A Journey from Medicine to Code. Meet Irma Mesa.
Welcome to our interview series, where we introduce you to developers of all levels from all walks of life. Prepare to be inspired!
Today we meet Irma Mesa, a product manager who has picked up coding on the side! Find out how she stumbled upon her new passion and also discover a great resource for working remotely!
What’s your current position and company?
Currently, I am a Product Manager working for a small 30ish person team ed-tech agency/startup, called Open Up Resources. We’re all remote.
I code on the side for my own personal projects or client work here and there 🙂
What’s your day-to-day like?
Day to day as a PM sorta goes like this:
5-6am: Gym time. It helps wake me up and start my day really strong.
7-9am: Get ready for the day, take dogs out, breakfast with my partner, and then I sit down to plan out my day in my journal.
9-11am: Catch up on emails, engineering stories, QA checks usually.
11-3PM: Mostly meeting with engineering, product, sales, etc.
3-5PM: This is my head downtime and I focus on documentation, user research, design, and writing user stories!
You weren’t always in this industry! Can you tell us about your background before discovering code? What skills from your previous career have been helpful to you as a developer?
Yes! So I entered college in the summer of 2011 with the mindset that I wanted to go into being an ER Surgeon. My parents were really pushing me to enter the medical field because of job security so I did just that.
Looking back, I definitely wish I would’ve explored my options but it all turned out okay.
Growing up, I had always had this really big interest in technology, mainly with laptops and phones. I learned how to fix them, troubleshoot the software, and overall became the go-to technical guru for family and friends.
I knew I had this passion but I had no idea what I would do with it career-wise. Up to this point, I didn’t have any role models in tech so I just fell back to pursuing medicine.
Entering college as a biology major, I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me. Even going through my first apprenticeship with a surgeon I immediately wanted out!
So, I talked to my counselor at school and I decided to switch my major to Psychology. I chose Psych because I had always been interested in how humans think and how we make decisions. This major allowed me to explore just that.
Nearing my last year in college, I stumbled upon Codecademy. I must’ve seen it on a Google search or in an online community. So, I registered and got started with their HTML course, and I fell in love.
I remember looking at the time after I started the course and I had spent at least 4-5 hours just there typing and learning this super cool markup language. It was honestly the first time I had been so deep in learning. I was shocked that I was able to pick it up so quickly.
The great thing about programming is that you’re not only able to learn and ship a thing out into the real world, but you’re also able to fail.
And programming taught me to be okay with failure.
Since then, having development in my career background has opened a lot of doors for me. It helped me land my first job at a tech company, it’s allowed me to meet so many eager developers in the community, and it’s also provided me the change to help others who were in that weird phase in their life/career to figure out if programming or tech is for them.
It is so amazing that you are self-taught! Can you tell us about how you got into code, and why you chose this career path?
I’m currently not a developer full-time, but I do code on the side. Tech, in general, has always been an industry that I’ve loved and programming happened to be part of it.
I got into code by chance. Honestly, if I had never stumbled upon Codecademy that one night I may have never learned about what coding was until much later on.
Can you tell us about RemoteNewbie?
Remote Newbie is built for remote workers by a remote worker. I’ve been helping folks get started with remote work for 2 years now!
I’m excited to have launched Remote Newbie to share what I have learned and help those people that are looking to begin their career journey working from home.
Right now it’s a newsletter and email course that I send out weekly. But in Q1 of 2020, I’ll be releasing a free course all about remote work for those that are eager to get started!
I also hold office hours for people that want questions answered or advice on landing remote jobs. Feel free to schedule a time here.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Great question, I’ve thought about this a lot. My favorite part of my work is being technical with my co-workers and talking to customers. Both allow me to keep exercising important skills that allow me to be a better developer and Product Manager.
You talk about how the beginning of the journey to a career you love can be uncomfortable, but eventually, we find our space. Can you explain what you mean by that? How have you experienced this?
I have 100% experienced this. Like I mentioned earlier, I went to school thinking I wanted to be an ER Surgeon. It took me stumbling across Codecademy, studying after work, and deploying my code on weekends to really come to my own with code and have ownership over it.
It took a while for me to consider myself a “developer” because I was under the impression I had to have X of years experience before I could do so.
When you’re first starting out in your career it’s going to be scary and uncomfortable both of those pieces allow us to become well-rounded people. By entering uncomfortable situations we grow and we learn and sometimes we even fail but we get back up.
Keep chasing your dream. Keep trying new things.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for women in code?
The biggest challenge is definitely finding a space or workspace that accepts us and allows us to feel welcome.
What advice would you give to a woman at the beginning of her coding journey or junior developers ready to upscale?
Don’t give up. I know that you’re probably seeing other folks landing jobs and sharing how their interviews went with Google. And that’s awesome for them! But your path is unique.
You’re going to take your own steps to get there at your own time and your own pace. Own that.
Quick fire round
When I can’t solve a bug, I usually…
turn to my partner. She’s a CTO with an extensive engineering background, she’s usually able to help me talk through the bug and come to a solution.
My favorite programming language is…
Python. It’s one I want to get back into using more too.
Dream company to work for…
myself. My big dream is to launch my own company, employ awesome people, pay them well, and ship great solutions for everyday people.
If I had unlimited resources, I would develop…
a technology that would encourage kids to get outside more and off their phones/social media.
In 5 years time, I want to…
own my own company.
Your favorite quote…
“Things don’t matter equally. Success is found in doing what matters most.” – From the book The One Thing by Gary Keller