Ashley Chapokas went from administrative assistant at a startup in Center City to a web developer at Monetate in under a year.
How did she do it?
Chapokas started taking Girl Develop It Philly classes in her spare time in March 2013. With the support of the GDI team and her friends and family, she landed a job at the Conshonken-based company Monetate this past January.
She’s also now a volunteer coordinator for GDI Philly.
Generocity.org sat down with Chapokas to discuss how Girl Develop It played a role in her success and how she’s now paying it forward as a volunteer coordinator.
(Answers have been edited for clarity and length).
How did you first hear about Girl Develop It?
I was working for startup, called Poptent, as administrative assistant, and I really wanted to move upward in the company and a coworker recommended that I take classes with them.
The first class I had taken was a web concepts class — and I loved it. I knew at that moment that I wanted to take that path.
What classes did you take next?
After web concepts I took HTML and CSS, I took an intro to UX class, and I did a project day. Any class that really came down the pipe from Girl Develop It that I thought I could benefit from I was taking.
Why did you keep taking classes?
I actually started at Temple as an architecture major, and my freshman year I just got flooded out with all the work. I just couldn’t handle the workload–I was really tired all the time and I kind of never really forgave myself for backing out of that because I love it.
When I took web development classes and HTML and CSS classes I used the same portion of my brain that I was using to build 3D models in architecture. But it even surpassed my interests at that point. I actually really really found solace in web development. So I just kept on pushing myself.
How did you get involved as the volunteer coordinator?
So once I got the job at Monetate, Yasmine and I became closer. I basically told her the reason I was so successful was because of her and Brain, my mentor. I contacted them and told them I wanted to give back. I saw that they were looking for a volunteer coordinator, and I applied for it and they said it was a ‘no-brainer.’
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I just really want to give back, and I want people to realize it is possible to take the same path that I did.
What do you do as volunteer coordinator?
As a volunteer coordinator, I work with three other women to expand what Girl Develop It is currently doing.
Right now we have classes, we want to start doing happy hours, we just need more people to execute these program initiatives. Originally there were three organizers, now there are seven of us–so we’re going to be able to get a whole lot more done.
How have you seen yourself grow since you first started taking classes?
Professionally, I’ve grown the most I have in my entire life. Personally, the most I have in my entire life–it changed my perspective on where I was headed.
When I became involved with Girl Develop It, it was really a way to push me towards my goals. It wasn’t easy process, and I had to keep myself afloat while learning this stuff. I feel really fortunate that I pulled through–and now I’m a developer.
What advice would you give to people who want to learn to code and eventually get a job in web development?
The one thing I would say is that if you really want to become a developer–don’t give up, no matter how long it takes. There was a lot of times I thought maybe I couldn’t do it, but I just kept pushing, pushing and pushing. I knew that I could, and that I deserved something better for myself. I think that’s the one piece of advice I’d give to anybody.-30-
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