HOMETOWN: Johnson City, Tennessee
FORMER OCCUPATION: Music teacher K-2nd (2 years)
Can you talk about why you changed careers?
I worked at a conservatory as a music teacher, so I didn’t get summers off. I had Fridays and Sundays off, and I worked more than 40 hours a week. During a music department meeting our boss said, ‘if I want you here 60 hours a week, you should be able to do that at the drop of a hat.’ As a single mom on a thirty-thousand dollar salary and maxed out on student loans, I didn’t feel very secure with my station in life. I wanted to try something new.
Did you have any programming experience before the 42 basic training?
I had an HTML book in high school like 10 years ago. I got as far as frames and gave up. Computers never panned out as a career then, but I enjoyed the process.
That’s a bit of a stretch going from music to programming. What made you believe you could do it?
I’ve got a masters degree in viola performance, so I knew my brain worked reasonably well. Also my son. He’s a big motivator. He was three years old when we left to move to California. Now he’s five. He’s back in Tennessee. He was going through a Halo/Nerf-gun phase before I left. This meant that while I was doing dishes, there was usually an “enemy ambush” or two.
Can you talk about your expectations going into the piscine?
I was expecting to get a job immediately after the piscine. I thought I was going to work hard-hard-hard-hard-hard for a month and then I’d have enough skills to get a job. That is not how it works. This is a much longer process.
Can you talk about the piscine experience?
It was hellish. I didn’t get a dorm room, so I started off camping in my car. I thought this would be a way to save money; then I heard all these spooky stories about homeless people. The first night I got three hours of sleep. On the first day, I was expecting to see C in the exercises. Instead we did shell scripting. I bombed every single exercise. All I could say to myself was, “What is going on?”
What’s the 42 program like?
The piscine exists in part to make your life hard. The 42 program is for learning. It’s both easier and harder. It’s easier in that you don’t have 20 exercises due every day. But it can be harder in that you never hit a stage where you feel ‘comfortable.’ Every project has new ideas, so you can never get too complacent.
What is your dream job?
I like algorithms, so NASA would be cool.
Favorite educational quote:
“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”
A fabulous photo of Erika by Priscilla Vongdara:
Interview by: Robin Schramm
Robin is a writer, former English teacher, and 42 student. You can read more about Robin on his profile.