Almost four years ago, Christy La Guardia faced a big change in her life — in fact, she found herself having to build a new one. After removing herself from a religious cult where higher education was discouraged, she decided to enroll at a coding bootcamp at Code Fellows Portland, Oregon campus (later to become Alchemy Code Lab). After graduating, she worked her way up to her current software engineer position at ClassPass.
Prior to that, Christy had been working as a product specialist at Johnstone Supply, an HVAC-R distributor. According to her, “it was a technical role, but it wasn’t challenging enough for me.” After becoming more interested in web development and the opportunities that a career in tech would provide her, she was ready to take a big step forward and in a new direction.
“I wanted to change careers, but I also wanted skills I could take with me to any city.”
“Leaving my religion was like pressing the reset button on my entire life,” Christy shares with us. “It was a pretty critical time and I asked myself really big questions, like ‘What do I want to do?’ ‘Where do I want to go?’ I was in a position where I could hop on a plane and go anywhere in the world. I realized that I want a career with the freedom to move to any city.” And so, she decided to start learning to code.
At first, Christy considered multiple different avenues, including free and paid online courses. She wasn’t ready to quit her full-time job and was skeptical of coding bootcamp results. Luckily, Code Fellows offered a one-day workshop for potential students to get an idea of what it would be like to go to school there. This workshop made her see how much she would benefit from an in-person program: “an online program was not going to work for me. I needed to learn not only how to code but also how to work with others and talk about code.”
She made up her mind to start Code Fellows’s program and later enroll in their full-time career track.
“There was no way I was going to be able to pay for it on my own.”
Paying for the full-time program, however, was a large expense, and Christy didn’t have many financing options. “I didn’t have any family support and didn’t have any money saved up,” she says. According to Christy, if she hadn’t received a Climb loan, she wouldn’t have been able to enroll in Code Fellows and may have been forced to find a different route into tech. As for the loan experience itself, she remembers it being very positive: “I was very new to this type of lending process, so it was really nice to have this go smoothly when I was already making this huge life decision and these really big commitments.”
Now that she had taken several steps on her journey to a new life, it was time for the next step: actually starting her coding bootcamp.
“This program wasn’t easy. There were days where I doubted if I was going to graduate. Going through this challenging program I learned how to learn and how to not give up.”
Beyond just what they taught in class, though, Christy believes one unique factor that makes Code Fellows a great school is their deep commitment to the community and their active promotion of diversity and inclusion in tech. They try to help people from underrepresented groups enroll in their programs, and according to Christy they’re very successful at it.
They even gave her a free ticket to Pitch Black, an event to help launch black entrepreneurs that were affected by the recent drops in small business lending.” Christy used this opportunity to reach out to one of the presenters she met there whose business she was excited about, to create a partnership with him for her program’s final project. They built a prototype app for him to use while pitching his business to potential investors.
“I was the first person to bring in a real client to the school, which might have been a crazy idea at the time, because we were already super busy and stressed out to finish the class. But my school helped me to see how important it is to connect with the community and to use our technical skills for a good purpose, and I felt like this was a great opportunity to do so.”
“I wish I could go back to when I started and tell myself that the secret to breaking into tech is lots of practice and an opportunity.”
It isn’t hard to see that Christy truly cares about her community — one of her life goals is to start a scholarship fund for people like herself, who were raised in environments that discouraged higher education. “I was kind of lucky because I convinced my parents to let me go to community college for two years, but that was a big stretch,” Christy says. “My family and religious community was really opposed to higher education. Eventually I left that world and found out that many who leave don’t have the professional skills or education build a successful career, not because they didn’t have the desire or couldn’t get into college, but because they were born in an environment that wouldn’t allow it.”
Today, as a software engineer at ClassPass, Christy works on the front-end of the company’s consumer applications. Compared to her past jobs, she feels that now she has more opportunities for promotion but also to learn and gain new skills. She’s already had the opportunity to work on an iOS app for the first time, and she feels like her core programming and problem-solving skills are being sharpened.
“My favorite part about being in the tech industry is being surrounded by people that are constantly learning and growing, not just because tech is continuously evolving, but because that’s what they love to do.”
Christy with her fellow women engineers at ClassPass
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Christy is a client of Climb’s. However, she was not paid or otherwise compensated for this testimonial. This testimonial reflects the real-life experiences and opinions of Christy; however, it should not be assumed that all users will have the same experiences. Individual results may vary.
The quoted statements appear verbatim as given by the user, except for the correction of grammar and typing errors. Some testimonials may have been shortened or rearranged for the sake of clarity.