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meet Vanessa Palacios Sharma

We are often told it requires a leap of faith to realize your dream. Trust the Universe, or your Instinct, a friend will say. But what if reaching your goal requires several leaps of faith? Would you stop when you reached the first obstacle? Or the second?

We recently spent some time with Vanessa Palacios Sharma to learn how she conquered multiple life transitions, taking that leap of faith several times and landing at PDXWIT along the way.

We’ll let Vanessa take it from here:
“Two years ago my husband and I moved from San Diego, CA to Portland, OR because he got a job as a developer at startup. I didn't think too much about what a leap of faith it would be. I had recently finished my psychology degree and was thinking of joining a Masters program. When I got to Portland, I started working at an Alzheimer's center in Lake Oswego, but I found it really hard to disconnect from my patients at the end of the work day. It created a lot of anxiety for me. Ultimately I decided I could not continue on that path.

My husband reminded me that it's never too late to find your passion. At that same time, he was teaching himself Ruby, a programming language that was foreign to him. When he would get home, he and I would sit down and start learning together.

I found myself revelling in the world of programming and decided to learn some things on my own. I had always loved science. I was just never encouraged to pursue a career in it.

One day my husband came home talking about how some of his coworkers had attended a code school in order to become developers. I decided then that I would give it a try. I took an intro class and immediately felt something click. I took a leap of faith and quit my job to enroll full time in code school. Once I finished code school and while interning for a small startup in Beaverton, I started to look for jobs. I found it very difficult to break into the tech industry. Interviews were intimidating.

I spoke to a friend who asked if I had ever attended a meetup. I created an account on Meetup and RSVP’d to one of PDXWIT's events. I remember being horrified. I thought the women at the event would be so far ahead of me that I wouldn't even be able to carry a conversation with them. As a natural introvert, the PDXWIT event was an embodiment of all my fears. But I took the leap and attended the Happy Hour.

I ended up attending the PDXWIT event at Simple. That day they had a panel of women with different positions, experience, and backgrounds. I was amazed and inspired. Once the panel ended, I came up to one of them and shared my own story with her. She never made me feel awkward. She never made me feel less knowledgeable. She only encouraged me and told me that if I worked hard for it, I would find a position soon. That day my mentality changed.

I started waking up at 4 a.m. every day and studying concepts: algorithms, design patterns, OOPS concepts, internet security, modern frameworks, etc. My hard work paid off and I landed a job as an Android Developer at AltSource. I applied even though I thought I had no chance, since someone inside the company had already warned me they didn’t hire code school graduates.

That was my ultimate reward and vindication.”