October is usually the month I’m planning out all of the falltivities (fall activities) I want to take part in and enjoying the comforts of autumn in Minnesota – corn mazes, carving pumpkins, camping, cozy clothes, and changing colors. This October, the only word starting with ‘c’ that’s on my mind is – coding.

Working on a small team at a non-profit naturally comes with everyone wearing a lot of different hats. During my first eight months as the Programming & Member Engagement Coordinator at MnTech, I often found myself Googling and independently problem solving my way through challenges that came up in my daily work and in our small team meetings. In one particular meeting, my boss watched me excitedly Google a problem we were facing and come up with an answer.

As any good manager does, she pointed out that problem solving was something that filled my cup and seemed to come naturally to me. “Have you ever thought about being an engineer?” she asked me. That thought had never crossed my mind – like ever – and it floated through my head frequently from that day forward. I started researching software engineering programs, always coming back to the same fact: I really love my job and there’s no way I’m quitting.

Prime Digital Academy took away my last excuse – they developed their first ever part-time Full Stack Development program. Filling out the application was scary on multiple fronts. Thoughts of self-doubt and uncertainty swirled through my head. Making big life decisions is never easy, and after staying stagnant during the pandemic, I was getting very comfortable being comfortable. At the end of August, with the full support of my team at MnTech, I decided to jump.

Balancing working 40 hours a week with a fully immersive software development bootcamp is no walk in the park, and it hasn’t come without growing pains. These are reminders that have grounded me in my work/life balance:

Be where you are. Everything will get done. Being present is crucial when you are doing two very different things. In order to do either thing well, I have to set personal boundaries; I’m in work mode during the day and coding mode at night.

Utilize all available tools and resources to help you. I use the Forest app to study. It’s a Pomodoro timer that sets 25 minutes to focus, followed by a 5 minute break. Todoist is a planner and to-do list app that helps me stay organized and utilize my time well.

Learn to say NO. As much as I’d love to take on everything, there simply isn’t enough time in the day. Adding in Prime Digital meant I had to make some small sacrifices and move some things around in my schedule. I made a list of responsibilities and tasks that had to be completed, along with a list of fun things and total time wasters (Bravo – I’m looking at you) and asked myself what my priorities were. Being mindful about everything on your plate is crucial.

Use your support system – people want to help you! I don’t know if it’s because we live in Minnesota, but everyone seems to think they’re bugging each other when they ask for something. Many emails and Teams messages have started with “Sorry about this…” or some other form of apology for asking for input, advice, a favor, etc. The reality is, most people are more than happy to help. Whether it be your coworker, friend, family member, mentor, someone passing by on the street, lean on people! There will be a time you can give that energy back out into the world.

My biggest take away while being in the midst of this experience is something I learned while having thought-provoking conversations with the rest of my team: DO THE THING. It’s corny but we do only live once, we might as well jump. Best of luck to all of you who may be struggling through a new challenge or taking on more responsibilities this fall – remember the reasons why you started, why you want this, and most importantly, stay true to yourself!

If you’d like to connect about all things MnTech or Prime Digital Academy, please feel free to email me at jackie@mntech.org or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Looking forward to it!