In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve introduced you to numerous women who are balancing their dedication to re-skilling, growing their careers and the demands of everyday life. Marcy Bursac has successfully made a mid-career change in the midst of raising a family.
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When Marcy realized she wanted greater balance in her work-life schedule to allow for more time with her kids and husband, she was faced with a dilemma about her career. She took the time to reimagine what she had done previously, and what she could do next. Over the course of a year, she enrolled in an intensive local tech program, the Udacity Front End Nanodegree program, and became involved in the local tech community. Her experience is marked by motivation, dedication, and hard work. We recently chatted with Marcy to learn how she changed the direction of her career in the midst of an active personal life.
Thank you for chatting with us, Marcy! Can you start by telling us a little about your educational and professional background?
Hi Caroline! As we chat, I am in my home studio having just finished the final assignment for my first MBA course, Accounting. Milestones are so fun!
After receiving an undergraduate degree, I began work in a non-profit pediatric clinic. I was immediately taken with non-profit work, and thus began an incredibly meaningful chapter in my life. I spent the next 12 years working with several organizations on behalf of underserved populations such as individuals who were homeless and individuals who were unemployed or under-employed. It was during my time with one organization, Dress for Success Midwest, that I learned about the underrepresentation of women in various STEM-related fields. I was intrigued.
At the same time, a friend of mine worked at MasterCard Foundation, and we were able to collaborate to create a local non-profit tech program with the mission of aiding single moms to rapidly propel their career into tech jobs, to achieve a living wage much more quickly than through a traditional college degree. Seeing women who had never coded building their own program over just a few short weeks, I found my own interest in the tech sector, coding, in particular, growing. In the evenings, I began a free online program which lasted a few lessons until I was lost and I totally put that wild idea to the wayside.
That sounds like an awesome non-profit program. What prompted you to reassess your role and get more serious about the tech industry?
I loved the nonprofit sector — the people, the mission, but it wasn’t working from a work-life balance perspective. Here I was a mom, an adoptive mom, of two courageous kiddos who survived the foster care system and who I got to raise and teach and love. I found myself in evening meetings trying to have a quick call with my husband and kids before I went into a meeting with donors. It wrecked my heart. I would try to stay engaged in the meeting but my heart was wanting to be home with my family. It took me about three years of trying to realize I just needed to take time off to gain a new skill set that would land me in an industry with more opportunity for life/work balance.
My goal was to make a lateral career move and focus on math and science, subjects that I loved in high school. Working in workforce development had exposed me to a wide range of career opportunities in those fields, particularly programming. I also noticed that there was a real lack of women in this space. So I applied to a local program that would provide a broad foundation of programming skills to aid entry into a tech career. This was a pivotal moment, I put in my notice at my current job and crossed my fingers that I would be accepted. As an affirmation I was headed on the right path, I was accepted into the program during one of my last days in my previous job.
It sounds like you made the leap! How did you come to find Udacity?
I was working through the local program, picking up skills and really cementing my interest in programming, when my mentor came across an announcement about the Grow with Google opportunity to receive a scholarship to Udacity’s Front End Nanodegree program. It seemed like a great compliment to what I was learning at the time, and while it felt like a one in a million chance that I would get chosen for the scholarship, I figured, why not? I had written countless grant applications in the nonprofit world, this couldn’t be much different.
I was so pumped when I received an email welcoming me to the scholarship program!
As you began the Nanodegree program, you also began laying the groundwork for a new job, how was that experience?
I felt I had built enough basic skills through the local tech program to begin interviewing, and my Udacity enrollment would serve as an awesome resume/talking point about my pursuit to master front end development. As I was working through the initial Challenge phase of the scholarship, I applied and interviewed with a variety of companies, focusing on opportunities that supported my values—a shorter commute time, the presence of women in the department, and an opportunity to learn and grow. I received numerous callbacks and interviews.
I landed with my current company after a series of phone and in-person interviews. They were interested in why I was making a career change, projects I had been working on (two were from the Scholarship Challenge Course) and my preference in terms of back end or front end development. They extended me a position and after some thought, I accepted.
A new job and the Nanodegree program, that must have been a challenging juggle of priorities! How did you manage to balance everything?
It was wild, in fact, it was my second day at the new job that I received an email saying I was selected to move beyond the Challenge phase and receive the full Front End Nanodegree program. I could hardly believe it! My learning experience was so enjoyable. I was part of a state-wide, weekly Google Hangouts where we shared struggles and tip with one another. Three local Udacity classmates have actually come to my home to help mentor other students during study jams, to play board games, and to get through the course arm-in-arm. I committed to finishing what I started so once I gained access to the curriculum, I spent lunch hour going through the course. I found Udacity’s online platform to be well organized to the point that I knew how much time to budget each week because the lessons gave me time estimations.
It sounds like a great experience. Was your company aware of your Nanodegree program?
Absolutely. I kept them updated as I worked through the course! I would stop by the office of one of the technologists and tell him what I was working on. Sometimes it would be to share what I just finished or what I was stuck on. I was encouraged to ask anyone I worked with for help on my outside projects, as long as it wasn’t super time-consuming. My coworkers found it fun to run my code and find bugs or other ways to improve it.
How were your new skills received?
My manager and colleagues were impressed! In fact, just a few weeks after sharing my news about completing the course, I was asked to join a different team! As a result, I am currently working on a piece of software that is used by thousands of call center agents around the country.
Congratulations! It sounds like you have accomplished exactly what you set out to do and more. Are you taking some pause from your learning efforts?
Ha, I am a lifelong learner. Will I be learning in the future? Definitely! For now, by day, I am deepening my React and Java skills while learning a lot about the infrastructure process and a high-level overview of TIBCO. Over my lunch break and in the evenings after my kids go to bed, I’m spending the first five months of the year in an MBA program which my employer is largely underwriting. Then the second half of the year I’ll work on rewriting a personal application in React. Lord-willing, I’ll rinse and repeat this cycle for four years. Beyond that, I guess we will see what opportunities arise.
Congratulations on all your success, Marcy! We can’t wait to hear about how your MBA program continues to build upon your skill set and career growth. We’re in awe of your dedication to striking the right balance for you, your family, and your career.