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Choosing Family and Career: Why I Became a Software Engineer

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”— Sheryl Sandberg

I came to Launch Academy burned out on journalism and looking for not only a new career, but a new way of life.

I had spent my entire 20s feeding my career as a newspaper editor, methodically paying my dues and climbing the ladder in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and New York. I gave journalism my everything: my hopes and dreams, long days of working odd shifts, and longer nights blowing off steam with my fellow journalists at the bar. I was ambitious, convinced that if I just worked hard enough it would only be a matter of time before I was working at the New York Times. But, slowly, my motivation dissipated.

As soon as my husband and I took steps toward starting a family, I realized there was no room in the newsroom for a baby. Yes, people make it work, but in my experience they are the outliers. So many print and online journalists are in their 20s, hungry and unattached. As I got older, I realized I couldn’t keep up, I didn’t see any room for me at the top, and—most importantly—there was no way for me to work like a demon and be present as a mom.

So, I picked my family over my career. It was hard, I doubted myself, but I did it anyway. I took a job at the New York Public Library and tried to make that work. But after we adopted our beautiful son, it became clear that going to an office every day and commuting an hour each way made it impossible to see him for more than a half-hour at a time, and that just wasn’t going to fly. It was around this time that I found coding, first on my own and later with Code Academy and Girl Develop It, and I realized a career in tech could be flexible enough to let my family in.

I started off as a student at Launch Academy and, after graduation, am now an Apprentice Experience Engineer, leading mentor groups, facilitations, and live codes on campus and providing chat support for our students in Ignition. With the way my role is structured, I work from home four days a week. That means, four nights a week I can hear my son’s giggle in the other room. Four nights a week, I can read off a quick rendition of The Cat in the Hat if I have a minute. Four nights a week, I can sing lullabies at bedtime. That is an amazing thing. And it’s the kind of flexibility that is commonplace in tech: As long as the work gets done, who cares where you physically are?

I remember reading Lean In when it came out, and Sheryl Sandberg talked about how she would put her kids to bed and then work from home. “Yeah, right,” I scoffed. I was in journalism then. Now I know better.

Arielle Landau is a software engineer and Launch Academy graduate. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

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