COF Interviews HerTechAbility’s Sandy N.

At the very beginning of this blogsource, I had the opportunity to reach many Gen X coders that had embarked on the same exact journey that I was on. I ran across Sandy N. of HerTechAbility when googling, “can you learn to code after 40”. Here is my interview with the wonderful and brilliant Sandy.
COF: Introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
HerTechAbility: My name is Sandy and I have had a variety of jobs. Out of college I started in investment customer service and moved into human resources where I most enjoyed employee database research and benefits management. At 29 I became a full-time mom and thereafter held paid and volunteer part-time jobs, including bookkeeping, editing, and student/parent group and event management, like Ultimate Frisbee high school team coordinator, Debate Club Manager, room parent, etc. I prefer to do the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work, keeping lists and tracking information and distributing information. This past school year, I led a high school PTSA website committee. I am now a part-time proofreader

I’m also a website co-owner. About 10 years ago, a friend and I wanted to create a website to help other parents like us, who have 3 or more kids, to find hotels with large “family rooms” that can accommodate the whole family for convenience and budget reasons.

So I took an online Dreamweaver class, and built a rudimentary website. I learned enough to know we needed some design help, so we hired a local person to make it look and function better.

Since then, we have managed the website ourselves, and I do all the HTML and CSS modifications, poring over online tutorials and figuring things out as we go along. It is a less-than-part-time endeavor, but we keep at it as our visitors increase, along with some advertising and affiliate income. In 2012 we had a design firm help us move to WordPress. I still manage all the updates, plugins, backups, affiliate programs, and social media. We add content in the form of blog posts and hotels from around the world, and we have about 26,000 visitors each month.

I now am interested in learning more coding. I’ve gone through some free online coding courses and would like to be a freelance WordPress website manager.
via @HerMelNess
via @HerMelNess

COF: Tell us an accomplishment you are super proud of
HerTechAbility: Raising our kids! My husband of 23 years and I have 3 boys, one who is 21 and lives with a roommate nearby, and two boys (twins) who are 17 and just graduated high school. I have thoroughly loved the job of being mom and embracing their differences, seeing that all humans are products of their home, but are really completely separate beings. Now that they are leaving the nest, my two-decades-long “career” is ending. I am excited to watch them move into adulthood, and excited for my own steps into other interests.

COF: Tell us something people are surprised to find out that you love!
HerTechAbility: Cloudy days. I just find them so peaceful. I actually intensely dislike blocks of sunny and hot weather days.

COF: When I decided to switch careers 3 years ago, I met with one of the best technical recruiters in the business and she had me to an exercise called 3 Lives.
If you could have 3 lives, doing whatever you wanted, what would they be? No rules!
HerTechAbility: For decades, I have admired CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. To be someone like her, though, I’d need a serious infusion of vast amounts of bravery, drive, and super-intelligence. Oh, and a really cool accent.

Limiting my choices to my own skill-set and inclinations, I also frequently daydream about living in a small house on a hill in a remote, cool-temperature place, by myself. I guess I would read books and work online.I’m attracted to puzzle solving, which is why I like computers and websites. Along those lines, maybe I should have kept to one of my undergrad major ideas, which was electrical engineering. That still sounds attractive to me, as does accounting. I love a good spreadsheet.

COF: Besides tech, what is your second passion?
HerTechAbility: Lists. I like to plan things – meetings, vacations, chores, goals. I like to prioritize and accomplish things step by step. Research. I like to learn about everything and I read about philosophy, money management, home maintenance, job searches, just anything, including websites, and then I try to implement what I’ve learned.

COF: Forest or beach and why? EX: How does one make you feel over the other?
HerTechAbility: Beach: IF I could have shade available and IF the temperature is 85 or under. A beach has open space and constant sound and breeze, which are all soothing. A forest is nice and cool, but I would be afraid a tree could fall on me, or that something is hiding in trees that can harm me.

COF: On the idea of being a shark, like the show Shark Tank. Is there a time in your journey that you feel you should start acting like a shark? In other words how much ambition is too much ambition?
HerTechAbility: I would encourage myself to be more shark-like at those times when I need a bit of confidence to ask for or seek something from others, or those times when I need prodding to just take action and keep taking action toward a goal. I place high importance on a calm household, though, and would curb ambition if organizational chaos increased or if personal connection time or just peaceful hanging around time decreased.
COF: When you make a mistake or get sideways, do you move on quickly and learn your lesson, or try and see the lesson and learn from it by taking your time?
HerTechAbility: I’d say both. I have a lot of confidence and solidity in my own thinking and outlooks, and I’m okay with owning mistakes, and in the bigger picture, I surround myself with supporters. But I also study philosophy and read about human nature and enjoy considering how my approach to lessons and ‘stuck’ times differs from others’, which prompts me to ponder over mistakes and ways to improve in any way.

COF: What is your favorite Food Mecca?
HerTechAbility: I’m not one to fully appreciate gourmet food or artfully presented food. My tastes are simple, and I go for value for my money, I guess. But Mexican food is my favorite, and I like to try a new Mexican restaurant each year on my birthday. This past Thanksgiving, we incorporated a Mexican dish and had tamales, too! I hope we make that a tradition.

COF:Any final words of wisdom on being a Coder over 40?
HerTechAbility: I love stories, and there are many, about people reinventing themselves, or starting something new after 40 or 50. Life-long learning is important, so why not? And I hope anyone finds encouragement to do so, whether the wish is to excel at the new endeavor, or just dabble in it.
I don’t have a desire to be a high-caliber coder who earns 6-figures. But that is okay, too. There are jobs big and small in the coding world. Thinking about learning code or web creation at my age, I can dwell on the fact that in any class I will be in the minority, and that I might feel self-conscious entering a room of other code learners (which I have not yet done!). Or I can choose to remember and feel proud that I already know more about coding than most people my age, and I probably know more about coding than many people who are younger. My own teens, for example, who can easily figure out any app or digital program, do not know as much HTML and CSS as I do.

Follow Sandy @HerTechAbility

And check out the travel site Sandy launched for family travel and be her 27,000th visitor!

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