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September Sharpie of the Month: Candace Staats

This month, we caught up with Candace Staats to learn more about her journey into tech!

An illustration celebrating the Sharpie of the Month, with a photo of the winner, Georgia, smiling.

Name: Candace Staats

Location: Amsterdam Area

Role: Full-Stack Developer and Head of Marketing

Tell me a bit more about your journey into tech.

About eight years ago I started to look at other careers. I was a leasing consultant, and it wasn’t fulfilling, and I had very few incentives. I worked in a toxic office with no offers for growth, so I looked into what sectors gave me what I wanted out of my professional life.

Tech matched me perfectly. I didn’t believe I could do engineering, and applied for sales and marketing positions to no avail. I let it go for a while, thinking I would be permanently stuck in property management. Then I befriended an engineer, and when I brought him an app idea he responded “that is not what I do.” I was highly non-technical, my response was “you do the computers.” He laughed and explained he was a client platform engineer and didn’t do web development or applications.

I still wanted my app so I started by trying my hand at coding with Code Academy courses, but it didn’t scratch the itch enough. However, trying coding showed me that it wasn’t out of my depths and that I could do it if I tried. I then applied to Codam, a 42 network school in the heart of Amsterdam. Over the years I have continued my schooling with Codam and joined various certification classes, bootcamps and training courses. I learned what I liked and didn’t, and I amassed the skills I would need to build my app.

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

I am an expat, so I don’t speak Dutch, which has made it almost impossible to get into companies in the Netherlands. I also find that many companies say they want women, but it sometimes feels like they don’t actually work towards gender equality. It was and continues to be difficult to take the time as an adult to learn a new skill thoroughly, career switching is a serious commitment and can feel scary. I have also battled feeling like I belong in tech, from men asking me if this is something I want to / have the ability to do, to shedding even the expectations of friends and family.

What are some of the resources from SheSharp that have helped you with your growth?

SheSharp has given me a group of women identifying people and allies that make me feel welcome and like I belong in the industry I have worked so hard to be a part of. Having a base of support cannot be understated. I am not alone, and SheSharp has been integral to that feeling of community. My struggles are not just my own, and there is comfort in that.

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into the tech industry?

Do it! Figure out what you need to do to learn what you think will make you happy, if you’re wrong, learn something different. Change what you’re doing, then change it again until it’s what matches who you are best. You may feel like you don’t belong in tech, but you do. Tech is for everyone, anyone could be an engineer. There is no blueprint of what an engineer should be. There will be days when it feels impossible, but there are also days when you feel amazing and fulfilled and you’ll be so proud of yourself for doing what you love against all odds.

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