Last October as part of Grow with Google, we announced the Google Developer Scholarship Challenge—a joint effort with Udacity to help people across the U.S. unlock new jobs, new businesses, and new possibilities. The program provided scholarships to tens of thousands of learners across the U.S. to help them strengthen their mobile and web developer skills through curriculum designed with experts from Google and Udacity. This April, 5,000 of the top performers from the initial program also received scholarships toward a six-month Nanodegree program hosted on Udacity.
Sara Blevins is one of these talented individuals, who will complete the Front-End Web Developer Nanodegree program later this year. Last week, we invited Sara and some of her fellow scholars to attend Google I/O as special guests. We caught up with her to find out what I/O was like and what advice she has for other individuals looking to start a new career as a developer.
1. You went to I/O this past week! Tell us about that.
The joy and awe I experienced was overwhelming, it welled up to the point where I couldn’t control it. Google to me isn’t a company, it’s the door in the back of the wardrobe that leads to Narnia. It’s the embodiment of the idea that an open, free, diverse, progressive, inclusive world isn’t too lofty a goal, it’s a reality we can all create together.
2. Raising kids, working a job, and further improving your web development skills as part of this developer scholarship all take a lot of hard work and time. Where do you find your motivation to keep going?
For me, it isn’t that I need to stay motivated, it’s that I’m finally free and the question is, how do I remember that I need to sleep, eat, and relax. For most of my life, I’ve felt like a stallion that couldn’t run, an eagle that couldn’t fly, or a dolphin that couldn’t swim. Now, my cage door has been opened and I’m going to move forward as fast as life will permit me. I see wonder all around me, in even the simplest of things. I now have the ability to meaningfully contribute to that wonder.
3. You’ve talked about being told by others in the past that “it isn’t feminine” to be in science, technology, or math. What would you tell those same people today if they saw what you’re doing now?
In the words of the monk who changed my life, “I open the door of my heart to you.” I understand the social conditioning that implanted that perspective in your mind. I also reject that conditioning, entirely. Now, watch me.
4. What’s one habit that makes you successful?
Anyone who knows me and has for any length of time knows that I play the long game. I’ve been called obsessed and I embrace that—I wear it as a badge of honor.
5. What do you want to get better at?
Right now my next goal is to find someone who’s good with Github and beg them to help me understand how to use it correctly. Aside from that, my primary objective for now is to put in the hours it takes to become an expert at web development. It may sound lofty, but I’d like to be so good at it, and combine it with my natural creative abilities to the point where clients come to me or where when you think web development, you think of my name. I don’t dream small…
6. What advice do you have for others who are starting their journeys to becoming developers?
Embrace fear, self-doubt, discomfort, frustration, and failures. Not just embrace, but hold them close to your heart, nurture them and allow them to be yours. Because they are gifts, the most precious gifts life has to give; in those places are where we grow, push beyond what we are, and learn what we are capable of. This is hard—be harder.
7. Out of everything that happened this week, what new stories, knowledge, or perspectives do you think you’ll carry home with you?
The open sharing of ideas, thoughts, perspectives, and gifts is the height of what we humans can aspire to in my opinion; at I/O, that’s what I witnessed in marvelous abundance. I was especially struck by the diversity and the drive to improve the human experience that seemed to the common threads running through the event. That spirit is now forever locked inside me, I feel renewed toward my overall goal of being a voice for women in tech.
8. And what are you looking forward to most about being back home?
The arms of my babies… I can’t wait to show them the pictures, videos, and answer questions. I tell them as much as possible that if they are brave enough to be people who bring value to the world through their talents, actions, and thoughts, that they can literally create their own reality. I will push myself to my very limits to be the kind of person my babies can look up to. Also, I’m legit going to curl into the fetal position and sob uncontrollably if I don’t get to play my Xbox immediately.