My Journey to Technology

My love for technology predates my time at SPS and ironically the dream of someday being a Software Engineer or contributing to tech driven solutions wasn’t one I felt was within reach but for the supportive community and mentors that helped guide my path.

I wasn’t your typical “A” student, not the best best at math (you know, all the things you tell yourself to convince you not to try) and even when I could summon the courage to take on the challenge, I didn’t know where to begin. I just knew I had a passion for solving problems with technology and it was time to put the rubber to the road

So where did I start?

Good ol’ SQL. While many do not consider SQL a programming language, According to Webopedia, “a programming language is a vocabulary and set of grammatical rules for instructing a computer or computing device to perform specific tasks.” Going by this definition, SQL is definitely a programming language. I started by learning how to write simple queries to search and modify data sets, find parcels and partner relationships and always avoided using the already existing queries. I was able to build on this knowledge when I encountered other aggregation tools like Sumo Logic & Tableau. I bring this up because it was a great foundation to build on and was directly related to my current role at the time while working outside of technology. Your starting point may not be SQL, it may be HTML or Adobe Flash. Whatever it is, it’s a start!

Key Takeaways Start small. Use what’s in front of you to solve the problems around you. There were times where it was easier to use excel but the goal was always to perfect my knowledge of SQL so I pressed on. * Tools: Data Aggregation & Visualization - DataCamp | CodeCademy | Sumo Logic | Tableau

Shadowing & Being a Beta User to Learn Code

Next I spent many months watching/working with some of my peers, Brandon Felde & Jaylen Jones, on an SPS internal tool which allows users to search for all services related to a particular document. It was an amazing tool for customer support analysts at the time. I volunteered as an unofficial beta user and spent most of my time tracing through lines of code and matching them to how the application functioned.

Key Takeaways: If you stare at those colored lines on the screen long enough they start to make sense. No question is a dumb question. Ask lots of them and takes notes. * Tools: Notepad++ | My phone’s voice recorder app | White Board (a physical white board :) )

Joining our Intro to Programming Guild

While I’d like to think I joined the tech-led early morning intro to programming guild for the passion for tech I think it was more for the donuts (boy, those were some really nice donuts!). One of our company’s development managers, Aaron McClintock, and others helped us understand programming concepts using Python. I actually attended two cohorts of the Programming guild. The second time around I went in with a goal to help and teach other newer attendees so I could solidify my learning. Ive also been an active member of both the Datascience and Cloud Guilds in our company - there are lots of ways to get involved and learn here!

Key Takeaways: 1) You can automate anything with code & 2) Learn by doing. Programming is a bunch of logic (if/else or if/then) statements executed in a specified order to accomplish a desired goal. Tools: CodeCademy | FreeCodeCamp

Starting a job in Tech

In March of 2020 I found a home on one of our development teams as I started my role as an Associate Software Engineer. While It hasn’t come without its challenges, Ive had a constant sense of fulfillment after every task, increased confidence after every sprint and in regular SPS fashion, I have an amazing group of friends and supporters always willing to help me be a better engineer.

In Summary

  • I set goals - 10hrs/week (watching videos, learning concepts, updating my mentors)
  • I made friends (Network!) - I joined the datascience guild and also helped start the cloud guild, attended meetups, and many other free tech conferences.
  • I believed in myself even when I was failing. I was passed over for two Associate Software Engineer roles previously but I received great feedback and used each as a learning opportunity as I faced the next one ahead. I continually strove to become a strong candidate for an ASE position.

I’m entirely grateful to the mentors, managers and leaders (most of whom are not mentioned here) for the immense support on my journey. I have been given an opportunity to live out a career dream. One which I’ll never take for granted, and I will continue to work tirelessly to do the same for any others who choose to follow the same path.

In closing, I once read a post that said “women and minorities would typically not apply for a role unless they met or exceeded 100% of the requirements” I don’t know to what extent that is true, but I also write to encourage you to not let that be your story and to remind you that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

It was a dream come true for me Thanks for reading Kelechi U.

Kelechi Uchegbu @knuchegbu