Getting Back into the Corporate World After 10 Years: Meet Dee Li

Partner Stories
11.09.2017

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Original post published here.

Dee Li was a marketing pro turned stay-at-home-mom who was afraid to return to the corporate world after a 10-year hiatus. She found the Hackbright Prep course after dabbling in different jobs to explore coding. “The combination of the safe environment where the instructors worked so hard to tell us how our learning space was truly an open one,” she said, “made such a huge difference for someone like me – someone who is struggling to get beyond past insecurities or labeling/putting boundaries on what people thought or said I could or could not do”

What were you doing before you took the Hackbright Prep course, and what are you doing now?

My background is in marketing, and I’ve also worked as a freelance writer and dabbled in print layout design. I am currently a Salesforce Administrator for a medical products company. Prior to this, my first job back after being a stay-at-home mom for almost five years was working at a nonprofit. I had been away from the corporate work world for nearly a decade, and it was a struggle figuring how to get back to the 9-5. In 2015, I stumbled upon a return-to-work program to become a Salesforce Administrator through a wonderful organization called JVS. I’d worked with data and databases before, but was totally struck by the Salesforce lightning bug. My goal is to add “Developer” to my Salesforce skillset.

Let’s talk about your project at Hackbright. How did you use the influence of your daughter to help craft a game?

My project was a simple conversation game, where a super fan has the opportunity to chat with Lego Batman. “Lego Batman” grills the participant and asks questions and talks about himself a lot. I came up with this idea because, at the time, my 7-year-old was really into Lego Batman. While taking this prep course, she would ask to help with typing in coding exercises.

The first third of the year was pretty dark and depressing with all the self-loathing, so I wanted to create something light-hearted, that incorporated a bit of what I learned in class. This is something that I think we can work on and grow over time, and the topic really captures her sense of humor.

By folding my daughter into my journey learning coding, she can see what I’m doing, what I am struggling with, and experience that not everything is perfect on the first try. We made mistakes and stumbled together, and bonked our heads trying to debug it. Lately, with my new job and school starting again, we haven’t been working on it, but I know we will get it up and going again soon. She has some goofy jokes we can add to the queue!

 What was your favorite part of taking the course at Hackbright? 

The more I learned about Salesforce, the more intrigued I was by the developer side of Salesforce but was intimidated by the coding. I have to admit that my first year back to full-time work was really overwhelming, so I put the coding dreams on the back burner. It was a whirlwind catching up with program application changes, finding resources to support new job requirements, stacking on more Salesforce knowledge, and learning about the tech industry. I knew it would take time and patience, and believed I could learn the skills. At times last year, though, I struggled with feeling inadequate about work skills and went through slumps confidence-wise.

Around March this year, I decided to stop the self-loathing and take the dive toward breaking down this mental block and researched other alternatives to learning to code — and found out about Hackbright and Python.

To prepare for the prep class, I had signed up for Coursera’s Python classes but nothing was really sinking in. I realized that this is because of the way I prefer to learn new things – it has to be pretty immersive and repetitive for me to pick things up. I have to see, hear, and experience it with feedback, and learn from my colleague’s questions.

Before this class, I was so intimidated by the teach yourself coding instruction books and resources. Salesforce has wonderful resources for self-learning, and I rely on it heavily to learn the Administrator end. For whatever reason though, coding looked like gobbledegook.

Taking the prep course at Hackbright has changed the way I approach learning to code, and view hurdles from the perspective of problem-solving. I am now able to go back and look at the same materials and it doesn’t seem as overwhelming — just need to take it step by step.

The combination of Hackbright’s supportive environment, teaching methods, and the pair programming have allowed me to be super-attuned to the areas to focus on for improvement. The lecture and question structure for class was immediate feedback on what I understood and didn’t catch. The layers of class lecture, review, lab and homework helped me understand topics that were very difficult to comprehend on the first pass.

It made a huge difference that instructors and staff kept emphasizing how our learning space was truly an open one — particularly for someone like me, going through growing pains and struggling to get beyond past insecurities or labeling/boundaries on what people thought or said I could/could not do. My program manager and instructor/counselor provided feedback for improving the way I think about learning to code and improving self-talk and has made a huge difference in the way I now approach my work as well.

I wish I knew about Hackbright at the start of my journey into tech — it is a safe place where newbies to the tech side can safely share fears of starting something new and know that suggestions or mistakes won’t be harshly judged or permanently marring; where I could be myself, no judgment about personality or what happened in the past; where people would bravely tell me what is going on – honestly and supportively. I felt safe to experiment, grow and learn there.


Dee is continuing her coding education program and her goal for the next year is to jump right into learning the Salesforce coding program so that she can pass the Level 1 certification.

If you are interested in learning more about Hackbright Academy’s Prep Course or to learn about other course options go to their education page.

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