Claire Hough at Hackbright’s Dinner and Demo Night

Udemy is a proud supporter of coding schools such as Hackbright Academy and CodePath, and is especially excited about more women leveraging these programs to break into software development. We recently sponsored a SF MobileBridge event, full-day workshop on iOS development. Additionally, our own VP of Engineering Claire Hough attended Hackbright’s Dinner and Demo Night earlier this month to address the impressive class of new graduates.

Looking for some inspiration, guidance, or motivation to give a coding fellowship a try? We’d love to share! Here’s what Claire had to say about her personal experience as a woman in the field and advice for new graduates at the ceremony:

claireGood evening!

When Angie asked me to speak tonight, the stereotypical woman in me asked myself, “Do I have anything profound to say? Would anyone really want to hear from me?” But then remembering what I learned and what I preach, I told myself, “I can” and I told Angie, “I will.”

“I can” and “I will” are two phrases that represent all of you. I have found that code school graduates have that “I can-do” presence. It is more than a can-do attitude; it is a can-do presence. You have presence. And you have confidence. Many of you left a different industry to pursue this challenging career path. It takes tremendous courage and commitment to embark on this new journey. It must be more than a little scary for some of you and yet every single Hackbright fellow I met at Career Day was thoroughly poised, excited, and exuded confidence. Channel this and know that you are an inspiration and role model to women everywhere.

I have interviewed very talented female senior engineers. They have years of experience and obviously have accomplished a lot, yet their resumes are full of phrases like “I helped,” “My team worked on,” and “I contributed…” Compare these to the phrases “I owned,” “I delivered,” and “I led.”  I urge all of you to look at your accomplishments and take ownership of your successes. You are way ahead of the game when you walk into interviews with the confidence you deserve to have. I do not mistake confidence with arrogance. You are all confident but humble. You appreciate the 10 weeks of intense education chock full of lectures, exercises, and projects. Many of you have experienced self-directed learning before you started this program and are eager to continue to learn. I would classify all of you as lifelong learners. You take the best online courses and tutorials, you attend hackathons, you attend meetups. I am reminded that “learning never stops” when I meet coding school grads.

Some of my coding school hires came and joined my team many months after graduating from a coding school. Companies, especially startups including Udemy, sometimes pass on great candidates for many reasons – their situation may require them to hire engineers with a specific skill set or their hiring managers do not have cycles to properly onboard and mentor junior candidates. There could be many other financial or business reasons when you might get a “sorry” from a company during your job search. It doesn’t mean they didn’t like you or your background. It simply means they “cannot make a match at this time.” I had a candidate who contacted me multiple times asking, “Do you have a position for me now?” It was a happy moment when I was able to offer her an internship. I knew she was smart and I knew she would do well if I could find the right team for her. She successfully completed her three-month internship and we offered her a full-time position! She is doing great and we are so happy to have her on our team! So the lesson here is persistence pays off and timing is everything.

Some graduates who eventually joined my team said it was at times discouraging and depressing to look for a job, especially when they hear other fellow graduates have landed jobs. Depending on many factors out of your control, it may take some of you longer than you expected to land your first job. I am impressed by the resilience and resourcefulness of code school grads during the job search. You volunteer as mentors or teaching assistants at a coding school. You volunteer as a programmer at non-profit organizations, you take on internships, you continue to build on your own project as you keep searching for the right job. It speaks to the resilience of people like you, determined to make this career transition. I am inspired!

The last lesson I value is “networking.” You are masters of networking. You find people who may know people who are at your target company. You ask for an introduction. You ask them to meet for coffee, you present your project, you ask for another introduction to a hiring manager. You attend meet-ups and connect with even more people. I was introduced to several code school grads through people in my network. I try to set up a meeting even if I do not have any job openings at that time because we may open a position later or I may hear about a position at my friend’s company at some point. Leverage the power of networking! You do that well and you remind me I should do more.

As I look at this room, I am excited for the teams you will be joining. They will be stronger teams because of your passion, energy, new insights and ideas. I want to congratulate you again for your tremendous accomplishments, and wish congratulations also to the Hackbright Academy for releasing another great class of female engineers to the software development community.

Great job!

About Claire Hough

Claire Hough is Udemy’s Vice President of Engineering and leads all engineering and product functions for the company’s geographically distributed team. Prior to joining Udemy, she held senior executive positions at Citrus Lane, NexTag, Napster and Netscape. Claire has led the delivery of innovative software platforms, infrastructure middleware, tools and applications, and has a proven track record of building and growing strong teams focused on innovation, delivery, quality, and customer care. She has a BS in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, as well as a MS in Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley.

Claire is a big fan of e-learning and coding boot camps. She has hired graduates from several boot camps and sponsored internships. She recently served as a judge for CodePath’s Fall 2014 Demo Day.

Outside of Udemy, Claire volunteers for non-profits including Stanford Autism Center and Community Advisory Board for Special Education.