Louise Clark is the winner of a full-tuition scholarship to Capella University’s online BS in Information Technology, Software Development program.
The scholarship is offered in partnership with Women Who Code, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.
Here, Clark shares how her interest in software development began, her career goals, and what this scholarship means to her.
Q. What was your career field prior to software development?
A. I was an adjunct professor at local colleges throughout North Carolina. I taught subjects like Latin American history, world history, human rights, and gender studies.
Q. That’s quite a career shift! What drew you to coding and software development?
A. I know—the change surprised me as well. When I was younger, coding never crossed my radar. But after years of job insecurity as an adjunct professor and never getting a full-time teaching position with benefits, I was tired of always fighting for a job. As a single parent of three without a steady career, that was scary.
I took a break and really contemplated what I wanted to do. I worked as an assistant manager at a local bookstore and became an Uber and Lyft driver to help pay the bills. While working at the bookstore, I ended up building a website using a simple a drag-and-drop website builder. I learned how to do it using YouTube and Google, and really enjoyed the process.
Then, my boyfriend (now fiancé) published a book, and I was frustrated with how it was being publicized. I learned how to use WordPress and built him a website for the book, again using online resources to teach myself. When I wanted to customize his site some more, I learned from my dad (a former Microsoft employee) how to inspect the page. I saw all the code and was fascinated. I just wanted to know what it was telling me! Perhaps most people don’t look at code and think “That’s so interesting,” but I did. So, that was the hook.
Q. How did you go about pursuing a career in software development?
A. What really inspired me to get into coding as a career was an interview I heard on public radio. The story was about a young woman who built an app to help people in Syria find safety from bombs. I realized I could do even more for my passions in social justice and activism with code.
I took the plunge and successfully completed a Front-End Development 12-week boot camp in North Carolina. Despite being a busy mom, I dove right into the intense program and landed a software developer internship at a construction data and software company.
Q. What drew you to Capella’s Women Who Code scholarship?
A. I keep a close eye on the Women Who Code email newsletter, because they talk about meetups, conferences, and other opportunities for women trying to get into the tech field. That’s where I found out about the scholarship, and I applied for it immediately.
Q. What does earning this scholarship mean to you?
A. To be able to go back to school is a gift. It will provide me the intellectual foundation for what I’m doing at my job. And I love being a student; I love learning. I could learn forever! But financially, I wouldn’t have been able to go for a degree right now due to the years of being financially insecure.
I looked into local universities but they didn’t have night or weekend courses for bachelor’s degrees–only master’s programs. The time and financial commitment would have been too hard. Getting this scholarship helps financially, and the online program provides me the flexibility to do it.
Q. What will a degree in software development mean to you?
A. First of all, it will give me more job security. You really can’t have enough! It will also give me a better theoretical understanding of software development, which will help me in my career.
I moved into a junior software development position this fall. My boss encouraged me to get this degree as it fits right in with the work that I’m doing at the company.
Q. What are your short- and long-term career goals?
A. Short term, I will be using the degree to support my new position. At work, I’ve been learning about agile environments and the software development lifecycle, so it will help me understand and contribute to my current projects.
Long term, I would like to grow in my current company and get a master’s degree in a related field. I’m waiting to decide what that will be; my mentors gave me the good advice to wait and see what I like before I decide on a specialization. Maybe it will be cybersecurity, or going deep into UX, or perhaps data analysis. I have a lot of interests–getting my bachelor’s is a stepping stone.
Q. How has your experience with Capella been so far?
A. I’ve only gone through orientation so far, but I’ve been impressed with the organization of it all. My enrollment counselor was amazing. She was on top of the tasks that I needed to get done, but also showed a real interest in me as a person. She asked what I was excited about and how I was doing with the process. She was well organized, but also had heart. That’s a good balance.
Classes start soon, and I’m ready to go with the support of my family and workplace.
Inspired to pursue a career in software development? Learn more about Capella’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Software Development degree.