Alumni Spotlight: Stefanie Young and Lorne Barfield

Stefanie Young and Lorne Barfield are both Codeup grads and the co-founders of Innov8 Place, a website development company. Here, they share their highs, their lows, their experience and their best tips for succeeding during and after the program.

Please give a little introduction about yourself.

Stefanie: I’m originally from California. I grew up in the Silicon Valley before the days of Google and had a pretty decent handle on free internet via AOL Trial discs, Napster torrenting, and multi-player gaming platforms (before they were cool). Given the mid to late 90’s, I had quite a bit of backlash within the online communities for my gender and my age. I gave up on tech during my early college years when a female professor told me, “there no room for women in the booming tech industry.” I quickly turned to music and language arts and found myself pursuing the long-term degree before leaving for Texas to enter a Japanese Studies program. I had a rude awakening and poor experience when most jobs I was offered were non-technical, non-creative, and extremely repetitive. It wasn’t going to work. My grandfather had always been a firm believer that I was meant for tech, engineering and developing new ideas. After chatting with him about my failed attempts and unhappiness, I decided to give tech another try through coding and entered into the Codeup family. I worked full-time while attending a night class and found myself doubting my abilities from the beginning. During our first project, something clicked and with the help of the instructors, I had a new-found love for problem solving, developing and code. I haven’t turned back since.

Lorne: I’m also from California.  I hail from Oakland.  I’m into just about everything.  I have worked as a high school basketball coach, personal chef, bartender, bouncer, opera singer, paralegal/legal assistant, and dance instructor.  I love movies and books….I read about 40+ a year.  I’m into fantasy and sci-fi, but also enjoy reading Deepak Chopra and books about travelogues (which is somewhat funny because I’m terrified of traveling). I’m a hippie, jock, musician, and nerd. I love people and connection and for someone who grew up largely an only child, I’m always out creating new family.  If something interests me, I pursue it.  I like to dive into things that I can share with others.  I’m an avid NBA fan (Go Warriors!) and if you ever want to argue about basketball, I’m game.  If you want to see me fully free and in my element, put me around music and dancing. Programming puts me back in my Lego days, where I get to be creative and build things. It’s my new adventure.

Can you describe your career path and how you got to where you are now? Were you always interested in programming?

Stefanie: I wasn’t always interested in programming. I had always seen programming as a career that leads to a dark room with smelly individuals, Cheetos and Mountain Dew. I didn’t want to be placed in a cubical and made to work 10 – 16 hour days to complete a project or operating system. Web development when I first set out to learn tech was not a major degree option or talked about much. Browsers were faulty and new to the scene. It was a questionable career path at the time. My grandfather was an engineer with Stanford University and always brought home hardware for PCs. I thought that would be my path as well. I loved building and problem solving the communication errors between parts. Little did I know that programming was that too on a more abstract and dynamic level.

Lorne: I absolutely thought programming was way out of my range and my experience.  Nothing about it felt like something I would be into.  I had simply grown out of my old position and location.  I was a paralegal in San Francisco and I was no longer challenged.  I wanted to go back to school or do something new but had no clue what.  It was too expensive to do there, my parents brought up Codeup (they live here), and here I am.

Why did you look into an immersive program? Why the Codeup experience?

Stefanie: Honestly, I was extremely doubtful of the program, especially after being trained into the thought process that traditional college was the only form of useful education and the only experience one should seek before career searching. It wasn’t until I was trying to break into marketing firms, coding communities and design groups that I was told about the program. Three people approached me and recommended the program. I didn’t listen. Then life started shouting it at me. I saw the billboard… then a marketing card in the mail… and then I heard a friend talking about their acceptance into the program. Finally I gave in and went to the Codeup location.I took a couple of tests and passed with flying colors. I decided to take the leap since they were offering a night program that started after work hours. Since they helped with job placement as well, I took them to be my chance at a better work life.

Lorne: I was on the verge of going to teach English in Turkey when my parents suggested that I look at Codeup.  I took the test, not sure if I’d get in, and then when I did, I bought a ticket the next day and the rest is history.

What was your experience with Codeup?

Stefanie: Overall, my experience was eye-opening. I did not expect to have young mothers, grandmothers, high school graduates or college graduates with Masters in the same class. The culture was liberating since we were all there for the same reason – to change our paths and achieve new goals. The instructors were very hands on and helped everyone thinking about problem-solving in new ways and how to attempt developing ideas out of nothing. The hardest step was always deciding where to start and finding the confidence to dive in, code first, and prepare to work through your own problems and use the resources available. Lorne: Codeup opened my eyes to a new world.  They made programming and something that seemed so daunting, really fun.  I never thought I would enjoy it, but the collaborative nature of it and the creative juices that got to come out, made me fall in love with it.  The instructors, the classroom, everything about it made me feel like I could do it.  I think that was the largest thing.  Despite any difficulties or frustrating, I felt empowered…like given time and community, I could solve anything.  That’s an awesome feeling.

How do you feel Codeup has helped/is helping you grow? Did/How has Codeup’s career services helped you?

Stefanie: The program taught me independence and confidence. I am more free-thinking than I have ever been. I understand how to think about everyday issues from multiple viewpoints, and I know how to stand my ground and prove my points and way of thinking. I know that it’s okay to be wrong and how to go about admitting it. Even if it seems counterproductive to building independence, I know it’s okay to ask for help.The program also taught me about resourcefulness and communication on a whole new level. These two features alone were enough to land me just about any job. Soft skills are just as important as the hard skills.

Lorne: It taught me how to break down problems.  It taught me how to ask for help and that is perfectly right and ok. Codeup gave me my first job, and kind of my second, as I worked for one of the founders as my second.  They always believe in their students and help them match and grow.

Any advice for current and future Codeup Alumni?

Stefanie: Understand that this program is meant to accelerate your learning of development. You have to be hungry for this knowledge and supplement the curriculum outside of the classroom as well as practicing it. There has to be a drive for the goal ahead. Be willing to sacrifice some of your free time.This class is so much more rewarding if you learn to work as a class unit early on and help each other succeed. Employers will see it in your example work, the projects and want to hear about your ability to communicate and mesh well as a developer. Be open-minded and be willing to be wrong. I learned so much more from being wrong than from being right. Experience is priceless in the long run. 

Lorne: Stay patient and humble.  This world of programming is huge.  It can be overwhelming.  Just keep that learner mind and understand that time and keyboard time are your greatest assets.   It may not feel like you’re growing, but then you’ll look up every now and then and realize just how much you know and how far you’ve come.  It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

What was the best part of the experience in your opinion?

Stefanie: The staff and fellow classmates made the program great in my eyes. The interactions and experiences of having a new community of people who had similar goals made for a welcoming and productive environment.

Lorne: I think the greatest part is the classroom.  The idea that when everyone shares knowledge, everyone succeeds.  The collaborative power of coding is insane and if there’s anything I can attribute to the rapid rise of technology is that it brought a collective human mind to any problem.  People from all over the world now have the ability to work together to create brand new things.  You get your first taste of that in the classroom.  The sense that everyone wants you to succeed and you can lean on one another to fill in gaps where you may not be the strongest.  It’s a really amazing feeling.