Veronica Lino started her career as an engineer at NASA, writing code for simulation software. It was there that she became interested in web development, taught herself to code websites, and started moonlighting as a freelance web developer. When her career at NASA became uncertain due to layoffs and lack of funding, she left to work as a web developer at a small startup, building applications for people in the oil and gas industry.
While working at the startup, her development skills grew quickly. While she lacked the mentorship and organizational structure you’d find at larger corporations, she worked on projects she probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to otherwise and could scale her skills quickly. “I don't think anybody would've been prepared for that, but did I learn a lot? Absolutely,” says Veronica. She suggests that if students are willing to be uncomfortable, they can learn many new skills quickly by working in a startup environment.
Veronica’s favorite thing about web development is that it requires the perfect mix of logic and creativity. From the interactivity and animation to debugging, there’s a lot of intriguing problem-solving required. “There's no recipe for any of these projects or applications you have. If you’re given a problem to solve, you have to figure out the best way to handle that problem,” she asserts.
In addition to problem-solving skills, she suggests that students who do well in her classes have good pattern recognition skills. “There's a level of abstract thinking necessary for this career,” she acknowledges. In her experience, even when her students come from other industries and careers, the ones who’ve been introduced to abstract thinking tend to pick up on concepts quickly.
“If you've never been introduced to that, it's gonna be scary and frightening, but you can get through it. You just have to not give up on yourself, and you have to practice.” She recommends that students practice problem-solving and logic-based games like Sudoku to strengthen that muscle.
As a Black woman in tech, Veronica can identify with students who may wonder where they fit into a space where not many people look like them. She recommends that students from underrepresented groups find mentors and seek out communities of developers they can relate to and feel supported. “Reach out to people who look like you. Just don't be afraid,” states Veronica. “You can carve space out for yourself.” She suggests students join local meetup groups and organizations dedicated to underrepresented groups in tech.
Over the course of her career, she’s witnessed many changes in the industry over the years, but the emergence of bootcamps is something that she wishes had come sooner. In her experience, while traditional computer science degrees covered theory, students were often left to teach themselves the practical application of that theory. “As a new developer, there's so much stuff to learn, and people don't know where to start. I think bootcamps have been successfully bridging that gap,” she mentions.
As students prepare for class, she admits that it will be challenging, “We cover a lot of information in four months. However, you have to keep on going and not give up because things are gonna sink in. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow, but it will all come together at some point. So just keep on going,” she adds. As a veteran instructor at DigitalCrafts, Veronica continues to teach year after year because she’s inspired to see her students change their lives by entering the tech industry. “I've had students say things like, ‘I just bought my first house, and I get to see them achieve the American dream. That feeling is addicting, knowing that you're really helping people.”