Patricia Ehrhardt: Conquering Her Goals and Coding Over 40

Member Reflections
09.20.2016

written by

Patricia Ehrhardt is a courageous individual,that through determination, intelligence, and the help of some colleagues along the way, was able to completely change her professional life. After a 20+ year career in administration and operations she made a decision to switch industries and pursue her passion by teaching herself how to code. This is a process that was terrifying, and there were obstacles to overcome, but she pushed past any and all blockers to achieve her goal of becoming a software developer. In her own words:

“Originally I wanted to learn to code to help my friend Rebecca run her startup Cake Health. She said Hey, learn Ruby and I will hire you (that is how I ended up at Railsbridge). I then attended a WWCode study group for Javascript and knew this was where I wanted to start. That is really when I developed an interest in coding, when I saw that I could make the internet do what I wanted it to!”

As Patricia continued to pursue her education and new career goals, Women Who Code remained an important element in her life.

“I heard about WWCode at my very first hackathon, which was Railsbridge. I had decided to switch careers from 20+ years in administration and operations to one of software developer and was going to do it all for free! WWCode was brought up as an alternative to the online MOOCS at Coursera and Stanford that I was taking. I did not yet know the power of paired programming and meetups so I wasn't ready to leave the comfort of writing horribly bad beginner code in my own home for coding in public. BOY was I wrong.”

During the process of reimagining her career, a twist of fate suddenly thrust Patricia into the world of tech, forcing her to make use of her skills sooner than expected. Luckily she was ready.

“I was laid off after 8 years in 2014. My last day was December 31 and because of the WWCode Javascript study group meetup I had been attending for a year prior, I was able to land a job as a web content developer on January 1st 2015!”

While Patricia was able to successfully navigate a path into the tech industry, moving to the next level and becoming a mentor, leader, and role model wasn’t easy. She had to overcome a lot of her own self doubt and uncertainty along the way.

“Imposter Syndrome is a lot of the reason that it took me so long to feel I had the skills to help others. When I first understood that anyone, at any level can help each other out was when I attended an Android Mobile Dev Meetup with WWCode. I was completely lost in the SDK and got someone to help me figure it out. The next week that I showed up, now only my second time there, someone was having the exact same problem (API issues) and I was able to help them resolve it. This led me to have the confidence to be a mentor in 2015 at the My Brother's Keeper(MBK) Hackathon in Oakland.”

Today Patricia has a successful career as a freelance engineer and web developer specializing in Python, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, and Html / Css. She is also the creator of Coding Over 40, an online repository of educational resources, articles, news, and inspirational stories about her own journey in tech and those of others in the industry.

When asked what advice she has for people who are trying to learn to code like she did, she says, “When you are first starting out, don't try to learn everything. In other words, don't do what I did and try to learn Javascript, Ruby, Objective C, Java, Python, Ruby, C# etc all at once. I was not successful at this and I have still not met anyone who has been. Find out the one high level programming language you are passionate about and learn it really well. I chose Javascript and Python, and I have not been disappointed.”

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