In 2012, Karla Marshall, a good friend of my mine, embarked upon a project called Year 29. The purpose: invite the young women close to her to take a pause during that pivotal time --transitioning from our 20s to our 30s -- and evaluate how we feel, review what we had accomplished so far and then make whatever decisions were necessary to set up our 30s for greatness. As a 29 year old, I was making a competitive salary as a clinical research coordinator in cancer research at the University of Michigan. I loved assisting in the advancement of cancer research but I was unhappy with the day to day work of clinical research regulations. I knew I needed to make major changes in my career but was wary of throwing away nearly 7 years of clinical research experience and a comfortable living to try something new.
Enter the Year 29 project. My friend sat down with me and we talked about what I had achieved thus far, what I hoped to achieve in my 30s, and what steps I might take to get there. That conversation prompted me to do some serious soul-searching and decide my next steps in life. That year, right around my 29th birthday, I decided to leave the field of clinical research and attempt to find work in different fields -- education, non-profit (small and large), small business, etc. -- to test the waters and find the career path that made the most sense for me.
To be completely honest, my life soon after making that decision was not easy. But in the span of 4 years, I secured part-time or full-time work in a small non-profit, a large community development-focused non-profit, and a small start-up. I also started my own business, Firebrand Candle Company. During that time, I saw many ups and downs but I learned more about myself in those 4 years than in my previous 29 years combined. Resilience. Character. Faith. Will. All of these were tested and ultimately strengthened. After 4 years of career experimentation, I was able to identify a few key themes. I loved being a leader and/or member of small teams working towards a common goal. I also loved the task of getting my business' online store up and running--which included a bit of coding. That's when I realized I'd been bitten by the coding bug.
The coding bug led me to participate in low-cost workshops focused on HTML/CSS, Wordpress, etc. through a local group called Girl Develop It. Building even the simplest things was challenging and tested my creativity but overall it made me feel accomplished...fulfilled. I was convinced that if I was ever able to, I would enroll in a coding bootcamp and completely change career paths for good. That opportunity came at the beginning of 2016 when I enrolled and completed the Grand Circus Java Bootcamp. I was hired by Asset Health, a web-based e-Learning and health management company, just a few weeks after graduating bootcamp and that is where I am employed as a software engineer today. After forging a path through unfamiliar territory, I found a career that I truly enjoy in a cool, growing industry. I am excited about continuing my journey.
What began as a practical project for my business (shoot more professional looking photos of my products) became a photography hobby of sorts. As a person who loves to learn new skills, DSLR photography has been quite the challenge but also incredibly rewarding.
I won't bore you too much but I'm in love with bully breed dogs (American Pitbull Terriers, etc.). Here are a few photos of my bud, Jax, captured by Jason Walker during a recent photoshoot.