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How Madeline transitioned to her new career as a full stack engineer during the pandemic

The Talener team has only recently gotten to know Madeline Stalter over the past few years. Her story and progression from a psychology student to a full stack engineer (with a tech recruiting stopover at Talener!) is an important one to share.

As we celebrate International Women’s Month, we acknowledge the achievements and visibility of women, particularly in STEM. But it is also a reminder to all of us that women are a minority in technology positions. Women make up half of the workforce, but only occupy a quarter of high-tech jobs. This number diminishes further in a tech-based, executive level job.

Madeline’s transition from a psychology degree to completing her full stack engineering training at the Flatiron School in NYC is important. The traditional four-year computer science degree still dominates the software engineering job market. But the demand for talent outweighs the pool of four-year CS graduates. Madeline sat down with us to talk about her transition, the challenges she’s faced, and some of the decisions she made along the way to change her career path.

My background is diverse. But there are three motifs that have been evident in all facets of my professional trajectory: the desire to be challenged, the ability to act to actively seek out what challenges me, and aligning myself with my passions. I stand by the phrase “you didn’t come this far to only come this far.” My desire for learning is ever present. My path to software engineering may seem curious, but it isn’t.

I studied psychology to focus on discovering the ways of the world; understanding why people behave the way they do. This is not all that different from computer science and engineering. At the end of the day, technology is all built around, for, and by people. We influence buying habits, build visually stimulating websites, and curb security threats from malicious minds.

But learning psychology wasn’t enough. I needed more. I sought out a student research position that relied heavily on statistical analyses using software like R, SAS, and SPSS to test hypotheses, create and maintain databases & publish scholarly articles. I was hooked and I worked harder. My mentor recognized my desire to push for more and promoted me to a paid position running the laboratory. From there, I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 and embarked on a research fellowship at the world-renowned McLean Hospital. Unfortunately, the position didn’t offer a lot in area analysis and I realized that research was likely not my forever career path as I had previously planned.

How could I have already hit my professional ceiling and growth when I had barely left college? It was time for a reevaluation. Not one to remain idle, I started my own pet care business and planned for my future very carefully. I didn’t want a job; I wanted a career.

I looked back at what I loved about psychology and immediately thought about manipulating data and creating databases– my link to software engineering. I wanted to build and maintain applications. But without a technology background, I needed to get as close to technology as possible without previous experience. This was a stepwise process, but I trusted it; knowing that I would put my full weight behind being successful. This led me to technical recruiting. I used my vast network of engineering candidates and tech-talent seeking clients to learn more and ultimately piece together how I could further pursue a career in technology.

I started independently studying open-source languages outside of work. This continued for a year until the pandemic opened an opportunity for me to go back to school and learn full stack web development. The most efficient way was through a fifteen-week software engineering bootcamp. Those fifteen weeks stood between me and the ability to build robust full stack web applications and completely transform my life. I chose the Flatiron School in NYC for its comprehensive program, distinguished staff, and post-graduate outcomes.

This process hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. The initial knowledge acquisition in the bootcamp was difficult. I had to rewire how I approached problems – becoming more creative in my solutions (as there are seemingly infinite ways to approach code). I also had to bolster my self-confidence. The term “imposter syndrome” has become quite colloquial these days, but it is real; especially with my non-traditional background and working in such a male dominated field. To ward off this feeling of inadequacy, I remind myself daily that I am worthy and capable of making significant impacts in tech as I “didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

I advise those who are considering making a career change/shift into technology to do so! However, do so wisely. Take the necessary steps to ensure your success. If you combine this methodological approach with your passion, very little should tangibly get in your way. Love the life you live – work included

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