My Leap from Psych to Tech

My Leap from Psych to Tech

Why I hit CMD ⌘ + N on my career

Dec 8, 2021Β·

10 min read

"hEy, cAn YoU gUyS hEaR mE?"

  • Every Zoom conference meeting ever

Aloha! I'm Allyse and this is my first Hashnode blog πŸ€™

I'll be upfront –

I'm a bit nervous about giving you a deeper window into my life (especially on a technical-oriented blog like Hashnode) but what I love about writing is that it has a way of igniting a fire in a dark room; it draws in and connects those with faint voices who share experiences alike their own. By writing this, I hope that my story provides a CTA for other techies to feel a sense of safety in sharing their own stories. Sitting behind an IDE all day can feel isolating and the need for connection extends to all of us.

Me: ( deep breaths )

Okay! Let's go πŸ‘‡πŸ½

🌺 Contents 🌺

My Roots: Psychology

Have you ever wondered which experiences and pieces of your personality have helped shaped your life thus far?

"Listening is being able to be changed by the other person." - Alan Alda
Throughout my life, I've prided myself on being a confidante for many. My shyness was a beacon of light for those who wanted to be seen and heard. I've peered into many different worlds and as a result, habitually analyzed patterns in behavior of those who confided in me. When someone sought out support, it became instinctual for me to put in my two cents. Sharing these insights gave me a deep sense of purpose and I was no stranger to getting caught up with wanting to solve everybody's problems.

"To know others is to know thyself." - Unknown
The hunger I have for self-development is one that feels incurable. My recovery journey from an eating disorder and the height of my depression drove me to spend my 20s deeply devoted to uprooting trauma. By receiving support from different therapists and by putting in relentless efforts towards rewiring negative thought-patterns, I became someone a younger-me would have been proud of. Knowing that I had the power to change the course of my life, I wanted to be a part of others' journeys towards doing the same.

And so my path felt clear to me. I was certain that my calling was to help others change their lives. I graduated with a Bachelor's in Psychology and spent 6 years in the industry as a behavior technician and interventionist for children with autism and as a virtual health coach for a behavior-change and mental wellness app. When we're climbing the ladders of our career, it can seem like the only way to move forward is by taking the next rung up. For me, that looked like pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling. And so I spent the tail of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 studying for the GRE.

My Attachment to Technology

When I wasn't the quiet kid playing pseudo-therapist, I was the quiet kid hugging a screen. That kid at a party clinging to the couch, nose in a Gameboy? That was me. We're staying home today? Catch me crane-necking at my desktop. As a child with undiagnosed ADHD, I constantly occupied my time with things that activated my hyperfocus (we're not always fidgety πŸ€—); the common thread amongst these activities involved a screen.

MySpace: The Gateway Drug

58667610-58c8f080-82eb-11e9-9adf-b22a10cab519.png Image by William Wittenbrock via Github

(I see you former right-clicking "View Source", & hearts; marquee-scrolling "~WeLcOmE 2 mii MySpAcE~" header 1337 h4xOrs out there 😜)

Originally intended as a platform for musicians to share their music and connect to fans, Myspace became the 2005-2009 equivalent of Facebook. It was a social media network that enabled users to create and modify their own profile page while connecting to other users.

Story Time! ⬇️

A girl I met in the 7th grade (that I was also afraid of lol) had offered to deck out my page. The pre-built layouts you could copy-paste into your editor never struck a chord with me, so I trusted her with my email and password and let her do her thing. I distinctly recall the moment I took a look at her update. In retrospect, I was given a pretty simple layout: dark gray, dotted borders that lined pink transparent tables with a light gray background that said "allyseatmyspacedotcom" in cursive on bottom right corner, but....

I was enchanted.

My mind raced with possibilities.
What if I could make the borders thicker? Table backgrounds? Can I change the tint?
There were quite a bit of tweaks I wanted to make to it, but she was someone you didn't want to butt heads with and I didn't want her to think what she made wasn't good enough for me, so I left it.

(cue the obligatory prepubescent drama)
A few weeks later, after a miscommunication issue on my end, my scrappy friend went into my profile and deleted everything she made on my page. I was shaken by the experience, but attached to the vision. I decided right then and there that I was going to figure out how to customize my page on my own.

I began looking at the pre-made layout codes and comparing them to one another, finding patterns that would lead me to knowing which part of the page I was manipulating. Tinkering with inline style attributes and configuring the placement of my entire page made me feel like a smart person. I figured out the hex code of colors and read through forums to piece together which code did what.

Over time, I was able to piece together my own customized layout. Saving my code, clicking on 'View Profile' and looking at my completed work gave me a sense of pride like no other. I was hooked.

My parents often had to rip me away from the computer to get my attention. I would wake up and notice the sun set after realizing that I had spent the entire day either sifting through the other people's code to integrate into my own, designing a background in Photoshop, looking up stamp brushes on DeviantArt or Brusheezy, or experimenting with a block of code to see what I could do with it. My friends began to ask me for the code to help them with their profile and soon enough, I was being trusted with emails and passwords in the name of having a pimped out page.

Screen Shot 2021-12-05 at 4.01.08 AM.png

Actual backgrounds I've designed and implemented into past layouts. I'm equal parts proud and embarrassed 😬

4 Reasons Why I Jumped Ship

After having returned from a 3-month solo backpacking trip, I was obsessed with the idea of traveling while working remotely. A weight loss app with an emphasis on behavior change and mental wellness called Noom was hiring for virtual health coaches and I was zeroed in on being a part of it. Only 1% of applicants made it through the door and I was over the moon when I was given an offer.

Becoming a coach was a dream come true. I worked from my laptop while being the go-to for hundreds of "Noomers" in cultivating healthy habits around their health. Walking alongside so many to comfort them through their valleys and praise them at their peaks was work that gave me so much fulfillment.

...and while everything looked right with where I was, there was a part of me that wasn't fully content.

1. To satisfy a missing need

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

– Ursula Leguin

I quit my full-time coaching job in April and decided to take the leap by doing a full-time coding bootcamp. Since then, I have been spending my days learning the ins and outs of programming.

About a month ago, I decided to sign up for my first Hackathon. As a Noom coach, I noticed that a lot of users struggled with staying motivated because they had a hard time recognizing their progress outside of what their weight chart showed them. I pitched the idea of creating a mental health app that would resolve this problem and a lot of people were on board to build it with me.

landing.png Wireframe for the landing page I designed. You can visit the final project here: Mohala

While I was severely lacking sleep throughout the Hackathon, I felt this dormant part of me come back to life. Being able to imagine something, design it, and then build it into creation while collaborating with a team felt magical! Creativity was the missing piece and I realized that it was an element that I needed in a career.

2. To make space for my healing

As I burnt the candle at both ends studying for the GRE, I thought about what the rest of my life would look like: clients who would depend on me to show up each week and pour their most intimate thoughts. As a coach, I struggled with compassion fatigue, which is the result of taking on the problems of people over a period of time and leads to emotional and physical exhaustion.

I knew that I was still a work in progress and the thought of spending 8 hours a day to fill other people's cups and not have the space to fill my own felt unsustainable. Carrying the weight a therapist would need to felt debilitating. The biggest takeaway from my coaching experience is that you can't solve other people's issues for them and you can only meet them where they're at. Coming to this realization gave me power because the control I was exerting into others was energy I wanted to give back to myself. Programming gives me an outlet to solve problems in a different way that isn't as emotionally daunting.

3. To honor my immigrant parents

Being a first-generation Asian-American and being uncertain of what you actually want in life is a two-for-one deal. I was a rebellious kid and did not resonate with my Filipino parents' ideals; crushing my parents' American dreams by abandoning their hopes of me becoming a nurse was inevitable.

At the end of the day, I knew that their intention wasn't to dishonor who I was, but to simply make sure that after they had passed, I would be able to sufficiently support myself without a man by my side. My life is certainly my own to live, but I accepted the duality that existed between values in individualistic πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ and collectivistic cultures πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­. It was still crucial for me to honor the sacrifices they've made to give me the best life they could hope for me by pursuing a career that would help me to take care of myself financially and someday, I can have the means to take care of them.

4. To build the life I love by doing what excites me

Searching for a career best suited for you can be a lot like finding a partner: a series of guessing and checking to see if what you have feels right to you. We're constantly evolving and meeting new parts of ourselves while trying to make ends meet and if we're lucky enough, have the privilege to do work that we give a shit about.

I won't stand here saying that where I am headed is the happily-ever-after of my story, but I know that every experience I've had brought me back to coding for a reason. I'm hitting CMD ⌘ + Z to a period of my life where I was engaging in labor that didn't feel like labor. Doing work that constantly triggers my hyperfocus, work where there are always challenges that need undertaking, work where the learning and drive for self-improvement doesn't end is work I'm excited to be taking on.

Ideally, I'd love to find a role where I can intertwine psychology with innovative engineering (I'm looking at you UI/UX Engineering!πŸ‘€), but we'll see where this road takes me. If I'm lucky enough, my role will support my digital nomad dreams! ✨


If you're reading up to this point - wow! Thanks for letting me monologue πŸ˜… I appreciate your time in this Tik-Tok attention-span day and age. I had a lot of fun writing this and hope you feel compelled to share YOUR background story someday - I definitely want to hear it!

Feel free to reach out in the comments below or on Twitter: @allysedotdev. Let's stay connected!