How I Got Into Tech

Tracy Roesler bio photo By Tracy Roesler Comment

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I’ve had a few people ask me how I ended up in tech full-time. I mean, I have a bachelors degree in Theology, and I worked in real-estate for the first 6 years after college. It doesn’t seem like a career in my wheelhouse.

The answer is a bit circuitous (and long).

I first started coding in middle school. I was in one of those math/science “magnet” programs, so it was required. However, I enjoyed the tasks, so I continued taking classes in high school.

Then, when I was 15, my friend Garrett mentioned his boss was interested in diversity, and asked him, “Do you know any females?”. (I’m assuming he meant in tech, and not just in general.) So I interviewed, and then subsequently got what to this day is still my favorite job.

I did physics research and computer programmer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). It was cool. My specific area of focus was high speed display metrology, for which I used a program called LabVIEW and separate C++ modules. I had my own office. I made $12/hr and thought that I was rich; I pretty much was since I still fell under the purview of my parents, and it was all “fun” money.

My dad thought that because I enjoyed my job at NIST so much that I would want to study computer science in college. Boy did I fool him when I started as a chemical engineer and then switched to theology. I told him that I never wanted to be a computer programmer.

So I left computer programming in 2003, and I thought I would never look back.

But technology kept invading my every day jobs. I would find ways to automate things in Excel, by writing Visual Basic Macros. I created a database and managed forms within them for submitting data. I developed a training program video.

Then one fateful day in 2011, my life and happenstance collided. A mutual friend was looking for somebody with a coding background who had also worked in finance. The job didn’t involve difficult programming, but somebody who simply understood how it worked.

I took the job.

And that’s how I became an automated tester. I enjoyed my job a lot, and I worked with a lot of smart people. I decided that perhaps I wanted to be more fully immersed in tech, so I started looking for other automated testing jobs that would expand my breadth and my depth. So then I took another job, one where I’d have to build up a testing framework in python/django which it turned out half the team wanted, and the other half did not.

So I began searching for another job. Staying in tech at this point was partially about the job opportunities; I’m not going to lie, it’s really easy to find a job when you’re a female and in the IT sphere, and the pay is pretty good.

I got another automated testing job, this time back in Java. I was given a cumbersome framework to manage, and it took me a long time to figure out how it even worked. I started to get frustrated by the people always second guessing me, and quite frankly, I found developing all day to be boring. I started thinking about what I really wanted to do – technical project management. One of my favorite parts about my first testing role was being at the nexus between business, legal, and tech. Getting everybody on the same page seemed to be something I was good at.

Then – in a last ditch effort to keep me at Overstock, a colleague suggested I move over to DevOps.

Going into operations has been the second best decision of my career. I’ve found an arena that I (mostly) enjoy. There’s development, but there are other things to do also. I’ve learned that the part of coding I enjoy the most is scripting. I like being able to solve problems and move on. Iterative work on the same lines of code isn’t really my thing. Actually, I’m just always learning. There’s always something new to learn in operations: case in point, right now I’m learning about Openstack and MidoNet and Kubernetes.I still know almost nothing about how the back-end configuration of SAN works, or network hardening.

So that’s how I’ve ended up in tech full-time. I don’t know how long I’ll be here; I’ve had quite a few career hops in my life. I’ve been in real estate, finance, youth pastoring. I’ve worked as an admin assistant, had my own company, and was a Starbucks coffee barista (fun job). But at this point I’ve been in tech the longest, and I’m enjoying where I am.

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