Ashley McKenzie worked in administration and operations management at Regus when one of her clients pointed out how good she was at problem-solving. They even asked her if she ever thought about doing software engineering. She had never considered that career path, but after her client continually brought up the option, Ashley decided to look into it.
Around Christmas 2018, Google’s doodle just happened to be an HTML interactive activity. Ashley gave it a try and found it easy and enjoyable. She wanted more. So, she downloaded the Grasshopper app as an intro to coding and spent some time on Career Karma, trying to calculate her next move. Whatever the next step, she knew she wanted a change in her profession that would also impact her role as a parent and her home life.
“I think I just got tired of retail. I definitely got tired of being underpaid, but — going above and beyond but being underpaid,” she revealed.
In April 2020, Ashley enrolled in the Kenzie Academy Full-Stack 12-month program and was thrilled to begin her journey toward a career in tech. While the experience was positive, she admits there were times that proved challenging. But even those challenges provided an opportunity to learn and grow.
“If anything, those challenges taught us what real-life work would be like. You may expect one thing, but things change — plans change. We had to be able to adapt. They taught us how to work.”
Ashley was also surprised by how important community, communication, and working as a team were during her time at Kenzie.
“Initially I was like, man, one of the best parts of this is that you get to work alone a lot. But being able to work on capstones and learning how to work with such vast personalities was a necessity. And I got to meet a lot of people that I could learn from who were also learning the same things that I was. And that was really, really helpful.”
In March 2021, with only a few months remaining in her program, Ashley was hired as a lead developer at a new startup along with the person who would eventually become a business partner.
“I mean, bottom startup, as in two people in the company. I was number three. My partner was number four. And we were surprised, but we showed them what we had, the projects that we’d done, and they entrusted that work to us. So that was really good.”
Finding a job while finishing her program taught Ashley the value of the projects and knowledge she had been developing. That experience enabled her to nurture her connections and use them accordingly as she moved through the professional world. It was one of those connections that pointed her in the direction of a position at SiteRX, a biomedical company searching for a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“That’s my exact niche. That is exactly where I want to be working in biomedical technology. I couldn’t believe that. I had one year of experience as a junior developer working for this startup. And with all the things that I’ve learned, collectively, from Kenzie and as well as that exposure with that job, I was able to land a mid-level position after one year, which is insane. They’re telling us, be ambitious, and the six-figure job is going to come, and to hold out. That it’s going to be there and it was!”