Adriana Cabrera, Oxana Ermolenko, and Rachel Fischoff are current apprentices in CTD Labs, where they are developing their software development skills and creating apps that work towards positive social change. Recently, they spoke about their time at CTD to Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
- Tell us about yourself and how you came to Code the Dream?
Adriana: My name is Adriana Cabrera. I came from Mexico City and heard about Code the Dream when my college counselor suggested I contact an organization called Immigrants Rising. They sent me the Code the Dream link.
Rachel: I’m Rachel Fischoff and am a Chapel Hill native who graduated from UNC in 2005. I have a background in non-profit, marketing, law school, odd/ends and most recently and consistently bar-tending, serving and catering. I attended a full stack bootcamp right before quarantine and finished in summer 2020. I applied to tech jobs and internships however nothing came to fruition.
In the meantime, I interned with The Collab Lab and volunteered with Out In Tech and helped create the lavender book and digital corps. The Lavender Book is a crowd-sourced application created by the team at National Black Justice Coalition and Out in Tech built for the Black Queer, Black Trans and Black Gender Non-Binary communities. I started feeling disgruntled about tech and went back to bar-tending where I ran into someone from Code the Dream. I applied to be an apprentice and have been here since October 2021.
- Why do you want to be a software developer?
Oxana: Software Development is a career path with endless progression, unlimited opportunities to grow in different roles, and learn different technologies. For me, it is the way to understand what I like best, what I am capable of, what my power is.
Rachel: I always wanted a stable career where I could make a good income and help my family. Unfortunately, I dropped out of law school because of chronic mental illness. Tech was a logical solution after many different avenues. I do like problem solving and researching. Tech is everywhere and these are tools like agile project management that allow you to move from lower earning jobs to a higher income bracket. Hopefully, I can get out of debt and not be financially stressed.
Adriana: I believe in pursuing your dreams. I was involved in this industry 14 years ago and I wanted to come back to be able to build the projects that I was not able to accomplish a few years ago. Also, I think at this time the world needs inclusion and union in all areas. A low-income Latina (woman of color) is seldom someone’s idea of being in the tech field, but I hope my experiences give my peers the opportunity to believe in themselves again, and never give up on their dreams and aspirations in spite of the challenges they could face. You are never too old or arrive too late to continue to dream.
- As a woman in Tech, what have been some of your biggest challenges and how did you work through them?
Oxana: My problem was I afraid to ask questions and seem stupid. But I am trying to change that and am really happy when I do.
Adriana: Well, as a woman of color, I was facing many challenges like the language barrier because of my accent, and the image of the types of positions that an immigrant, latina woman could hold.
- What’s the most rewarding thing about being an apprentice at Code the Dream?
Oxana: I am not alone and work in a team. And, I can communicate with peers about anything.
Adriana: I was able to find a safe and secure space where I feel included. Also, I was able to create a prototype that was in my heart to help people that are facing domestic violence incidents. This was my first project after I finished my class.
Rachel: I really love coding and problem solving daily. I love learning from people how to be a better programmer. I like to learn new technologies and other skill sets as well. I’m helping lead a team now and it’s a good lesson in time management, encouragement and patience.
- What is it like being an apprentice at CTD Labs?
Adriana: It is like having a second chance in life. I have been learning not only about how to code, but how to be part of a great organization that is giving opportunities to communities of color because they believe in them and in their dreams too.
- Can you tell us a bit about the app you’re working on now?
Oxana: I am working on the Vamos project. It is a big team with back-end, and front-end developers, with a project manager and senior leader in every team. We also work in an Agile environment like many corporate companies.
Rachel: I’m working on two projects at the moment. One is for an external client and is a text messaging app. I built it in node.js. I’m also working on an internal application with 3 other apprentices where I’m helping lead the project.
- What advice would you give to any high school student interested in getting into coding?
Oxana: Think that you are already a professional in tech. This will give you the power to face any challenges and to keep trying and not to give up.