At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jessica Benson found herself at a crossroads. She had left her career as a newspaper reporter after feeling burned out and was working in the service industry when the global pandemic left her without a job. Faced with unemployment, Jessica began exploring ideas for her future.
“I had for a long time been really wanting to get my career back on track — my professional career. I didn’t want to go back to the news business or media. I didn’t really want to get into PR. A lot of my former colleagues had done that and it just didn’t appeal to me.”
In the midst of figuring out what she wanted to do, Jessica found inspiration in a relatively unlikely way.
“While I was still tossing around some ideas, my daughter was looking to do the same thing. She had been a hairdresser and she was looking to transition careers into something professional. And she came to me with this idea of [Kenzie] for herself,” she said. “I was like, oh, that looks pretty good. I might apply, too.”
And that’s how Jessica and her daughter enrolled at Kenzie.
“It was actually a very easy process, which was nice because I didn’t really have a lot of time to fool around with anything that was going to be difficult to get started. They made it very easy to get into the program and to get ramped up in the beginning. And once you get started, you’re in there.”
The experience of entering a tech school with her daughter was something they both had to get used to, but it didn’t take them long. After some adjusting, Jessica’s daughter liked the idea of Jessica being a part of the experience because they were able to support each other.
The partnership Jessica and her daughter had as learners quickly became a beneficial factor in their progress through their program.
“It was interesting because we each had different strengths in the program. The first half of the program, she was just a whiz and I really was having a hard time grasping some of these new concepts. So she really helped support me in the beginning.”
The roles reversed for the mother/daughter duo once they reached the backend portion of their program. According to Jessica, this was when she took on the supporting role for her daughter.
“There was something about the backend that just clicked with me more. So she ended up relying heavily on me in the second half of the program. Just to help her grasp some concepts that she was just struggling to understand.”
“It was a great experience going through it with her. Like I said, it brought us closer together.”
Reflecting on her time at Kenzie and the process of learning so many new concepts, Jessica remembers things fondly. Even those times when lessons were hard to comprehend came with great value for Jessica.
“In the beginning, we did React … I didn’t do so well there. But when it did finally click, I felt like I had learned the concepts and I was actually able to create things on my own. I ended up being the product owner of our capstone project and was able to pull that off. And I knew what I was doing. That was the moment where I was like, I’m not just running this project, but I actually know what I’m doing. I know what’s going on.”
The progress Jessica made through her program was due to her hard work, her daughter’s help, and the support of her Kenzie facilitators who were readily available when she needed them. Her coaches also made a big difference.
“Definitely felt supported and not just from the instructors, but from the team of coaches that we had, which was nice to have that because they were also Kenzie students. So they knew what we were experiencing. They weren’t so far removed from the learning process that they didn’t know how to coach us.”
This type of support is attributed to the sense of community Kenzie provides. Jessica experienced it firsthand in ways she didn’t think were possible. To this day, she is amazed by just how much access all learners have to support and the bonds that are made. Even now, Jessica and her daughter stay in touch with people they met through Kenzie.
“People formed friendships, even though we were remote. It’s a little more challenging when you’re remote, but those friendships were still formed. You don’t have to meet in person in order to make those connections.”
Kenzie Academy also values shaping a more diverse tech environment, which is something that Jessica noticed while in her program.