From the Source: Teddi Maull

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I heard about Galvanize a while ago. My husband told me about it because he’s a software developer too. He told me about it, but it was in passing. I looked into it at that point, but it just wasn’t the right time for me, time wise, because I had a baby. I had a little kid and a newborn. I was like, ‘That’s interesting, but I cannot do anything like that.’

At the time, I had my own photography business, so I was running that. I belong to a networking group, and I was at a meeting and a student from Galvanize came. He told me how he had just finished the Galvanize program and gotten a great job. I was like, ‘I need to look into that!’

I got to my car and I looked Galvanize up, and then I saw that there was an event happening that night to learn about the program. I called my husband right there and asked if he could take the kids while I went to the event.

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At the event I met Aaron Grey and Jeff Dean, and chatted with them for a while. We were out on the street, right in front of the building on Pearl Street, and Jeff does his famous close: ‘When are you going to apply? You’re great. When are you going to apply?.’ I was like, ‘I’m great? What are you seeing that I’m not seeing? I mean, this is interesting to me, but I’m not sure this is the right thing for me.’

I went home and talked to my husband, and he was surprised that I even looked at this at all. It was just not on our radar as a family. I have my own business, I’m a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom. But I said this is something I really want to do. Let’s look and see if we can do it. Financially, can we do this? Who’s going to take care of the kids? It’s a huge investment. We talked for a while and he said, ‘If you want to do it, we’ll just make it work.’

I applied and got accepted, and my whole family pitched in. My sister, my sister-in-law, my mother-in-law flew from Kentucky a few times to take care of the kids while I was in school. It was this big family effort to get me here, and for me it was life changing to ask for and accept the help.

I had a background in computers before. I had the photography business for 13 years, but before that I was developing computer-based training. This was back in 2001. I had a job with Agilent Technologies, which was a spin-off of Hewlett-Packard. I liked what I was doing, but I felt like I wasn’t really making a difference in anybody’s lives.

I was training people on how to use the product we offered, which was a business-to-business kind of product. Nobody read the manuals, and not many people used the training. It was fun to do, but I just felt like, ‘Nobody cares about this work, even though I enjoy it.’ At the time, I was considering going back to school for photography, and then I got laid off and got a great severance package. I took a year off, thought about what I wanted to do, and then started my photography business.

I loved the photography business. I don’t do it now, but I’ve considered it. It’s just a time issue. I loved making a difference in people’s lives. I would do wedding and portraits, so I was there for some of the most important moments in people’s lives, and it was just awesome. But the money was not there. It was a significant increase in our family income for me to have done this. Huge.

I love the change that happened for me, and I love helping people. That whole ‘Make a difference in someone’s life’ kind of thing—I can do that here, and I can do it doing stuff I love. Education is so important to me, so being immersed in that environment again and helping people make a difference for themselves like I did, it’s like a dream.

As an instructor, I have to be open to so many different styles of learning, and so many different experiences that people are bringing to the table, so that kind of forces a level of creativity. You can’t just make assumptions about people and what’s right for them. You have to be open to everything. Because I’m working on being so open to everything, that brings creativity into other parts of my life.

I went to school for computer science, but I never finished the degree. I was two classes away from graduating and I left, for a couple of reasons. One is I was just done. I had been in school for so long, and it was just taking a long time to get through. All of my friends had left, and I had the job with Hewlett-Packard. I had been working remotely, and I couldn’t stand it where I was. I was really struggling. Then, that one class, I couldn’t finish it. I tried. That informs how I approach students now because I tried so hard to understand that class, and I just couldn’t get it.

I didn’t know that I didn’t have help. I didn’t seek it. I didn’t feel comfortable seeking it. When I’m in a classroom now, I’m looking for that. You may not be comfortable coming to me, but I’m going to check in with you anyway. I’m here. You may not be getting it as fast as everybody else. That’s okay, because if you knew my story, you’d see you can eventually get it. It’s the tenacity that matters, and it’s being willing to ask people for help and be willing to be vulnerable and show that you don’t know it.

I get personal fulfillment from helping people. How it translates into how I teach is… this is a big deal. Coming here and taking six months out of your life to do this thing and work so hard has so many ups and downs. I want people to know that it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. But, if you keep working hard, I’m going to be there for you. We are both in this together. That’s the reason you came to Galvanize, because a lot of people could just do this at home. You could just sit at home coding, but we’re the support system. When I’m in the classroom, I’m thinking about it holistically. I want you to learn this material, but I also want you to learn how to be a programmer, and how to be okay with not knowing.

The biggest thing you need to be okay with here is not knowing. There’s plenty of things I don’t know, and I have to model that. I think about that when I’m in the classroom. ‘I don’t know the answer to that question. How do I model not knowing the answer, and then coming up with it?’ When you don’t know something, I want people to know that there’s no shame in that. There’s value in that. It’s about taking what you don’t know and figuring out what you need to do to learn it.

I couldn’t have seen myself here a year or two ago. This just wasn’t on my radar at all. I’m excited to see where I’ll be in a year or two. I see myself being a better instructor, I see myself being a better developer but in terms of that whole, “What’s your one-year plan, three-year plan and five-year plan?” I just don’t have it. I know I should. I just don’t because it’s hard to pin myself down in that way. When I look at my goals, my goals are I want to continue growing.

-Teddi Maull, Galvanize Web Development Associate Instructor in Boulder, Colorado. 

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