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The Ada Developers Academy class of 2015.
The Ada Developers Academy’s third cohort.

[Editor’s Note: In this special series, clinical psychologist Sally Moore chronicles her journey from therapist to coder, as she leaves her longtime profession to become a software developer.]

Some say that women in computer programming are like unicorns — they just don’t exist. Well, I have some really good news for everyone who loves unicorns! (And who doesn’t love unicorns?!?!?)

It’s May 4th. I’m in a room with twenty-three women I hardly know. For the next seven months, we will spend most of our time together. We make up the third cohort of Ada Developers Academy.

We arrived in clumps, spilling into ADA’s temporary home at Moz in downtown Seattle. Our room is in the middle of the open floor plan and is glass on two sides. It’s a little like being in an aquarium.

We start talking. As we do, we begin to discover the strengths of our group.

One strength that immediately jumps out is our diversity.

The prior careers of this crew include freelance writer, archivist, call center office assistant, flight attendant, AmeriCorps member, graphic designer, high school Spanish teacher, server at a restaurant, chemist, product researcher, accountant, and (my addition) clinical psychologist. And that’s just for starters. As you can gather, socioeconomic diversity is also apparent, which Ada facilitates through its new loan program and by providing stipends during internship. Some Adies, as we’re known, live in purchased homes, others in Apodments, most in apartments.

The variation in prior education is also remarkable. Most of us have a college degree, but the range is from some high school (no diploma) to graduate degrees.

One thing we don’t have among the Adies is any moms. Given the time commitment, I’d imagine it would be extremely challenging to go through this program as a parent. (It’s extremely challenging even without little ones!) Moms out there, please don’t let that discourage you. If you want to learn programming and you can make it work for you, ADA would love to have you.

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On the first day, our instructors, Kari and Jeremy, photographed each of us in front of a hand-painted sign, then posted the photos on the walls of our classroom along with some words of encouragement. (Click for larger image.)

The age range in our cohort is 22 to 38, not too shabby for a group of students. We are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Half of us are married or partnered, and half are single by the strictest definition — not just unmarried, but not in a serious relationship that they conceptualize as a partnership. Some are transplants to Seattle, from as far west as Hawaii and as far east as South Carolina (further if you count the Adie who moved to Seattle from Russia less than two years ago). I’ve lived here for 14 years; others were born here.

This bears repeating: Eight of these women, a third of the class, just uprooted their entire lives to move to Seattle for ADA. They have been in Seattle for somewhere between a few of days and a few weeks, depending on prior commitments. They are particularly brave.

But bravery is not something that we’re short on. We all chose to spend a year gaining skills to start a new career in which we will be the minority.

This is an amazing and inspiring group of people. They impressed me that first day, and I have been impressed and honored to count myself among them every day thereafter. Get to know them better: Alice Rhomieux, Amira Haile, Brittany Walentin, Loraine Kanervisto, Marleigh Chiles, and Michelle McCarthy all have blogs.

I write about my perspective and experience in ADA, but I can only speak for myself.

Unicorns? Yep, we’ve got ’em. If you think they don’t exist, you might be looking in the wrong places.

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