7 years my senior, my sister has always been one of my greatest inspirations. My "Ya-ya" as I called her as a baby, she taught me what it takes to succeed. One of the hardest working people I know, things don't come easy but she strives after what she wants with a dedication and drive that is unparalleled. I watched as she went off to college, I watched her graduate Summa Cum Laude, I watched her become a teacher and, most recently, I watched her change her life in a matter of 6 months. Let us start at the beginning.
My mother is an educator. So what do you think my sister and I wanted to be when we grew up? Educators. It's what we knew. It was stable, particularly if you were planning to teach a STEM subject. It was impactful. It simply made sense. So my sister went to college and studied Math, Spanish, and got a teaching credential. By 21 she was in a high school classroom and at that age you can imagine how many times she got mistaken for a student. She came in with the desire to change lives, as many young teachers do. The desire to reach students and show them the power of education. What she found was not what she expected.
Most individuals know that educators have a hard job. However, unless you are one or have lived with one, I'm not really sure you truly understand. I have watched the education system kill my mother my entire life. I have watched her be underpaid to work unrealistic hours without the resources necessary to fulfill the tasks set forth for her. I have watched her sacrifice her health for the sake of her job. I have watched her give everything for a cause she believes in and I have watched it destroy her. I watched my sister grade until the wee hours of the night only to wake up to teach in the morning. I watched her become exhausted by a work environment that didn't value her. I watched the perfectionist in her become crushed by a feeling of constant failure in the classroom. My mother is an incredible educator. My sister was a great teacher. The education system simply was not and is not great to them.
And so my sister stayed in the classroom for 6 years. Her last year she moved up to the Bay Area and, as one often discovers when they move to the Bay, she found that the tech industry, in general, valued it's people and promoted personal growth in a way she had never experienced before. She was awestruck by the contrast between her experience as an educator and the experiences of her peers at tech companies. They were receiving significant professional development. She wasn't. They were building a network. She wasn't. They were being valued. And unfortunately, she wasn't. My sister has never been the type to make drastic choices or to lean into significant change. She, like most of us, often stays in her lane. But it became clear that something had to give.
During that first year in the Bay my sister came across Hackbright Academy, an all women coding bootcamp. It specializes in building female software engineers from the ground up. And so she worked up the courage and she applied. And guess what? She got in! Not only that- she created an incredible scholarship application and received a full scholarship from Facebook to attend. Before she knew it she was on the road to becoming a software engineer.
I watched as she did coding challenges and took classes. I watched her learn and grow in her skills. I watched her struggle and I watched her push through. I watched her grow incredibly excited about a future that a year ago we would never have foreseen. By the end of her 3 months at Hackbright, my sister had created an incredible project of her own. Her design skills shined through and her abilities to grow as an engineer were undeniable.
And so the job hunt began. My sister was sending emails and creating contacts. She was white-boarding and prepping for interviews. Not a month after graduating from Hackbright she had an offer from Dropbox. She is starting her new career path as a Site Reliability Engineer there. Her first day was last week. And when I called and asked how it was she said "Sooooo different from teaching." I laughed but in that moment I could not believe how far she had come. In 6 months she had gone from teacher to student to engineer at Dropbox. She looked at the life she was living and realized it wasn't what she wanted anymore and instead of dealing with it or hoping it would get better, she changed it. And I could not be more proud of her.
My sister has helped shape me into the person I am. I have learned so much from her example. However, it is my belief that in these last 6 months she taught me the most important lesson she has ever and may ever teach me- It is never too late to change your life. It is never too late to decide that you want to follow another path. It is never too late to choose the life you were meant to live.