Sarah Shook, Web Developer
👩🏻💻 Job: I currently freelance. My current projects work with Gatsby and Tailwind CSS on the frontend, with Prismic and GraphQL on the backend. In the past I’ve worked with many other languages including PowerShell, SQL, and PHP, and I’m open to project opportunities with those languages (or others!)
🇺🇸 Dallas, TX, US
👶🏻👶🏻👶🏻 I have a 6 year old who’s just finished homeschooling, a 3 year old, and a 1.5 year old (all three stay at home with me during the day).
I enjoy podcasts about current events, history, and tech (Lady Bug Podcast is a great podcast run by women!).
Coding and learning
What do you like most about coding?
Everything is a puzzle. You can figure out how to make the computer do anything you want with the correct logic.
From what I understand you finished a coding bootcamp at home while taking care of your kids, this is amazing. Self-learning is hard, I can’t imagine what it is with kids. What gave you the motivation to enter this journey? What was your setup to make this all happen?
I’m currently attending bootcamp, and am scheduled to finish at the end of July. I used to work for a non-profit where I was the only developer, and while I learned a LOT, I always felt like there were holes in my knowledge.
I took a step back from working full-time after having my 3rd child, and focused on learning.
Balancing everything is a challenge, but I want to provide the best life for my kids, and I’m hoping the work I’m putting in now will pay off tenfold in the future.
Twitter Developers & Friends
I came upon your An Introvert’s Personal Guide to Tech Twitter post, what was the greatest thing Twitter brought into your life?
I joined Twitter because I didn’t know anyone who coded in my personal life. Being the only developer at my last job was sometimes lonely - I didn’t have someone to help me solve issues or celebrate the wins of resolving a challenging coding problem.
I joined Twitter to communicate with other developers. At first my expectations weren’t high, but I quickly built relationships with developers across the world. There are several people I consider friends from Twitter, and we support each other not only in coding, but in other aspects of our life.
Back to work
The route of freelancing
You’re actually job hunting. As a parent, what will convince you to join a company rather than another. What are you looking for and what will make a difference?
I’ve actually decided to go the route of freelancing for now, due to the flexibility and ability to work for myself.
I started my own LLC to keep me motivated, and I’m excited for what the future holds!
Taking things day by day
In this post you talk about the challenge of finding time to code with a family. For job interviews and home assignments, can you find time and energy to dedicate to this? Or is it also challenging?
I haven't had time to code yet today due to being a parent at home with kids. I'm trying to be happy for my friends who are succeeding, but today it's kinda hard, as my priorities are so much different and I don't have as much time to code (but have so much coding to do!).— Sarah Shook 🎀💎 (@shookcodes) May 3, 2021
I take things day by day. Some days I am able to code for hours; others I don’t have time to open my computer. My spouse is very supportive and takes care of our kids when I need time to focus on homework or my career.
What do you like most about being back in “career-mode”?
I don’t think “career-mode” ever left, it was just put on the backburner for a while. That said, it’s become my main priority again (other than parenting, of course!), and I am grateful that I can try to be successful on my own so that my kids will have a great future.
Career & Parenting
Computer vs Kids
You make your family your priority, I love reading that. Working in tech, and having so much to do with side-projects, new things to learn etc., it’s important to be reminded that “Our kids are only young for a while, and enjoying time with them is more important than focusing on coding/tech related stuff all day.” Sometimes we tell ourselves “I will just finish this project”, “I just try this thing and I stop”, it can easily become hours to the detriment of our family. How do you set boundaries to not do too much work?
One thing that's been hard for me to learn, especially as a parent dev, is not to take more than I can handle in regards to projects and goals. These days my short term goals are spending time with my kids & doing fun things w/them & finishing bootcamp.— Sarah Shook 🎀💎 (@shookcodes) April 5, 2021
I notice when I work too much and get too involved in something, I become short with other people (because all I’m thinking about is the problem or project on the computer, and I don’t want to be bothered).
When I get to that point, I know it’s time to step back and take a break. The computer will always be there; like you mentioned, my kids won’t always be young.
Freelance & Involved parent
What are your career plans? What would be the ideal plan to make you happy as a developer and a mom?
I took the plunge into freelancing, and while I’m not sure exactly where that path will take me, I am happy for the freedom it provides.
As my time opens up, I’m hoping my clients will grow, possibly leading me to form an agency. Working on my own time so that I can be an involved parent is my ideal situation.
Time for yourself
Being a mom of 3, and having limited time, how do you take time for yourself? How do you avoid burnout?
Usually I take time for myself by going to the gym for an hour 3 - 5 times a week (though sometimes that is put on hold due to my husband’s work schedule or sick kids).
As far as avoiding burnout, I don’t get as much time to code as people do if they are kid-free or their kids are in some type of live school… So while I do get tired of coding sometimes… I don’t think it’s as much as others who actually sit and code for 6+ hours a day (because I can’t manage that amount of time per day usually).
When burn-out does happen, I take a night to focus on one of my other hobbies.
How do you organize for homeschooling?
The school we go through currently has a weekly plan set out. I read the weekly plan, then try to get my daughter’s schoolwork done each day based on the weekly schedule.
While schoolwork can be completed at anytime, having a set number of assignments that are recommended to be due on a specific day helps me tremendously.
Being a parent developer can be difficult, especially if you were career-oriented before kids, but then wanting the opportunity to stay at home with them while they’re young.
I deal with depression and anxiety (which I’m open about on Twitter), and sometimes mental health can factor into my productivity, both in parenting and coding.
Many people deal with mental health obstacles, and that’s ok. What matters is that we take things day by day and try our best; first, to be a good parent, and secondly, to focus on our careers or anything else that’s important to us.
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