulate questions and issues effectively so they can get up to speed quickly and understand what I’m asking.

I’ve always been a quick learner, but my MBA and boot camp programs helped me hone these skills by helping me understand how I learn so I can do so more effectively and efficiently. I personally definitely learn best through a combination of reading, visual aids, and tutorials where I can code in an IDE.

Code vocabulary and fluency came from attending as many meetups as possible and reading as much code as I could on places like GitHub, CodePen, and with tutorials. I’m also a huge believer in taking notes to help reinforce learning and to refer back to. Most of my blog posts started as notes for myself.

What are some resources that helped you in your journey in tech?

Even though I didn’t attend Flatiron, their free Pre-Bootcamp Prep Course was great for learning HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. I also used courses on Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp.

I am a big fan of CodePrep.io, they have free courses and a great podcast on people who took alternative paths into tech. The Women Who Code organization is fantastic, both the Atlanta chapter and the Front End global track, where I volunteer. Also, the Diversity Tech conference scholarship page helped me attend two conferences this year (DinosaurJS and Artifact), which I highly recommend for learning, networking, and swag!

What difficulties did you face in your career? How did you overcome them?

Changing careers in my 30s was definitely a challenge, and came with a lot of imposter syndrome and anxiety. I worried that my previous experience wouldn’t translate or would be discounted, and that I’d be starting over from scratch. I also spent many nights worried I just wasn’t cut out for such a technical career.

For me, having a support system was vital to getting through those feelings. I leaned on the teaching and support staff at my boot camp, my classmates, friends and family, and supporters in my local tech network and on Twitter. I sought out stories from other career-switchers or those without computer science backgrounds in tech to remind myself it was possible. I can’t stress enough how meaningful those stories were for me, which is why I wanted to share mine as well now that I’m on this side of it.

Looking back on your career, what advice do you wish someone had given you that would have helped accelerate your career?

Ask questions. Ask ALL the questions. Take advantage of any opportunity to learn, discuss, and engage in topics around coding. Most importantly, make sure you learn about how to ask effective questions and make an effort to write down the answer to refer to later, so you don’t have to ask the same questions over and over. At certain points in my career I waited too long to ask for help because I didn’t want to bother people, and I could have saved a lot of frustration and effort by being honest about what I needed to solve problems.

Also, I can not recommend enough keeping an engineering notebook of what you’ve worked on each day and any notes you have that will be helpful to the future version of you looking back on them. I recently switched to Notion (thanks Veni!) for mine and it has helped me organize my thoughts, keep track of what I’ve accomplished, and build a resource library for myself as a developer.

Is there something else you'd like to share with our readers?

The only thing I would add is in regard to boot camps. I loved my boot camp, but definitely keep in mind that your experience and results could vary wildly from mine. I came into my boot camp with some self-taught coding experience, an MBA and professional experience, and was able to essentially dedicate six months full time to learning to code. I was also very aggressive with networking and my job search. Make sure to do your research, talk to graduates of the program you’re considering, and understand what goes into it so you can have the best experience possible.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. How can we support you?

I will be presenting a webinar for Women Who Code Front End in November, so follow me on Twitter for more details about that coming soon. If you are interested in MERN, check out my stream on Twitch. The best thing you can do though is get involved with organizations that support diversity in tech!


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