Software Development
Coding / Education / Finance / Web development / Women in tech

Aiyani ditched retail and is now a software developer at Bank of America

“I cringe looking back.” Here's how code changed Aiyani Martin's life.

GDI panelists from the event earlier this year, left to right: Aiyani Martin, Elizabeth Cottrell and Joni Trythall. Moderator Megan Anthony is on the far left. (Courtesy photo)

Earlier this month Girl Develop It hosted a panel of women who transition into tech, one of whom was Aiyani Martin.
After 10 years in retail and art, she was ready to transition into a new career. That’s when she heard about Zip Code Wilmington through a friend, applied and got in. She graduated earlier this year, now she works as a full-time software developer at Bank of America.
We asked her about her journey, this is what she had to say.


What sparked the change?
I’ve always enjoyed my work — in whatever capacity — but every job I’d chosen was a dead-end for growth. Nothing ever felt quite right. It was like when you decide you’re not going to get that latte you really love just to save a couple bucks a week and you skip around from one place to another desperately trying to find a suitable substitute; something you can at least pretend was exactly what you wanted.

I took the leap because I was tired of people telling me that I wouldn't like being a software developer.

Mind you, I don’t regret any job I’ve had, but they were all a lot of work for very little pay. They were all off-brand lattes: perfectly acceptable and did the job fine, but weren’t designed to give anything more. What I wanted was a real career. Something that could support the things that really matter to me (like volunteering in my community), but also something I could grow in and find fulfillment from. And I really wanted to be able to afford my tall, 7-pump soy chai latte again.
Did you have a turning point where you decided that tech was your passion?
My experience was a bit cliche in that kind of “no way, that doesn’t really happen” type of way.
Aiyani Martin. (Photo via LinkedIn)
I’ve had many jobs in many fields over the years. I’ve even been to school twice. Once, a trade school for dog grooming and later actual college for baking and pastry and restaurant management. But when I was a little kid, I remember seeing Tron for the first time. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I knew right then and there, that’s what I wanted to do. As I grew up, though, it seemed like a pipe dream. My schooling focused on the arts — creative writing and painting. I did most of my work on computers and even built a few blogs and websites along the way. But for a long time, I forgot about that childhood dream.
And then a friend told me about Zip Code Wilmington (as far as I’m concerned, the best advance in tech to the East Coast in years). For the first time, I was ready. That moment was my turning point. It was time to go for my dream; time to stop wandering around bushes and just jump down the rabbit hole.
Why did you take the leap when you did?
I guess this ties in with my last answer. I took the leap because I was tired of people telling me that I wouldn’t like being a software developer — especially one specializing in Java and back-end work.
I hated when people said I didn’t “look” like someone who could be in tech. Call me Marty McFly, but that to me, was tantamount to being called a chicken.
I was tired of dreaming of being that cool nerd in the action movie who saves the day at the last possible second by remotely defusing the bomb and … okay, okay … I’m still not quite there yet, but now … now I actually could be. Basically, I took the leap because I wanted to, and, thanks to Zip Code, I was finally given the opportunity to be what I wanted to be.
You used to work in retail, how did you use (or not use) the skills you learned in your previous profession?
Let’s face it. Retail work is horrifying. I worked in and around retail for over 10 years, 10 whole years with a fake smile and a bubbly “how can I help you?” I cringe looking back.
With that being said, retail was the best learning experience I could have had for my career (really any career). It taught me how to communicate, how to manage time and work, and what was important to keep a business thriving. I use those skills every day. Not to mention how greatly they help in job interviews.

Companies: Zip Code Wilmington / Girl Develop It

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