The Teacher Becomes the Student (Then the Master): How a Math Teacher Found Her Calling in Coding

Nicole Barry has always enjoyed coding. In college, she minored in computer science and picked up some programming skills but decided to pursue a career teaching math. After graduation, she taught at a high school in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Three years later, though, she found herself second-guessing her decision to become a teacher.

“Being in front of a room full of high-schoolers just wasn’t my natural habitat. I felt I’d lost myself somehow,” she said.

While she liked her students, Nicole had to be honest with herself: she didn’t like teaching. And if she was going to start over, there was only one path she wanted to follow.

“I knew I had to look for another job—and soon,” she said. “Going back to something I used to enjoy so much made the most sense.”

That’s where the Coding Boot Camp at UNC Charlotte came in.

Embarking on a new challenge

Once she’d decided to transition to a new career, Nicole faced another tough decision. Which program would take her where she wanted to go?

“I looked at a couple of different coding boot camps,” she said. “The course focused more on software than on hardware, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do—web development or software development, not so much IT.”

The UNC Charlotte boot camp had the advantage of being close to home. Plus, a friend who worked in tech confirmed that the curriculum would give Nicole the skills she needed to pursue a job in the field. The convenience factor, combined with the recommendation from her friend, made the decision to enroll an easy one.

Wanting to secure a new job as soon as possible, Nicole chose the full-time option, which would allow her to finish in three months.

“I quit teaching before I started boot camp, so going to class and keeping up with the homework was my only job,” she said. “I was determined to succeed.”

A different way of thinking

Although she’d always thought of herself as a “very shy” person, Nicole quickly formed a close group of friends at boot camp, and enjoyed collaborating on projects with them.

“It was awesome meeting people who were interested in the same things I was,” she said.

Nicole adapted quickly and excelled in class. Though the assignments were challenging, they were also a lot of fun—especially after three years in a job she didn’t enjoy.

“Programming is a better fit for my personality than teaching was. You have to think in a different way in order to understand the material; there’s a certain logic to it,” Nicole said. “After three years of teaching, I loved being a student again. I was in my element.”

The future is bright

Before she’d even completed boot camp, Nicole had a job offer from Imagine Software—the medical billing company where her friend who originally recommended the program worked. Two weeks after graduation, she started working there as a junior software engineer.

“When there are problems with the code, I’m the one who fixes it,” Nicole said. “I love my job. It’s not web development, but it’s still coding, so the logic is the same.”

Nicole still practices web development on the side and is currently creating a website for a client. She’s also the go-to person when her friends need tech help.

“There’s so much you can do when you know how to code. It’s a skill that’s so useful, and that not a lot of people have,” she said. “This whole experience has been great. I’m so much happier now than when I was teaching. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

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