A Learner’s Journey From Yoga to Code

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Madeleine Huish discovered a passion for technology at a young age. When her mother purchased a TRS-80 computer for business, Huish used it to study BASIC and build rudimentary video games with her friends, inspired by Zork and other classic ’80s text adventures. But it wasn’t until recently that she decided to pursue programming as a career.

“I love learning, especially new areas of study,” Huish told me over coffee on a rare sunny day in downtown Seattle. “It was time for a change at this point in my life, and coding felt like a good place to begin exploring again.”

I first met Huish while hosting one of Galvanize’s Learn to Code events. She attended two of these one-night courses—one on GitHub and Git, held in downtown Seattle, and another covering HTML and CSS, held in Bellevue.

Huish, a transgender woman, has a background in classical yoga, which she has taught for the last twenty years. She’s owned two businesses and lived in multiple states across the US. But only recently did Huish decide to pick up programming again, turning to online resources such as Codeacademy and Treehouse. From these exploratory processes, she discovered how much she enjoyed learning to code.

“I really like the language, the logic, the order of it,” Huish said, reflecting on the similarity of a coder’s mindset to that of concentrative meditation. “When you figure something out, it’s like opening a door and letting deeper connections be established in your mind.”

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But with greater understanding, Huish acknowledged the frustration of coding as she continued to grasp the “basic alphabet” of this new language she was learning.

“It took me a while to figure out the terrain,” Huish said, confessing that in the beginning, after three to four weeks of self-study, she still didn’t know the difference between Java and JavaScript. Realizing the limitations of online learning environments, Huish began to explore other options.

A friend at Amazon recommended she check out a coding bootcamp—somewhere she could learn coding in a more interpersonal, rigorous fashion. And at 46, Huish wanted to get learn as quickly as possible. It was at this point that Huish attended Galvanize’s free Learn to Code workshops—though she admits it was for reasons beyond the class’s titular agenda.

“It was more about getting an introduction to the culture of the school,” Huish said, “which turned out to be very friendly and welcoming. The easygoing atmosphere of the school presented itself from the moment I walked in the door of the first class. There was a lightheartedness and humor which helped break the ice with some of the difficult subject matter we were learning.”

I asked Huish how she felt coming into the tech community as a transgender woman.

“In today’s age, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and misogyny still exist, even in a progressive city like Seattle,” Huish said. “I know that the computing world is composed mostly of white, heterosexual, cisgender males. However, my experience so far at Galvanize has been extremely supportive, friendly, and encouraging. Overall, I would say that Galvanize appears to be ahead of the curve. I was really happy to see that half the class was women, a couple of us queer. There’s a little bit of diversity, and I’d like to see that continue. I’d just really love seeing more women, trans, queer, and people of color in the coding world.”

Huish recently completed Galvanize’s JavaScript Foundations course, an eight-week evening workshop that teaches the basics of JavaScript and jQuery. The next step in her journey starts in August, when she’s set to enroll in Galvanize’s six-month Web Development Immersive.

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“Looking back now, I’m extremely glad I took the eight-week course,” Huish said. “The instructor had an amazing depth of knowledge, and he would push us to see and work with the many possibilities that JavaScript is capable of. I still don’t feel I’m as fluent in JavaScript as I’d like to be, but if I look at my understanding before and after comparatively, it’s like night and day. The course helped me understand the terrain better, and now I’m even more excited to continue on with the full stack program.”

Huish actually wanted to start the immersive program sooner, but felt she wasn’t ready in February and chose to skip the May cohort to spend the summer with her kids. Decisions like this remind me of the level of commitment our programs require, even for a supposedly brief period of three or six months. For some, that’s a business cycle. For others, it’s a critical life-transforming decision.

Having said that, Huish is confident about her decision to pursue a career in coding. Like almost every Galvanize student, she expressed hope in getting a job after the program, though not necessarily at a prestigious, large corporation. Ideally, she says, she’d prefer to work at a smaller place with a group that values diversity in their workforce.

“I’d like to work toward something positive,” Huish said, “making things better in some sort of way.”

Does that include creating tech for the yoga community?

“Anything is possible,” she said. “I have thought about combining the two, but at this point I’m just preparing the soil. I trust things will work out in the way that they need to.”

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