Rylee Keys: Mentor, Network Director, and Self Taught Tech Success
Rylee Keys originally set out to become a medical professional. However when she finished her undergraduate degree (a Bachelor of Science in Science), she decided to take a break before continuing to grad school. In the meantime, she took a job in tech and worked in various roles at a couple of startups for several years. Eventually she realized that she wanted to stay in tech and not pursue a medical career.
Upon moving to Colorado and preparing to interview for jobs, she realized that she needed a clearer career path and decided to pivot into a software development role. That’s when she started teaching herself how to code. She describes the experience.
“After graduating from college pre-med, I realized I didn't want to be in the medical industry. I took jobs doing tech support and all-the-things (support, training, documentation, product management, backlog prioritization, etc) at startups, before realizing I needed to pivot onto a clearer career path. I'm a natural problem solver who likes to understand both overall systems and the details of how things fit together, so once I set my sights on software development, it was hard work, but a natural fit to make the change.”
However learning any craft on your own is difficult. Having people to ask advice of and help you understand concepts that might otherwise be a struggle can be invaluable. Rylee understood this and started reaching out to communities that could support her. That’s when she found Women Who Code.
“When I began teaching myself to program, I found local meetups related to women in technology. At one of those events, I decided to start a monthly Ruby study group and someone connected me to our local Women Who Code Network. I then started hosting my study group (for a year in Denver before I moved to Boulder) and attended other Women Who Code events.”
After moving to Boulder Rylee became one of the Directors for the local Women Who Code Network. This has had a variety of benefits to her life, both socially and professionally.
“Connecting with the Women Who Code community helped me learn by teaching. It's amazing to have someone walk into a meetup with zero coding background, study together and become friends, and see them take their first engineering job. I met my current employer first by attending women in tech and WWCode events at their office, before getting recruited to work there. WWCode helps me network to find awesome people to join my team at work and inspires me to keep learning.”
Rylee currently works on a small internal startup at CA Technologies that is focused on individual and small-group productivity, while also helping out on other CA projects. When asked what advice she has for people who are looking to become engineers she said, ”Our job is not to know. Our job is to learn, grow, and adapt.”
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to change mediums! Sometimes what I really need to get my head around a problem is a pen and paper or a large whiteboard.