We are thrilled to announce a collaboration with some of our favorite boss ladies at Skillcrush, “an interactive online learning community for creatives, thinkers, and makers”. Skillcrush focuses on making tech easy to understand, friendly to people of all backgrounds and available to help people succeed. Jen will be writing a monthly column on their blog focused on starting a business, killin’ it as a freelancer and ambitiously taking your career by storm.
Check out Jen’s Q&A with Skillcrush’s very own Julia Sonenshein to learn more about Skillcrush and what to expect from Jen’s monthly column.
Jen: Hi Julia! We’re excited to announce that Bullish articles – or, you know, articles by me about succeeding in business and careers — will be appearing on Skillcrush. So tell us — what is Skillcrush, and also, just to keep this interesting, what’s the last thing you ate?
Julia: Hi, Jen! We’re so excited to have your expertise over at Skillcrush. I’m always psyched to talk about what we do here: We’re an interactive learning community that teaches online coding classes to (mostly) women. Our goal is to give our students the skills to change careers entirely—whether they want to move into the tech world or simply use tech skills in whatever field appeals to them. We have a thriving alumni community, mentors, and tons of resources to support people wanting to make this change. I run the content side of the things, so you’ll see me writing and editing our website.
I’m so glad you asked about what I ate because it gives me a chance to talk about my favorite place in my neighborhood. I had a slice of this chocolate cake I’m totally obsessed with from Court Street Grocer in Brooklyn. My partner or I order it so often that they often set aside a few slices for us (which is sort of embarrassing whenever we walk in and they’re like “Oh, it’s the cake couple”). Whatever, I work hard and adult life means eating a slice of cake for dinner if I want to. And if I can throw a question back to you—what’s your go-to happy hour cocktail?
Jen: Oh, we’re neighbors! I didn’t realize! I’m sorry to the entire rest of the world that the entire media industry is based in Brooklyn (either work in Manhattan / live in Brooklyn, or coffeeshop-freelancer-in-Brooklyn). It’s bizarre, I constantly read book reviews in which it is mentioned that the author was interviewed at my neighborhood diner, for instance. Probably everyone else reads our thinkpieces like, “What is this fourth-floor-walkup of which you speak?” (It’s a fourth floor apartment with no elevator, and people here somehow live in them and also have strollers.)
I’m an Old Fashioned drinker, but I’ll try any whisky-based cocktail as long as no one’s being overly clever and trying to put a jalapeno in there or some egg whites. Right now I’m obsessed with this drink at Sidecar bar in Brooklyn (of course) that has whisky, Philippine rum, and charred pineapples. Most pineapple drinks are grossly sweet, but this one is like HEY THERE WHISKY.
Alright! So let’s talk about how we know each other, before Skillcrush! Bullish started in 2010 as a column on TheGloss, about business and careers from a feminist POV. Of course, TheGloss has been bought and sold a few times over, is now about makeup and celebs fairly exclusively, and is no longer run by Brooklynites. How did you make your way from TheGloss to helping women learn tech?
Julia:I’m a whisky fan, myself! And I will be sure to try Sidecar—if you can believe it, I’ve never been.
The days of TheGloss! It feels like a million years ago. TheGloss was actually my first job in media—I’d been working as a graphic designer focusing mostly on print….which….wasn’t exactly a booming market. I’d always wanted to be a writer and when I saw that TheGloss—at that point, a feminist, hilarious site I loved to read—was hiring for the magical, hardly-ever-exists position of a paid intern, I jumped at the chance and applied. I was lucky enough that I can talk my way into most things and that the editors there decided to take a chance on me. After a year of writing and editing—including the Bullish column!—(and learning what it’s like to be a woman writing on the internet), I left become a full time freelance journalist, covering mostly women’s issues. I started freelancing for DailyWorth.com—and ended up editing you, there, too! When an editor job opened up there I applied and took it, and eventually left during a round of layoffs last June (the oldest media story ever told). I went back to full time freelancing and wrote political and social stories covering things like American gun culture, the election, and even the porn industry. I also went to grad school full time (I just graduated in May!), and started at Skillcrush a month or so before graduating. Phew! I feel exhausted having said all of that.
Skillcrush appealed to me because throughout my career, I’ve written about subjects that I hope help amplify marginalized voices in some way—whether it’s about body image, queer issues, rape culture, tearing down the patriarchy, sexism in the workplace, or personal finance (and the people who’ve been excluded from that whole conversation). But I’d never really worked somewhere that provided a direct service to help marginalized people who felt stuck and to move them forward, and it’s clear that tech is a perfect tool to do exactly that. When I was offered the chance to come on board and run their content, I jumped at it.
Jen: So, the question of the hour – SHOULD everyone learn to code? There’s been some pushback on that idea – not everyone wants to code, not everyone has the personality, this isn’t a solution to mass unemployment, etc.?
Julia: My feeling is this: If you don’t want to learn to code, don’t. But, if you want the skill that will give you the most options for a career (remember—tech skills don’t necessarily mean working in tech), want to make a career change without much time or monetary investment, or are hoping for some serious bank, coding is your best bet. It’s that simple!
And if you’re afraid to code? (Think you’re bad at math? That coding is a young woman’s game?) Ignore that. Coding is for everyone, so if you have any interest, go for it.
Jen: Yay! Skillcrush is pretty clear in focusing on new graduates launching careers as freelancers. Is it unrealistic for people who self-study or attend coding bootcamps to look for full-time jobs, or do you find that most people looking to switch careers into tech just don’t want them?
Julia: We push freelancing pretty hard simply because so many of our students come to us wanting to freelance—they want the flexibility. That said, there’s no reason for people with code academy graduate certificates to avoid looking for full time work—tons of our students work in traditional 9-5s (or, ideally, non-traditional—with flextime and remote options).
Jen: Thanks, Julia! Last thing – so the real reason for this cool convo is that we’re working together again, and I’m doing my best to help Skillcrushers (do you say that?) launch and thrive in freelance careers via a new series of articles. Aside from my column, Slay and Get Paid, what else can people expect to see on the site?
Julia: Our topics are far reaching and ambitious, but it all comes down to the idea of providing information for what we think of as the real tech world—not Silicon Valley, but instead a non-homogenous group of people working all over the world in multiple arrangements—freelancers, contract workers, full time employees that work from home—whatever best suits them.
On our site, you’ll see pieces on tech culture, the nitty-gritty of code, work/life balance (especially for working parents), tech perks, and some serious opinion pieces. So, if you’re interested in making a career shift, think college isn’t your best option, or have finished learning tech skills and want to navigate your new life—you’ve come to the right place. Thank you so much, Jen! We’re so excited to have you.
Check out Jen’s article on Skillcrush here.