This series profiles our instructors at Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program, giving you an inside look at their backgrounds and what they love most about working with and for our students. They also offer up solid advice for prospective students.
Name: Jess Bracht
Program(s): Grace Hopper Program, Fullstack Academy
Favorite previous experience: Teaching piano 🎹Jess is a classically trained piano player who’s been playing for about 18 years
Senior instructor Jess Bracht began programming in high school, and her passion for it originally pushed her into engineering. After two years in engineering, however, she realized she loved the coding part of it more than anything else, and she switched her major to Computer Science.
After Jess finished college, she began work as a software developer, but she felt like something was missing. It didn’t take long to put the pieces together: As a college undergrad, Jess worked as a course assistant and taught free piano lessons (see above!) as part of a campus group. She realized she missed teaching and wanted to merge that with her love for programming.
Enter: Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program, AKA the perfect place for Jess to do both of her favorite things.
Programming = Solving Cool Problems with Smart People
Jess loves the immediate feedback you get from programming and, more specifically, web development. Just a simple page refresh is all you need to understand how the code you’re writing is working out. She also enjoys the problem solving and being in a field where you get to constantly exercise your brain. It’s impossible to get bored, and teaching practically guarantees her skills will never get rusty.
As a senior instructor, Jess has the opportunity to not only help her students but learn from them, too. The questions they ask and the bugs she works with her cohorts to fix can sometimes test the limits of her current knowledge, which pushes her to dive deeper and continue learning on her own so she can be a stronger teacher.
Success Isn’t About Outcomes, It’s About Your Desire to Learn
In her work at Fullstack and Grace Hopper Program, one memory really stands out. One senior phase, a group of students clearly seemed to be struggling with the work and falling behind. After a frank discussion with Jess about what the plan needed to be to move forward, the team banded together and worked hard, achieving a synchronicity Jess hadn’t seen in them prior to that point. They managed to not only stick to the plan but to exceed the expectations set for them, which made everyone involved happy and proud.
She points out that success doesn’t ever have to mean that you pass all the tests or code perfectly; it means that you’re always learning and growing, and you’re passionate about doing those things. Being eager to learn is something that really sets you apart, student or not—it’s actually how Jess landed her first coding internship. She belives a succesful student is, above all, eternally curious.
Advice to Prospective Students
You Can’t Escape the Bugs, Folks
A lot of students come into the program with the notion that in order to be a valuable programmer or progress in their career, they should start seeing less bugs over time. Jess points out this is a fallacy: You’ll always see bugs, no matter how advanced a programmer you are. Sure, they might be different than the ones you saw early on in your developer career, but you’ll never get away from the debugging process. Professionals make bugs, just like beginners do. Remember that.
You Don’t Have to Eat-Pray-Love Code to Be a Good Coder
Don’t buy into the stereotype that you have to be a super intense coder, living and breathing programming in order to be successful. Jess believes you can like coding, love parts of it and hate others, and still belong in tech as much as anyone else. She elaborates, “There’s a stereotype that you need to do it all, and dream in code, but that’s not the case. You can simply just like it and be good at it, and you will be successful.”
You Don’t Have to Be an Expert on All the New Tech Trends
Like any of us paying attention to the rapidly shifting tech frontier, students and developers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of new technology. There are so many langugages, frameworks, databases, and technologies shaking things up these days. Jess wants you to stop worrying about learning it all. It’s important to instead center yourself and remember that you don’t have to know everything. Be good at your area of interest and maintain a general knowledge about what’s going on in the tech world, and you’ll be just fine.
On Imposter Syndrome as a Woman in Tech
Women are still vastly underrepresented in tech, and this can lead to a looming sense of not being good enough or not belonging—in other words, imposter syndrome. Being the minority can also cause you to feel that you have to represent and speak for everyone who looks like you.
Jess knows that it’s common for underrepresented groups to feel this way and as a woman in tech, she often is the minority in any given situation and struggles with the burden of feeling like she has to be the face of all women in tech.
She traces the start of her imposter syndrome to her undergrad education, when she was surrounded by people who seemed to be much more committed to coding or had more experience than she did. She spent a lot of time feeling like she was falling behind or that she didn’t belong in the room at all. When she started her job search, she questioned the offers she received: Did she deserve this, or did they just need to fill a quota and hire a woman?
Jess still faces the nagging voice that she is a fraud. If she were to give you advice about it, it would be that you are not alone. This is a very common feeling, especially in tech. There are a lot of smart people in this industry, and it’s easy to tell yourself you’re not really one of them. However—you are. Jess is. We all are. Sometimes you just need that reminder.
If you want more insight on how to push back against feelings of inadequacy, check out our posts on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and fellow instructor Dakota Blair’s advice on this pervasive—and pesky—state of mind.