This Google Developer Scholarship recipient challenged convention, embarked on a new career journey, and built a new life for herself and her family!

Udacity - Google - Developer - Scholarship

If you’re of working age, then you’ve probably heard the question before: “So, what do you do for a living?” There was a time when, for most working people, this was pretty easy to answer. But in a changing world informed with increasingly rapid change, this has become a more complicated question.

For a long time, our world was one in which “conventional” backgrounds were the overwhelming norm. But over the course of several decades, we’ve witnessed the emergence of “unconventional” paths to success. These increasing viability of these paths has been both exciting, and necessary. “Convention” has too often equated to a rarefied educational pedigree available only to a small percentage of the population that are either born to it, or can afford it.

Coming from an “unconventional” background isn’t always easy, and there is still progress to be made as we pursue a genuinely inclusive world. Today, we’re hopefully approaching a future in which the binary of conventional vs. unconventional no longer prevails—a world in which multiple varieties of education and training can be considered “legitimate.”

Initiatives such as Google and Udacity’s Developer Scholarship are providing well-deserved opportunities for career advancement to lifelong learners who have experienced firsthand what it means to come from “unconventional” backgrounds. These individuals—through their skills, dedication, and grit—have persevered, and built rewarding lives and careers for themselves, even as they’ve had to continually explain and justify their seemingly unorthodox career paths to recruiters and hiring managers—not to mention friends and family!

Anne-Christine is one such remarkable individual.

Meet Anne-Christine

Anne-Christine is a 51-year old mother of two (ages 9 and 11), She lives in a small village in the west of France, with the nearest city being more than 50 km away. She enjoys long hikes in the woods, playing piano, and spending time with her family.

Anne-Christine is also a Google Developer Nanodegree Scholarship recipient.

Discovering Programming

In high school, Anne-Christine’s favorite subjects were physics, biology, and mathematics. High school was also when she discovered programing for the first time:

“When I was at high school, I discovered the Apple II. It was the beginning of 80s. It had the Space Invader game on it, but our teacher also taught some of us how to program the computer in basic language. I was completely passionate about that, and wanted to go further in programming. But at that time, the programming languages taught at university were mostly Pascal Cobol, and the only real-life applications of these languages were in banking or insurance, all that all looked very boring to me. So I opted to pursue a career as a veterinarian.”

Opting for a Different Career

Anne-Christine chose the veterinary profession because it combined her interest in biology with her love of animals. She studied hard, and worked in the veterinary field during holidays to earn more money to keep up her studies.  She loved her work, and committed wholeheartedly to her chosen career path. She ultimately worked in the veterinary industry for 15 years, in many different roles—technical, marketing, sales.

Combining Passions

Then came the internet! Anne-Christine’s love of programming resurfaced, and she began exploring:

“Slowly but surely, I remembered the high school basic classes and started to learn by myself about websites, web design, HTML and CSS. It was so much fun!”

Her first instinct was to try and connect her two passions:

“I tried to create an ‘e-business manager’ position for the vet industry. Focusing on e-business started out taking 10% of my time, then 50%, then 100%. I created the company website, as well as some flash quizzes for the salesforce. I educated the teams about digital matters … I was really happy with that job.”

Starting a Family

It was at this time that Anne-Christine decided to start a family—she became the mother of two wonderful children. She loved being a mother, but the timing proved to have some unforeseen consequences for her career:

“After the second maternity leave, when I came back to the workforce, the vet laboratory had been sold to another company, everything had been reorganized, and I discovered I could not continue working as before.”

Anne-Christine found herself unemployed, with two children to raise. But despite the turn in her fortunes, she stayed optimistic. She was hungry to keep learning, and her passion for programming was undimmed. All the same, she was realistic about the challenges she faced:

“When you are a 51-year-old woman, it is almost impossible to find a job. You are a ‘senior,’ and companies prefer to hire younger people.”

An additional challenge was the fact that, in France, most developer jobs are based in Paris. But Anne-Christine didn’t want to uproot her family. She didn’t want to abandon her beloved woods and her little village. So she decided to try and succeed right where she was.

Re-entering the Workforce

She began the process by opening a small internet business, and tried to find opportunities to build websites for clients:

“It was difficult to find the first customers, as I had no network. After 3 years of struggle, I succeeded in creating more than 20 new websites. But they are mostly small websites, and I can’t really live on what I earn from that work.”

Anne-Christine knew her biggest liability was that she lacked the right skills:

“I was not a real developer yet. I was creating WordPress websites and setting up themes, modifying HTML and CSS. But young developers know Javascript, php and more.”

Discovering Udacity, and Earning a Scholarship from Google

In the summer 2017, Anne-Christine saw a Facebook ad announcing the Google Developer Scholarship initiative, sponsored by Google and Udacity. Here was the kind of opportunity she’d been looking for! She was ready to learn a new set of skills, and she enrolled in the Android Basics Nanodegree Program. Within four weeks, she’d built her first app!

“I am really grateful to Google and Udacity for this chance. The ball is now in my camp. I just have to transform this chance and work hard to reach the final goal! I want to prove that a 51-year-old mum can become an Android programmer.”

Passion and Determination

It is an incredible honor to play a role in the journeys of amazing lifelong learners like Anne-Christine. She is skilled, passionate, and determined. Not only does she refuse to be obstructed by convention, she embraces the opportunity to challenge it. For anyone with doubts about their own backgrounds, about their own paths to success, you can take Anne-Christine’s words to heart, and be inspired:

“You only need passion and determination.”

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This is the first story in a series featuring scholarship recipients with unconventional backgrounds just like Anne-Christine’s. You can learn more about Anne-Christine at her website (FR)