Code Labs Success Story - Hannah Hoy Hammonds
How Hannah went from teacher to student with the Code Labs Program.
February 27, 2023
Name: Hannah Hoy Hammonds
Job Title: Customer Technical Support Specialist at Computer Services, Inc.
Hometown: Paducah, KY
Before Code Labs
Spending the past 20 years as an educator, Hannah grew to love the digital tech space when she helped her students learn how to code through Codefi’s Youth Coding League,1 as part of her teaching curriculum. A lifelong learner paired with being inspired by her students, Hannah enrolled in Code Labs,2 where she started her own professional coding journey.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I’ve spent the last 20 years as an elementary school educator in both the United States and New Zealand. While teaching, I really enjoyed getting students to use technology to solve problems and work together, so when it came time to earn my Master’s degree, I got it in Information Communication Technology. This gave me a strong foundation for using technology in the classroom and fueled another passion—helping other teachers figure out how to best use technology in their classrooms.”
Educators across the globe were forced to change their way of teaching—from delivery to curriculum and everything in between—when COVID hit in 2020. For Hannah, that meant professional growth was necessary to meet her students’ needs.
“When COVID hit in March 2020, I jumped into digital learning and teaching. This caused me to feel the need to grow and learn in new ways and be challenged in a way that the classroom wasn’t allowing for. I started coaching our school’s Youth Coding League—another excellent Codefi Program—where students use block coding to go through a series of sprints to tell a story and then work together on a final project. I had to learn the skills right alongside the students. In fact, they taught me! I was so proud of this team as they got second in the Technical Merit category with no help from me. I wanted to be able to help the next team more and heard about the free Code Labs Program through Sprocket.3 I thought this would be a good way to challenge myself and learn more skills to teach my students.”
Hannah's Code Labs Experience
After working in education for 20 years, Hannah decided to pursue a career in the tech industry, giving her more freedom, a healthier work-life balance, and the opportunity for continuous learning. Upon completing the Code Labs front-end program, Hannah continued her learning experience with the back-end course, mastering both Angular and Ruby on Rails over the span of nine months.
“Code Labs was just what I needed at the time. It challenged me and made me work hard to learn something new. We learned Angular in the front-end section. Having no background in computer programming except for a small amount of HTML, Angular was hard. With the help of classmates who became friends, time spent rewatching the instructional videos, and attending office hours any time they were offered with the code coaches, I made it through!”
“In the back-end section, we learned Ruby on Rails. While this was not necessarily an easier language to learn, I found it much easier than the first part of the course. Continuing with the back-end section helped show me what I really learned during the front-end course. The front-end section gave me the skills going forward to narrow down problems that needed solving and how to plan to solve a solution, while the back-end section gave me the confidence that I could be a computer programmer!”
“The mentorship from the code coaches was second to none. There were days when it would have been easier to quit, but the code coaches made every struggle easier and were excellent mentors.”
Code coaches are active, professional software developers who provide trainees with instruction, support, and mentoring throughout the front-end and back-end courses.
“They never just gave me the answers and were there to help me figure it out by asking me questions back and helping show me problem-solving tricks and tips. The coaches were there to guide us toward the solution because, with programming, there is often more than one! The number one reason I was successful was office hours and the time the code coaches spent with me. Not only did they help me figure out how to fix my mistakes, but they also spent hours with me making sure I understood.”
Employer partners play a vital role in the Code Labs Program, becoming fully integrated into each cohort. They host employer-led capstone projects and paid work experiences, helping further connect trainees to the tech industry post-graduation, and have the first pick of new digital talent ready for hire.
During the course of the program, Hannah worked with Computer Services, Inc.,4 a regional Code Labs employer partner and leading fintech, regtech, and cybersecurity solutions partner operating at the intersection of innovation and service.
“The most beneficial thing about the capstone project was gaining real-life experience and interacting with potential employers. Working together and planning sprints gave us more practical involvement in what a day-to-day programmer did. It also showed me that there are other jobs in computer programming other than front-end development. The capstone project let me take skills I had from my other career and combine them with my new skills. It showed me there was a new path for me. The challenge that I enjoyed about the capstone project was we hadn’t solved these problems before. There were no readily available answers. We had to work collaboratively as a team to figure out the answers.”
Post-Graduation for Hannah
There’s more to being a Code Labs graduate than just coding all day. Hannah quickly discovered this when she was met with a career opportunity at a fintech company that didn’t require her to develop software all day, every day.
“Code Labs has shown me that there is no one career path and it’s never too late to make a change in your life. Taking the Code Labs class gave me new career opportunities and I made new lifelong friends and met many amazing people.”
“When I started Code Labs, I thought the only path forward would be a front or back-end developer, but there are so many other opportunities available! Currently, I am using the knowledge I gained from Code Labs about writing to APIs to work as a Customer Technical Support Specialist at CSI. Both employer projects required us to write to APIs developed by CSI, and I now use the knowledge I gained from those projects to help CSI customers do the same.”
Hannah’s Day in the Life as a Customer Technical Support Specialist
Through Code Labs, Hannah was introduced to a new, fulfilling career pathway with long-term growth opportunities in an industry she enjoys. After Code Labs, she was welcomed as a new team member at CSI.
So, what’s a day in the life of a Code Labs grad look like for someone who took a different technical career path outside of building software? We’ll let Hannah answer that. ;)
“I meet regularly with my core team to plan ongoing and new projects and stand-ups to assess weekly progress. Matching customers with the correct API products and helping them get set up and troubleshoot, so they get successful responses when sending requests, is another large part of my job, along with issuing credentials to authorized users.”
“I also train users internally and externally on how and why we use APIs. I have the autonomy to set my own schedule and love how helpful everyone has been as I transition to not only a new job, but a new career.”
Advice to future Code Labs applicants or students
“Keep going. There were so many times when I thought it was too hard, I was too old to learn something new, or I just didn’t have time. It is hard, but it’s not too hard! Who cares how old you are? Make the time! But my biggest piece of advice is to TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OFFICE HOURS! As an educator who had set up office hours during virtual learning and having no one show up, even though I knew people needed help, was difficult. I was just sitting there wanting to help people, and no one came! So, at the second class when the coach said, “come to office hours. No one came, but we know you need help!” I began to go regularly because 1) I needed help! 2) That’s what they were there for. 3) I imagined my sad self waiting for students and did not want them to feel that way. 😊 Even if I didn’t have any mistakes I needed help fixing, I would go with an idea I wasn’t as confident with, and when I left, I felt more confident. The code coaches did not let us fail; they made sure we were successful! Go to office hours!”
“If you are thinking about applying to the Code Labs Program, just do it! If I had let things like my age, the amount of time it takes, and how hard it was going to be stop me, I would have never started! Keep your big goal in mind and put everything you have into it. It’s a few months of hard work, but now I have a much better work-life balance and this has brought so much peace to my family. The Code Labs Program was worth every minute (even the hard ones!)”