Shifting Careers: How One New York City High School Teacher Learned to Code - Reboot Labs
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“Coding? It’s not really that hard.” — Kathy Bueno

Sometimes approaching something new is tough. For coding, there are many prejudices — “It’s too complicated,” “I’m not that smart,” “Code is for geeks” — which hold people back from this opportunity for study and growth. Yet it’s often challenges like these that lead to greatest growth. A new study even shows that adults who work hard at learning something new end up as “superagers” with more youthful brains. For some perspective, Reboot interviewed Kathy Bueno, a teacher turned data scientist, who talks about her experience learning to code.

Reboot: What career did you start out in?
Kathy Bueno: I started out as a High School Science and Math teacher for 4 years

Reboot: What inspired you to switch careers?
Kathy: I always knew teaching was a stepping stone for me into something more math & programming heavy. I was always fascinated by programming and wanted to some how combine that with my math knowledge/degree so after much research and exploration and I knew data science was for me.

Reboot: Why did you decide to learn to code?
Kathy: It is extremely important to code, especially since our culture and job markets tend to have a lot of emphasis on technology and programming. I love learning and believe it is a life-long process so I took up coding to stay current.

Reboot: Do you have any tips for people wanting to make a career switch?
Kathy: Just go for it because you have nothing to lose. There is no “secret sauce” for success, there is no linear path into a career, and it’s never too late. There is no set path into a new career, you just make your own. The worst you could do is stay stagnant!

Reboot: What were some of the skills you learned in Nate Cooper’s Introduction to Coding class?
Kathy: I learned to think like a programmer, learn how to debug my own problems, and how to take the skills he taught in the classroom into marketable career skills.

Coding: like anything else, you just need to dedicate some time and effort into it. It’s totally achievable.

Reboot: Do you have any advice for people who want to learn to code?
Kathy: It’s really not that hard. Everyone has this preconceived notion that it is “so hard” and just “not for me” but like anything else, you just need to dedicate some time and effort into it. It’s totally achievable.

Reboot: Do you think learning to code is a necessary skill for a 21st century career? Why/why not?
Kathy: Learning to code now is essential! Technology is the present/future and we need to stay current.

Reboot: What did you find most difficult about changing careers?
Kathy: Getting over my own emotional hurdles and anxieties about having to change careers and not feeling capable to do so. It really was just all mental! I was fortunate to find the time and resources to help me continue my education in Data Science.

Reboot: What surprised you about changing careers?
Kathy: That there is no one, set path to changing careers and getting the job you want. Everyone in my current job comes from different backgrounds and careers so it was very refreshing! What also surprised me is how supportive everyone in the field is and how willing they are to help. In the end, everyone is in the same position and just trying to figure things out to move forward and be a success.

Reboot: What do you think a 21st century career looks like?
Kathy: It will be predominately technology and data.

Reboot: Where are you hoping to go from here?
Kathy: After achieving “senior data science” status, I am hoping to found or fund a coding program for young women to encourage them to pursue programming and give them the foundation they need to start a career in the field.


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