#WhyICode: Julie Letchner Accidentally Finds Computing, Leads to Full Career

October 6, 2017

I learned to code as a freshman in college, mostly by accident. I was a chemistry major who hated chemistry classes, so I switched on a whim into the introductory programming sequence.  That first course felt like a homecoming. I earned my B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. without looking back. It's been nearly twenty years since then; I feel incredibly lucky that the field I fell in love with is one that affords such enormous opportunity.  

My computer science training has positioned me to do so much more than "just" write code (but I still love to do that, too). I get to teach at universities. I get to visit customers and colleagues around the world and synthesize their feedback into product plans. I get to work with marketers, salespeople, engineers, executives, etc. and learn about their jobs. I get to mentor budding, enthusiastic engineers and analysts.  

I also get to be a role model to my three little boys.  For them, it's normal for mom to discuss her workday over dinner; to have opinions about tech; to state and pursue career ambitions. I can point to my work and tell them, "Mama built that." I hope and expect that they'll be genuinely bewildered when they first encounter the "women aren't good at tech" trope. The flexibility of tech jobs also means that I can be with my kids when I want or need to be, without fear of losing my job or suffering financially.


I discovered computing accidentally. I'm glad that there are more on-ramps into the tech world nowadays, especially for people who might not otherwise find or follow a technical path. Coding opens up opportunities; I look forward to the day when those opportunities are available to everyone who wants to take advantage of them.


- Julie Letchner

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