This month, we caught up with Mariah Laqua to learn more about her journey into tech!
Name: Mariah Laqua
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands - I moved here from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Role: Fullstack Developer
Tell me a bit more about your journey into tech?
I made my first website at age 11, using HTML with inline styling. At 15 I bought and worked through a book on CSS. I didn't really understand then that there might be a career in tech - I'm from a small town in Minnesota. Growing up and into adulthood, I didn't know of anyone working professionally in tech or as a developer. As I got older I always had a website going for my photography, writing and yoga teaching, and I often helped friends with their websites. I thought someday, when I had time, I would dive deeper into the subject of web development. I ended up teaching yoga full-time in Amsterdam and then the pandemic hit. I bought an Udemy course on Python, taught myself bash, and then I found the 100Devs training from Leon Noel of Resilient Coders. I joined the second cohort in 2022 as well as participating in SheSharp's mentorship program. Around the same time both programs were wrapping up, January 2023, I signed my first full-time contract as a developer.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
The challenges are layered. I think there is the sort of general challenge of being a career switcher. Anyone on that path is going to have to work to pay the bills. They must also devote their free time to what will, no matter how exciting at the start, eventually feel like work. I would like 72, but tragically there's only 24 hours in a day. I made sacrifices and my relationships suffered. As I dived deeper into the world of tech I also saw the internal challenges facing the industry. It's not unusual in online spaces to hear repeated "jokes" made at the expense of women and gender non-conforming individuals. It's also not unusual in online spaces to hear the outright denial that discrimination exists within the tech industry. It's not unusual at in person recruiting events to be the only woman dev, or one of a small group of women at a larger event. At one event a male keynote speaker made repeated wife jokes. I like to think I have a sense of humor, yet these experiences often add up to make the industry feel unwelcoming. Of course many individuals and organizations are working to change these things. Besides that, I am neurodivergent in that I have ADHD and auditory processing disorder. I could say a lot about that, but in a nutshell, it means that many things just feel like I'm doing them on hard mode - while I have no control over the settings.
What are some of the resources from SheSharp that have helped you with your growth?
SheSharp offered me a community where I could hear directly from people I consider role models. There's no cost of entry, which makes it truly accessible. SheSharp allowed me to visit conferences I would not have attended, provided me with an online course, and ultimately I joined the mentorship program. Working with a mentor improved my problem-solving skills as a developer. It also gave me the push to really finish the transition into a full-time role. I left every meeting with my mentor feeling extremely energized and determined - because I had someone much better than me telling me that I was more than good enough. That's not something that can be measured, because its value is beyond measure.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the tech industry?
Drink water! More seriously: This is not a linear process. It will have its share of ups, downs, rest and direction changes. There is no correct or right speed. Find a pace that works for you. Rejection, failure and being wrong are normal. Surround yourself with motivated and like-minded individuals that lift you up in those down moments. Compassion for yourself and others is the secret sauce for success.