The Starter Career
Machiko’s work at the UCLA Daily Bruin led her on a path well known to young journalists: school newspaper, internship at real world newspaper (the prestigious Washington Post in Machiko’s case), first job at a small town paper (Ventura County Star), and a sidestep to a bigger neighboring market (KRCC in LA). At each place, she was drawn to how things were made and was lucky enough to have colleagues willing to assume informal mentorship roles.
But Machiko’s chance for real growth came in an unlikely form: a day when two major news stories broke and neither her boss nor the senior developer were in the office. She had an idea about how to cover the story in an interesting and interactive way and the window to develop and deploy it herself (with the help of other engineers who were in the office that day). With this opportunity came what she considers the most valuable lesson she’s learned: “If you’re waiting for someone’s permission to do this, don’t. It’s not going to come. You just have to do it.”
How She Made the Leap
The early hours of Machiko’s job gave her a healthy chunk of uninterrupted time in the evening for meetups, tutorials and online courses to learn to code. She attributes a RailsGirls workshop with helping to boost her knowledge and confidence, concluding that this type of community is one of the three necessary components for making such a major career transition:
If you’re waiting for someone’s permission to do this, don’t. It’s not going to come. You just have to do it.~ Machiko Yasuda
- “Just realize you can do it. You can. You just need the confidence.”
- “You don’t have to know everything to start because you will never know everything, even when you know what you’re doing. And you have to start somewhere.”
- “Surround yourself with other people doing the same things. Whether it’s meetups, peer worksessions or mentors at your job, you will need people who can share knowledge and give you support.”
When she did decide to leave her journalism job, she didn’t have another one lined up. Instead, she had a specific goal in mind: within 6 months, she needed to be skilled enough to get an internship as an engineer.
The Beginnings of a Coding Career
Machiko first worked at a Venice-based startup, where the day-to-day was driven by new product development. Like most startups, they were in a tight cycle of build, deploy, test, which Machiko says can be both fulfilling and challenging. “The problem is when you don’t have enough users or data; then you’re just constantly trying new things.” Still, she says the tight-knit culture of developers was exciting and important as she started out.
Now, as a Junior Software Engineer at Reformation, a company determined to produce clothing with a conscience, she works among a more formal team with a CTO, a small group of engineers and a product manager. She collaborates regularly with other developers and designers, and her day-to-day is largely prioritized by the PM, a trait she says is similar to life in the newsroom.
You don’t have to know everything to start because you will never know everything, even when you know what you’re doing. And you have to start somewhere.~ Machiko Yasuda
“Working in a newsroom, your day is filled with specific tasks that need to be addressed immediately — having a product manager is similar. It helps you to focus on what really needs to get done.”
The Wrap Up
- Most Surprising Aspect of the Job
- There’s no such thing as being finished. Whether you’re making new things or maintaining existing ones, you’re constantly in a state of change.
- Most Important Thing to Consider in a New Job
- Who you will be working with — mentors, managers and the broader culture of the company — are more important than the code or libraries themselves. You have to find a place that aligns with your values and interests.
- Best Thing She’s Made
It’s still in progress, but I’m working on a Ruby Wrapper to pull data from Kindara, a fertility tracking app, and creating different ways of interacting with it on my laptop and phone.
*Although it’s unfinished, it highlights what Machiko feels is an important lesson for coders: behind every product, app or piece of software, there’s a human. More often than not, they’ll be excited to hear from you if you want to know how it works or how to use it for other purposes. (She’s been in touch with Kindara to access their credentials, which they gladly shared.)
- Favorite Resources
- I try to regularly devote an hour to learning new code, usually to further my knowledge on something relevant to my work. For resources, I like Egghead and Front End Masters, as well as free pod- and screencasts.
- Advice For New Coders
- Don’t discredit any of your previous experiences. Don’t say you don’t know how to do anything. You probably already know how to use a computer. You already know how to use a web site or an app. Whatever work or life experience you had before counts, and is applicable in programming, startups and technology.
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