From the Service Industry to Software Development

By Randi Mays

Randi Mays

For many teenagers, the path to self-reliance starts in one of two places: a restaurant or retail store. Until it’s time to begin a professional career, you’re working that part-time job stocking shelves, helping irate customers with expired coupons or prepping for the dinner rush. I’d venture to say I’m one of the very few who was sad to leave that lifestyle behind.

I worked in the food service and retail industries for 10 years before I attended Codeup. I took great pride in my work every day; I couldn’t go home until everything was near perfect: my work area spotless, the shelves neatly stocked and everything ready for the next shift. When it came time to leave the service industry and move on to professional work, I was initially reluctant. I had found great personal fulfillment and success in customer service. Why would I want to leave?

I have big dreams. Of course I want to travel the world, spending my vacations in exotic destinations, trying new foods, seeing centuries-old architecture, and making lasting memories. But more importantly, I wanted to work for a company with a more widespread mission than gastronomic satisfaction. I wanted to work alongside people with a passion for their work that ran far deeper than a paycheck.

After graduating from Codeup in September 2016, I began working for USAA as a software developer and I can tell you–the company is no stranger to giving. Each employee receives company paid volunteer hours and I used some of mine to volunteer at the San Antonio Food Bank among dozens of other USAA employees. Last year when Hurricane Harvey hit, USAA was quick to organize several volunteer sessions at their home campus to prepare food and other basic necessities to be delivered to people in need. They even have a system where I can automatically deduct a specified amount from my paycheck to give to charitable causes I am passionate about. I have heard story after story about their representatives on the phone going above and beyond their duties to serve members in combat zones and at home. I can’t enumerate here all of the reasons I admire USAA for its community involvement and caring, but I’m sure I’ve made my point.

There are times I look back on my experience in food service and retail nostalgically, remembering how I excelled in those positions and enjoyed the repetitive work. Then I come back to the present and remember how big an impact my employer makes serving the military community and their families, and how many lives are changed by the work I do with my team. I find great personal satisfaction and pride in my work every day, and I am just getting started.

Women in Tech Scholarship Recipient: Amy

Codeup exterior

One thing that I can proudly say after this whole Codeup process is that I survived (and thrived) as an independent woman, although not without serious help from others!  This is my opportunity to thank those who have helped, including Codeup for generously offering me their Women in Tech Scholarship.

Before Codeup, I was working full-time in another industry with a low salary.  I lived alone and was paying for all my rent and bills on my own, with no partner or parents for financial support.  In my field at the time, I struggled for years seeking advancement and growth opportunities from an industry that did not seem to value my skill set.

Even given that stressful mindset, the idea of forfeiting my only source of income for several months to attend Codeup was extremely scary.  To justify this, I spent a lot of time researching, including attending Codeup sponsored events, and reaching out to Codeup alumni and friends in the tech industry for their opinion.  Still, with all the encouragement in the world, my objections were:

  • Will employers hire me over a degreed Computer Science graduate?
  • Will I be a “good” coder?
  • Will I be an attractive candidate to employers, with my non-tech background?
  • How long will it take me to get hired?
  • Will this investment in Codeup be worth it?
  • Will I run out of my savings and die penniless on the mean streets of San Antonio (severe and irrational anxiety speaking here!)


Let me just go ahead and assure you that everything worked out – very well, in fact!  I made the leap of faith and decided to join the Redwood cohort. Here is my first person to thank: a male friend of mine who has been a programmer for years, who strongly encouraged me that this was a great direction for me to take to secure fulfillment and my continued independence.  I struggled to find statistics on this, but I have heard many similar stories from women about the men in their lives (friends, family, boyfriends, husbands) who work in the tech industry and encouraged them to learn to code.

On the first day of class, I counted: 6 women out of 23 total students.  Not bad! Despite the fact that these women were of different ages, marital statuses, careers, and stages of life, we all quickly bonded.  Within the first few weeks, we even planned our own Girls Night Out at a bar across the street from campus (that the guys from our cohort crashed, and I don’t think anyone was upset about that)!  We also all participated in Codeup’s weekly women’s lunches, with featured female speakers who were alumnae or from the tech industry. Throughout the entire 18 strenuous weeks, these women and I supported and checked in with each other. Luckily, everyone in our cohort did the same, no matter the gender.  Thank you for this, Redwood women and men!


To make a long story short, I was hired as a full stack developer a month before my graduation, with a decent pay bump from my previous career, and am now working in my second job in the field (yet another pay bump!) where I feel personally valued on a daily basis.  All of this, less than a year since starting Codeup!  As my final thank you, I am extremely grateful to Codeup for awarding me their Women in Tech scholarship, because it significantly reduced the loan amount I needed to attend, helped relieve a little bit of the anxiety of paying for Codeup, gave me more incentive to attend, and confirmed that I indeed was exactly what Codeup and employers were looking for in students and coders.

If you’re a woman who desires independence and self-fulfillment, Codeup is worth it!  Make sure to apply to the scholarship during your admissions process and feel free to reach out to me or other female alumnae if you want to hear more about our experiences before, during, and after Codeup.


Amy is very proud to say she is currently the only female developer employee working on Whataburger’s first ever online ordering platform. She has a Master’s degree in Music Theory and keeps that knowledge fresh by analyzing music on the radio during her daily commute. Since learning to code, what she enjoys the most is mentoring new developers.

Women’s Scholarship Recipient: Stephanie Riera

Codeup programming students

Women’s Scholarship Recipient: Stephanie Riera

Congratulations to Stephanie Riera! She will be the recipient of the first women’s scholarship for our November Bootcamp. Stephanie will be getting 50% off of tuition.

I would not have the opportunity to learn programming in such a short amount of time if it were not for this scholarship opportunity. Now I have the means to start a new career with a renewed set of skills that are currently in demand. Becoming a programmer means I can take on any cool project or perhaps a business idea and see it come to fruition. It also means I can embed my creativity in the process, which is awesome, because I’m a stickler for details.

Way to go, Stephanie – we’re pumped to have you in our upcoming class, and we can’t wait to see you in the Codeup classroom!