LaunchCode to Code Labs One to a Career in Tech: Kayla’s Story

Kayla Barton might look familiar to you if you’ve frequented downtown pet store Mississippi Mutts - she used to staff the front counter and is a proud dog mom to Archer and Aurora. In 2016, Kayla worked her way through LC101, an intro to coding program offered by LaunchCode out of St. Louis. Recently, she completed Code Labs One, a similar program offered by Marquette Tech. She started at Vizient this spring and was happy to share her experiences in both LaunchCode and Code Labs One and what advice she has for those thinking about applying for the next cohort of Code Labs One. (You know, the upcoming cohort you can apply for, right now? It’s cool, read this first, we’ll post the link to applications at the bottom, too.)

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Codefi: What were you doing before Code Labs One?
Kayla: I was in property management. It never felt like a career, just a job that paid the bills.

What motivated you to apply to Code Labs One?
After I went through LaunchCode [in 2016], I knew I loved the idea of the work, but I didn’t feel prepared. I had heard about Code Labs One, that it was run a little differently [than LaunchCode], and I’d heard from another woman who had also taken LaunchCode and Code Labs One that she felt that she had learned more [in Code Labs One]. I knew from my experience with LaunchCode that this is what I wanted to do with my life, so I thought I’d give Marquette Tech’s version, Code Labs One, a shot.

What did you hope to get out of Code Labs One?
Whenever I originally went into the class, I was thinking, “Well, this will get me a little bit more experience in figuring out how to learn.” Teaching yourself all of the different languages is a huge part of the industry. I wanted to learn how to dive into the documentation of the language and learn from it without having to watch instructional videos.

What’s your educational background, and what kind of coding experience did you have coming into the course?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics. I didn’t realize until I was actively looking for a job in that field - I wanted to work with statistics - that a lot of these employers wanted programming experience. That’s initially why I took the LaunchCode class, to get programming experience to eventually get a job in statistics. I started the class and realized how fun and exciting and creative it was. Going into LaunchCode in 2016, I had no prior coding experience. Going into Code Labs in 2019, I had coding experience from the LaunchCode class.

How did you feel going into the class?
I didn’t go into Code Labs One last year thinking I was going to come out of it and get a job. I went into it thinking it would give me the tools to teach myself so I can do some projects on the side and then maybe, in 6 months to a year, start applying for jobs.

Code Labs One calls for 20 hours a week of work outside of class. How did you get all of that work in?
That was hard. I used my hour-long lunch break to watch the videos for the week. In the evenings I would re-watch videos and work on the homework. It was a lot of working straight through my lunches and not doing anything on the weekends. It’s a time commitment.

What were your biggest bumps in the road and how did you overcome them?
The time commitment and making sure I put in the work. One weekend I sat down, got my planner out and said: “Ok, the nights I don’t have class, I’m going to work on homework from 6-8 p.m., and every lunch hour I’m going to come home and watch the videos.” I sat myself down and asked myself, “Am I serious about this, do I want this?” If so, I had to put in the work.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself during Code Labs One?
I’ve struggled with confidence and self-esteem. Going through the class and realizing at the end, how hard I worked, how much effort I put in, and the friends I made...I learned that I can do this, I can actually do this career, It’s not that I want to; I believe that I can now.

How has Code Labs One changed your career?
I got a job in the industry because of Code Labs One and the encouragement from all of the teaching fellows.

What do the next few years look like for you?
I see myself working at Vizient for at least the next few years.

What advice do you have for people thinking about applying?
Make sure you want to do this. Don’t apply if you are just interested, because it’s a massive time commitment that takes a lot of hard work. Understand that you need to put in the extra 20 hours outside of class and maybe even more. You need to go to every class; you’re going to miss something if you miss a class.

What advice do you have to help the incoming cohort succeed?
Don’t get discouraged if you’re not understanding something. Don’t let one thing you’re struggling with derail a whole class. Everyone - your classmates, your teaching fellows, everyone - is willing to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

You were one of only a few women in your class. How did that influence the experience you had?
At one point, later in the class, I looked around the room and saw that I was one of four or five women, maybe even less than that. I wanted to do this for myself, but I want to do this to make sure that, now that I’m in the industry, I can tell other women it is possible to do this. It made me want it even more, to show that it can be done.

What advice do you have for women thinking about getting into the industry?
If you really want this, it’s worth it. It’s worth it to put in the work if you like to solve problems and play around with computers. Do it - take the class and do it.

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The software industry is only 20% female. Be a part of moving the needle - apply for Code Labs One. Applications for Code Labs are open through May 31, 2020, and you can apply here. Where can Code Labs take you?

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