As a little girl, playing Sesame Street games on our first home computer, which ran Windows 95, I never dreamed that one day coding would completely change my life. I’ve always been curious about how things work, and technological advancements have always interested me. However, rural Western Kentucky, where I was born and raised (I still live a mile down the road from the house I grew up in), is definitely different from what you would call a tech hotspot.
I love learning new things! Being the nerd I am, studying is one of my favorite hobbies. I am also a big crafter–and I mean this on the broadest spectrum, anywhere from quilting and crochet to calligraphy to even creative writing and, of course, a gamer. My first attempts at learning to code came from a desire to create a game. As I taught myself some basic Python, I came across a coding bootcamp in my research to find more comprehensive ways to learn to code.
I read about their different programs and decided I was definitely more interested in backend development. Their first backend development program was starting in a couple of months. Entry was contingent on passing a JAVA entrance exam. I bet I took that exam fifty times, and I probably got one more question right each time. Studying for hours between attempts, I finally passed the exam and was accepted into their program.
One of the proudest moments I had in my time there was when my first instructor and I had our very first one-on-one meeting where he said, “Well, you are obviously very experienced with Java.” I was stunned and speechless. In my head, I felt like I was so far behind everyone else, and I would never catch up! Through the most challenging times in the bootcamp, I would continually recall that moment and keep pushing through and asking questions until I understood all the material.
Unfortunately, I lost my mother in a car accident halfway through the bootcamp. I reached deep inside my core and pulled out that strength she used to remind me that I have and kept pushing through. I feel blessed to have found this opportunity with Sonatype, which allowed me to graduate from the bootcamp early.
Kassandra's mother, Clarissa Johnson, during her high school years.
I wanted to share this story for International Women’s Day because I found my passion for coding and realized my dreams with Sonatype. You’ll never hear me say it’s been easy, but maybe my words will empower another woman to take that entrance exam a hundred times if you have to. And that dreams really can come true with persistence. At 31 years old, I have to admit, I was a little worried that it might never happen for me, but my work finally paid off. Also, because I dedicated this to my mom, my number one fan, I know she would be so proud of how far I’ve come in the past year alone.