From Fresh Powder to a Fresh Career: A New Passion for Snowboarder Emma Nelson
Emma Nelson was working as a snowboarding instructor in the mountains of Colorado when her curiosity was sparked by an unexpected skill: coding.
“I met a few friends and some of them had jobs in the IT industry. I was really intrigued by what they did, so I asked them to show me a few things and I went ahead teaching myself the basics. From there, my love for coding just grew,” she said.
Emma googled ‘how to code,’ and the Coding Boot Camp at UT Austin caught her eye. After going through the curriculum and learning that it was a three-month, full-time course that didn’t require a college degree, she knew it would be ideal. She signed up.
The program changed the course of Emma’s life. She is now working as a full-time coder. Read on for how she got there.
A fun instructor, and a great foundation
Emma had taught herself the basics of coding—but craved a more comprehensive learning experience. “What I learned myself was only good up until a certain point,” she said.
The natural environment of the boot camp helped Emma to focus. First, the instructor’s personality brought the classroom to life.
“My instructor was pretty engaging. His whole demeanor was funny and outgoing; he really made the class interesting,” she said, adding that looking back, she said that any bystander would be able to see—as her new employer ultimately saw—how badly she wanted to be a great coder.
Modeling capitalism online—and helping people get organized
Emma was excited to work in a team setting. For her first group project, she partnered with three classmates to make POGO, a calendar widget application.
“It’s meant for users to access and consolidate calendar information on a dashboard,” she said.
For Emma’s second project, she teamed up to create a digital Monopoly game called Extreme Capitalism. “The idea was to have multiple users who could communicate with each other for a game of digital Monopoly. They would be able to move pieces on the board,” she said.
Making proactive decisions and landing a new role
Emma is now in a full-time role as a UX/UI software engineer at a technology company. She attributed part of her success to career services.
“I had a wonderful student success manager—I was talking to her a lot. She looked over my resume, helped me apply for jobs, reach out to different people, and really make use of that service,” said Emma, explaining that one of her first interviews was with Austrian tech company Kapsch.
“This was one of the first jobs I got a full interview for. I was excited and nervous at the same time,” she said.
Emma didn’t get her first choice role—but not all bad news is completely negative.
“I interviewed for the junior developer position. They turned me down, but two weeks later I got a call,” she said. “The hiring manager had really liked me and created a six-month paid internship just for me,” she said, adding that when it was done, she was able to transition into a full-time position role. Emma humbly calls it “a stroke of luck.”
Emma had never earned a college degree and knew that she had to work hard to gain a competitive advantage. “I think it helped to have that certification under your belt,” she said.
“Being able to go to the program that UT offers was so amazing and beneficial for me. It gave me what I needed to get myself into the industry,” she added.
When probed for advice, Emma had this to share: absolutely go for it, especially if it’s something you’re passionate about and something you really want to pursue. “If you put in the hard work and effort into it, you’ll see great results,” she said.
Interestingly, Emma says now that coding and snowboarding follow similar arcs when it comes to overcoming challenges.
“In snowboarding, there are times when you’re going to fall. It’s not going to be easy, you’re going to have this huge hill to go down and it’s going to be scary—but you’re going to make it,” she said.
“It’s the same thing with coding. Going into the class it’s this huge hill you’re going down. There’s just so much to learn and so much to do. It can seem scary going into this new thing. But you just keep pushing forward, learning all the skills you can, and you make it out on the end,” she said.