Can Code, Will Travel: How Bootcamp Opened Doors for Agatha Kiecun
In high school, Agatha Kiecun was—to use her own words—“outrageously good at math and science.”
So how did she end up majoring in psychology at the University of Pittsburgh?
“Honestly, I felt like psychology was pushed on me because I was a woman,” Agatha said. “No one ever suggested I do anything math or science related. Not once. I was encouraged to be a teacher, or maybe a nurse.”
After graduation, Agatha moved to New York, but had a hard time finding her way. “I worked really hard all the way through high school and college, but when I looked for entry-level jobs in my field, there wasn’t much,” she said.
One opening, for a position working with children who have special needs, wanted someone to be on call 45 hours a week, with the understanding that they’d be paid for only 15 hours of work—at $12 per hour.
“It wasn’t a full-time job, but they didn’t want you to have another job either,” said Agatha. “It was frustrating. I couldn’t see a path to success.”
Finding her own way
After working as an administrative assistant for several months, and lacking any more enticing job opportunities, Agatha took a job as an au pair for a family in France and said au revoir to her life in New York.
Embarking on a new adventure was par for the course for Agatha. Although she was born in New York, as a toddler she’d moved with her family back to their native Poland, staying there for several years before returning to the United States. And during college, Agatha spent a semester abroad in Costa Rica.
Eventually, she found herself back in New York, working behind the front desk of a gymnastics school in Tribeca attended by the children of Manhattan’s powerful elite. She was treated well—and paid well—but didn’t love the job.
“As a woman, I think it’s easy to get stuck in roles where there’s no room to move up,” said Agatha. “Something had to change—I needed a real career.”
A new challenge
As she considered what to do next, Agatha kept coming back to her aptitude for math and science. Her father is an engineer, a field that appealed to her, but she knew she’d have to go back to school for quite some time if she wanted to follow in his footsteps. After waiting so long to find meaningful work, she was eager to get things rolling.
“People told me I’d be good at coding,” she said. “Bootcamp seemed like the best option to jump-start my career.”
Agatha chose Rutgers Coding Bootcamp both because she was familiar with the school and because it was close to home. She continued to work throughout the course, adjusting her full-time schedule down to 32 hours a week to allow for a little more flexibility.
“The curriculum was demanding, but handling the workload wasn’t a problem,” she said. “It was just a matter of time management and prioritizing. Plus, I really wanted it.”
Ambition—and asking for help—is key
While Agatha admitted that bootcamp may have been easier for her because of her natural aptitude for math and science, she believes anyone can learn to code if they enjoy it and are determined to succeed.
“The thing about coding is if you can’t figure something out, you have to just keep on going,” she said. “Ask for help, but know that there’s not always a simple answer. You have to walk someone through your whole process so they can understand what’s happening with your code.”
Luckily, Agatha had a strong support system to turn to when challenges arose. “My favorite thing about bootcamp was my instructor, by far,” she said. The TAs also were available to answer questions at any time.
“The most important thing they taught me was to learn how to learn—because you’ll never stop learning,” said Agatha. “To succeed at this, you have to be ambitious.”
Carving a place for women in tech
Thinking back to the way she’d felt discouraged from pursuing a career in tech earlier on, Agatha can’t help but be mystified.
“There are so many reasons why coding and web development should be women-dominated fields,” she said. “It’s much easier to get a remote job, with the type of flexibility that makes it easier to balance family and work. And it’s such an in-demand field. It’s accessible, and you can learn it quickly.”
Agatha highly encourages more women to get into coding and to believe in themselves and their abilities.
“Look at the reason you haven’t considered something,” she said. “It’s important to follow your dreams and not just do what other people think you can do. If you like what you’re doing and you work at it, you’ll succeed.”
The next adventure
Agatha recently started a job as a software engineer. She’ll first complete a 10-week training course in .Net before being assigned to a role somewhere in the United States—wherever there is most demand.
While Agatha has always been up for an adventure, this next one will be focused on growing her career. “After this, I’ll have two solid years of experience,” she said.
Down the road, she hopes to land a position as a senior developer—something that is well within reach now that she is armed with a solid skill set in tech.