Home People Tech Talent: This Junior Programmer Overcame Cultural Stereotypes To Chase Her Passion for Tech

Tech Talent: This Junior Programmer Overcame Cultural Stereotypes To Chase Her Passion for Tech

by Muriel Vega

While Cherie Lum grew up around technology, she was limited in getting involved due to her heritage and family commitments. She shelved her interest in tech and earned her Bachelor’s in Sociology.

She saw her move to a new city, Atlanta, as the chance to rediscover her initial interest in technology. She joined DigitalCrafts’ Full-Stack Development program and the rest was history.

Her heritage is still present in her work, despite overcoming those gender stereotypes. During her time at DigitalCrafts, she challenged herself to build 88 websites in 88 days, a the number 88 symbolizes good luck and fortune in Chinese culture.

See how she hopes to put her Grow with Google Challenge Scholarship to work, why she loves teaching younger students to code, and what’s she’s looking for in a company. She just may be a great fit for yours!

What is your previous education?

Going to a coding boot camp was a complete career and academic change for me. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a minor in Business from the University of Vermont.

Why the interest in the technology field?

Ever since I was little I watched my uncle build computers. I was always fascinated by what I saw, but was never really allowed to get involved. In my culture, “being a girl” had certain expectations. This was made known to me the moment I was born, when certain family members left the hospital when they heard that I was a girl instead of a boy. Growing up, one of those stereotypes was not getting caught up in “boys” activities. After college I worked in various industries, but my interest in tech kept growing.

About two years ago, I started learning to code on my own during my free time through programs like freecodecamp and Khan Academy. Oftentimes, work got in the way of truly dedicating myself to coding. Recently I moved to a new city, quit my job, and enrolled in DigitalCrafts’  Part-Time Full-Stack Boot Camp cohort. I decided that there would never be a perfect time to make a career change, and that nothing was going to happen unless I took initiative and dedicated myself completely to making it happen.

What tech projects have you worked on?

We have had a bunch of cool projects in class, but what I’ve enjoyed the most is a coding challenge I made for myself: make 88 websites over 88 days. Those with a Chinese background will understand the importance of the number 88! I actually just finished my 88th site a few days ago; you can check it out here. I’ll also be uploading my final Digital Crafts project to this site in a few weeks so make sure to check back in mid-February for that.

What tech tools are essential to you as a developer?

Even though DigitalCrafts was a full-stack boot camp, I found myself gravitating more towards front-end development. I love coding in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript! But I also know enough Node.js, JSON API/ Ajax, Express, Postgres, and AWS to get a back-end development job done.

How do you stay on top of emerging trends? 

I stay informed by reaching out to a lot of DigitalCrafts alumni, communicating in Slack channels (i.e. Tech 404, Women Who Code, and Atlanta Tech Village), and tapping into the coder community. Not only have they turned me to Hack News, but also podcasts such as CodeNewbie and Syntax.

What are your best technical or creative skills?

My best technical skills are definitely HTML/CSS and JavaScript. I recently got a gig teaching high school students front-end development. It’s interesting and fun thinking of creative ways to explain things to people who have never coded before, especially since I was in their shoes a few months ago. It feels great. I also realize that as I work on the front-end of sites a lot, I enjoy creating databases and pulling from them.

What’s next on your list to learn?

I have a huge list of things to learn because learning excites me. I’m looking forward to learning Angular.js at the ngATL conference. I was also fortunate enough to receive the Grow with Google Challenge Scholarship for Udacity’s Front-End Web Developer Track, so as part of that course I’ll be brushing up on my algorithmic skills in JavaScript on top of the details of HTML/CSS that I may have missed. And lastly, but not least, I plan to learn React Native to complement my knowledge of React/Redux.

Are you interested in working for a startup, mid-sized company, or a corporate giant?

To be honest, size doesn’t matter. The most important things for me is that whatever company I work for provides opportunities to learn new things, use my creativity, and advance my career. I’ll leave it up to fate whether this happens at a startup, mid-sized company, or corporate giant!

Interested in looking at Cherie’s credentials? Here you go! LinkedInWebsite, and Github.

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