How I made the transition from working at a call center to being a programmer

Mariel Quezada Gallardo
Posted by Mariel Quezada Gallardo on Sep 23, 2020 2:59:38 PM

A short story of how I went from horror days at a 24/7 call center to earning 3 times my salary after 6 months at Laboratoria’s bootcamp.

Today I want to tell you a little more about myself so that we can get to know each other better.

I turned 29 years old just before the quarantine began and I am currently working in web development. My life changed about 2 years ago just when I started studying programming at Laboratoria.✨

Before that, for a long time I lived "at 3 and 4" (this is an expression from Chile and it refers to when you live with just enough money day to day and you cannot afford anything else). I worked at temporary jobs, literally working at anything I could as long as I was able to survive. I was a waitress, saleswoman, pastry chef, baker, restocker, inventory manager, even a cleaning assistant in a supermarket, until I got into the dreadful world of call centers where at least you work sitting down, but the amount of insults and yelling that you are expected to endure from customers every day can break anyone. 🤷‍♀️ I worked there during the last 2 years before staring up my studies again.

All of this happened because from the age of 18 I started living on my own. My family’s house was never a safe place for me. I had to flee when I was 12 years old from the abuse of my stepfather and the abuse of my older brother. At that point I lived with my uncles in the south 👩‍🌾 and then I went from one house to another between boarding house, houses of friends and distant relatives.

I managed to enter higher education and pursue a career in Digital Animation, but this left me with nothing but debt and a great depression because I felt I couldn’t do anything good with my life. I felt like I had already ruined everything by choosing such a career that is so difficult to succeed in.

There was nothing left to do because it was unthinkable to study for another 5 years. With what money? It was not enough for me to live, sometimes we had to collect the 10 peso coins (pennies) to buy toilet paper in a convenience store or even to pay for the bus.

Yesterday I was reviewing my notebook from when I started the bootcamp (the one I used as a planner back then) and within it I found notes that I had taken during job interviews: For example, at a restaurant they offered me the huge amount of $240.000 (280 USD approximately) for working 45 hours a week. What a deal! 🤦‍♀️💸

I was always afraid of programming because I thought it was something only for "geeks" or for super nerdy men. But now I know that I couldn't have been more mistaken. Literally ANYONE can learn how to code 👩‍💻, even girls or boys. I’m a clear example, I went from not understanding anything to, 6 months later, being called for interviews to work as a Front-end Developer with an impressive CV, a nice portfolio and a GitHub account full of projects made by me. Unbelievable!

At Laboratoria I learned that you are the one to set limits. 💪. There is nothing we can't learn. Our brains are elastic and can change, even traumas can be overcome, depression can be overcome. But for that, we first have to be doing something that we enjoy, something in which we feel useful, and of course have the money to cover at least our basic needs. After that, the rest is only happiness, it's for achieving dreams, and for making your deepest desires come true. In my case, for example, my greatest wish was to live in a nice and stable home 🏠, where I would not be afraid that somebody could kick me out at any moment, and now it's a reality. I have lived in a beautiful apartment with my partner for over a year and we are very happy here 💏. Another great achievement for me has been to be able to help my mother with her medical treatments. Now I can see that she is well, happy, and motivated to keep on going. That is priceless ❤️.

But, what were those six months like? Intense. That is the right word. We had to put a lot of effort into learning new things that we didn't understand, we had to learn how to work with new people and adapt to an educational model that is completely unconventional.

They grouped us into teams of 6 (we were only women) and there you had to complete a project in 1 or 2 weeks. I went through some tough moments, I was often stressed and I did not get along with all of them. I’m sure I could have done more, I could have been nicer to the teachers (called coaches) and the whole team but it is very difficult for me to be sociable with strangers. Even so, I will be grateful for them all my life ❤️ . The bad parts I no longer remember as clearly as the good times that I had; the wonderful friends that I made, and all the good times and meetings that we had during those days. It's not easy but it is worth it, you realize that many girls are going through the same thing as you, and that makes for a very beautiful and very close community that has lasted until today. 👭

That's how I went from 0 to 100 in only 6 months. Afterwards I was able to get my first job earning the total sum of $800,000 a month, 3 times more than in my former job ($1015 USD approximately)  🙌 and beyond that, I was able to participate in a top notch event called Teleton in 2018. During the event we competed alongside tech experts and highly experienced teams, enduring 40 hours without sleep, encouraging the team until we reached the semifinals.🏆

Almost 2 years have passed already and many more lay ahead, and with many challenges yet to come. I would like to encourage more women like me to change their lives, to overcome their situations and get out of the poverty (economic and cultural) in which in many cases we’re born into. Because “housewives” can also learn to code and it's worth giving it a try. If I could do it, you can do it too!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @lavandaconde!  Everyday I’m making materials to help more girls to get into the world of coding.

*Translated by: RunaHR Team - Service Day 2020

Topics: Article, Culture of learning


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