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A new career at 55

Liz
Liz Beigle-Bryant
Seattle
Seattle

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Liz Beigle-Bryant was laid off from her job in November 2012. After a couple of months' hard work she now has a new position.

1. Why did you want to learn to code?

Thirty years ago I was making $15 an hour as an analog draftsman and technical illustrator. Before I was laid off this past November, I was fighting to get $15 an hour for administrative jobs. So instead of letting the world push me into a tiny $15 box, I'm changing the game by reinventing myself.

2. How did you get started?

Earlier this year I started taking SQL Server courses to complement my SharePoint work. Through those classes, I found out that I'm actually pretty good at coding and find it really fun. But I don't have the $3000 it will take to finish the course; that's one aspect of what makes Codecademy so great - it's free!

3. Did knowing how to code help you in the job search?

So I'm 55, and I don’t have a college degree. That means I need to work out ways to foil the resume algorithms that would automatically discard my resume. Key web coding skills such as JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby, HTML, CSS, and Python (PHP & MySQL too) helped shoot me to the head of the queue. My daily hard work on Codecademy also gave me a feeling of competence, which helped me to be confident and knowledgeable in my interviews.

4. What advice do you have for job seekers?

Stay motivated

I also get a lot of self-esteem and motivation through streaks, badges, and points. It helps me stay resilient during the days when I’m facing disappointments, and keeps me focused on positive activities that have the added bonus of being highly marketable.

‘Live’ time, don’t kill it

A key part of the job search is staying motivated and positive during what is a pretty soul-destroying process. I once described Codecademy as "M&Ms for the mind" — it sure beats playing Mahjong, Farmville or other ways of procrastinating. I like to think of myself ‘living’ time instead of ‘killing’ time by learning to code.

Find what works for you

I was diagnosed with ADD a couple of years ago; that accounts for my current lack of a college degree. The cool thing about finally knowing about the ADD is that I can now tailor my approach to learning. Codecademy's small lessons really help a person like me who has trouble focusing on long lessons or technical tomes.

5. Any parting words of advice?

Sell yourself 'long', don't sell yourself short. After the latest layoff, a dear friend of mine who is a senior HR manager counseled me to go after receptionist jobs, because I'm competing against so many younger people for the available 'better' paying administrative jobs in this tough economy.

The advice was meant well, but I didn't want to go backwards in my career. I didn't want to sell myself short, so I started looking for ways to make myself more marketable. I wanted to complement my SharePoint skills, so I found Codecademy to work on HTML and other web tools. Because of what I learned at Codecademy, I'm now a full time SharePoint Content Editor instead of selling myself short.

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