Carnegie Mellon University

For many people, the path Linda Wu took to becoming a software developer might seem unconventional. After earning a bachelor’s in economics with a specialization in natural resources and the environment, Linda quickly realized that although she had studied a subject she found interesting, her job prospects were limited unless she furthered her education. “At the time I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do so I did some soul searching and tried different things out, both technical and non-technical. It was during a three month trial period at a tech powered real estate company called Redfin that I really began my journey to become a software engineer. I learned the skills I needed on the job, which inspired me to take courses at local community colleges and online courses at my alma mater. That was where my interest in software development blossomed and where I started to develop my skills.”

At a Crossroads 

As Linda took on more responsibility and grew in her role at Redfin, she realized that in order to continue to progress in her career she would need to gain more knowledge. “In my mind there were multiple paths I could take. I could either learn on the job and continue to work, not as a software developer, but in the technical role of project manager that had the potential to lead to a software engineering role; I could attend a bootcamp; I could learn on my own; or I could go to grad school.”

Once she identified the different paths she could take, it was clear which one she would select. “I always had this personal goal of earning a master’s degree. Plus I wanted to strengthen my CS fundamentals and gain practical experience.” Having selected the path of a formal education, she researched programs and weighed the various features. “Compared to other schools I was considering, I saw that the MSIT-SE catered to people who already had work experience. Ultimately I knew that I wanted to gain a very specific set of skills, and working on a collaborative team for the capstone was appealing.”

Everyone Has a Story

This year, after receiving numerous messages via LinkedIn from people asking her to share her insights into a non-traditional software engineering career path, Linda started a podcast called Dial a Dev in which she interviews software developers. “In the process of responding to people [on LinkedIn], I realized that I’m just one developer with a very specific path. And because my journey is very specific to me and my goals, I felt like I wasn’t doing software development as a career choice justice by just speaking about my experience and I felt that if I could talk to a lot of other people from a lot of different backgrounds, with different goals and life experiences, and be able to collect a diverse set of stories that I could consolidate into one place and share with people, that would better inform people who are thinking about making a switch.

“Because I talk to people from lots of different backgrounds there are some really interesting stories. When I was starting out in my career, I used to think that there was a correct way to approach software development, as well as a less correct way. But I find that after talking to a very diverse group of individuals with different backgrounds, it gave me the insight that when you have a diverse team of people coming from all these different backgrounds, technical and non-technical, you’re given the opportunity to think outside of the box. I think that’s really valuable.”