Hacking Barriers Spotlight: Paula Simon (she/her), Front End Web Developer

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Never let your setbacks and the people who doubt you define your future”

What prompted you to explore a career in tech?

Growing up, I had anxiety approaching anything related to STEM due to my experiences with math and sciences in school. I also saw little diversity in tech at the time. It’s hard to envision yourself thriving in a field where you don’t see yourself represented. Yet, as a digital native, I’ve always been interested in tech. Once I started learning more about its history and how people are working to change the workforce and landscape, I knew I wanted to be part of that narrative and apply my communications, media, and social advocacy background to make tech more inclusive and accessible.

What is your ideal tech job?

I’m interested in becoming a front end developer, but I’d like to stay open to other opportunities as I continue to gain more experience and knowledge in the field.

Tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you.

Currently, I’m working remotely in an administrative position for a public media broadcasting organization. My schedule may look different depending on what projects I’m working on that week, but I always start the day focusing on what I need to accomplish. I love that I’m able to be involved in multiple initiatives and help set important projects in motion! After work, I like to relax by exercising, reading, or working on an art project. My current focus is on analog collage but I’ve also been teaching myself digital illustration. If it’s nice outside, I’ll go for a walk or a long hike on the weekends. Afterwards, I’ll dive into coding, followed by dinner, and then a movie or tv show. I also love catching up with friends and family (virtually for now).

How do you stay motivated to get your tech degree work done?

I like to stay updated on trends in tech and follow inspiring people on social media. I also participate in my coding program’s Slack channel to see what cool projects people are working on, how students overcame similar learning obstacles, and swap resources.

Who are your biggest fans and cheerleaders as you pursue this certificate?

My friends, family, and loved ones. They have encouraged me throughout my coding program and made me feel seen.

What’s your favorite study snack?

Chips & salsa or some pieces of dark chocolate. Can’t go wrong with a nice big mug of tea!

What’s your trick to destress?

Some of my preferred tricks are to move my body (dancing or simply being in nature), create something (I love crafting and baking), or through connection (chat with a friend or family member).

Are there any apps, software, or tools you cannot live without?

Procreate for digital illustration, Trello for organizing, and Spotify for music and podcasts. Having something to listen to throughout the day is an instant mood-booster.

I believe that finding a community where you feel validated and supported is essential.

If you’ve ever had to face obstacles because of perceived identity, can you give advice on how you overcame them for those reading who may be going through something similar?

I believe that finding a community where you feel validated and supported is essential. I have also been able to overcome certain obstacles by working with a mental health professional (therapy is great and everyone can benefit from it), and engaging in identity work.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the Hacking Barriers cohort?

The community, its members, and the WITPGH team! Even though the program is held virtually, the cohort has created a space where I feel motivated, connected, and I’m always learning something new through their workshops. It’s exciting to hear what other folks are working on and exchange resources, tips, and tricks.

If you had to pick an intersection of tech what would it be? And Why? (Ex: TechXArt, TechXFashion, TechXSocial Good)

TechXArt or TechXSocial Good. Both sectors are very meaningful to me and how they have impacted my communities. Tech continues to create incredible innovations, opportunities, and advancements, but we’re also seeing how tech has enabled the continuation of unethical practices and inequity in our communities. There needs to be an intersection of approaches on creating a more equitable and inclusive landscape for tech, as well as the systems in which it exists.

What is a piece of advice you would give to others who want to apply for a tech Bootcamp or something you wish you could tell your past self?

Never let your setbacks and the people who doubt you define your future. I never would have considered tech if I continued to believe that because I wasn’t good at STEM in school, I wouldn’t have a future in it. Give yourself permission to dream and believe in yourself.

Tell us about a time you felt extremely accomplished in the past couple years.

I’m proud that I found my own voice and pursued my goal to learn how to code!

How can readers support you

Reach out and say hello! I love networking and meeting new people.

Where can we find you?


Hacking Barriers is a remote learning collaboration to decrease barriers of entry into the tech industry by  WITPGH  in partnership with Team Treehouse + The Center On Interracial Relationships + Neighborhood Allies.  The cohort features an entirely remote learning and support program for BIPOC women that employs a multi-pronged approach to the popular bootcamp method of learning programming and design related technical skills. The program includes local networking and work-life balance resiliency workshops with a structured 6 month online technical bootcamp featuring tracks for Python, Front-End Web Development, Full-Stack Development, User Experience, and PHP.