If you’re a military spouse whose family has ever been stationed overseas, you know how difficult it can be to find work. ToAnh Nguyen first discovered how challenging it could be when her husband, Trung, who is currently a Navy command senior chief, was stationed in Japan. ToAnh explains that without knowing a foreign country’s language and culture, it is really difficult for military spouses to succeed in a career overseas. Additionally, as a mother of two, she found it challenging to make ends meet on her husband’s income alone.
Even though ToAnh had over a decade of work experience and had held previous leadership and management positions, she found it impossible to find a job overseas that fit her needs. She says that most of the jobs that were available only paid minimum wage and were well below her skill-set. Remote work was just as frustrating for ToAnh as she explains that “80 percent of the remote jobs postings required various tech skills that I didn’t have.”
Taking the first steps
Because the majority of remote jobs ToAnh found were in the tech industry, she took matters into her own hands and decided to learn how to code.
“I decided that I was going to learn these skills and started with free online tutorials. I started my career-changing journey doing self-taught classes on code academy then moved to Treehouse,” ToAnh says.
While ToAnh was doing her best to teach herself, she wasn’t happy with the rate she was learning. Because she was living in a small remote town in Japan, she found it difficult to connect with other coders and learn more about the tech industry. She felt like her growth was plateauing.
“I had so many questions and no answers. I grew frustrated at the slow pace I was going,” ToAnh explains, “I decided to level up and attend a coding school.” In 2015, she made the life-changing decision to attend a Software Apprenticeship in Costa Rica.
“Learning how to code has changed my life. It’s been three years and I constantly get emails requesting me for work,” ToAnh says.
Because the tech industry is developing at a rapid pace, ToAnh is charging full-speed ahead and learning everything she can about software development, AI, and more. “There are many different paths you can go in the tech industry,” she explains.
Since learning how to code has made such a positive impact on her own life, ToAnh started MilSpouse Coders in order to help other military spouses get into coding. She believes that the tech industry is a perfect fit for so many military spouses. Additionally, she notes that they are known for their grit, getting things done, and problem-solving skills.
“If they transfer these skills combined with coding skills they can make great money and work remotely,” she says.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a software developer in 2017 was $103,560, making coding an extremely profitable career. ToAnh continues to explain that although most remote jobs require at least an intermediate coding skillset, no one is too old to learn.
Coffee and Coding
ToAnh says that her mission in life is to help other military spouses find tech careers that work with their family and military needs. In order to accomplish this goal, ToAnh started the organization, Milspouse Coders. The organization started small, but it’s grown immensely in the past year or so.
“It started with me and another friend that liked to code having coffee once a week and sharing our projects. I got a request last year asking if they could start a MilSpouse Coder chapter where they lived,” she explains. By October 2018, the organization had 12 community chapters and one online chapter.
ToAnh adds, “we have over 700 Facebook followers and over 300 members in our closed study group.”
The goal of the Coffee and Coding events is simply to foster a safe and supportive learning community for military spouses within the tech industry. “Representation is key to get more military spouses into the tech space and it makes a huge difference when you have friends and mentors that have similar life struggles and can understand how to help each other,” she explains.
As the tech industry continues to grow and expand, ToAnh hopes that Milspouse Coders will continue its growth as well. The organization hosted its first hackathon in Virginia Beach this past October and they hope to make it an annual event. ToAnh elaborates on the future of the organization.
“We would love to have a MilSpouse Coder chapter at or near military bases to help teach and motivate future software/web developers,” she added.
Visit MilSpouse Coders to learn more about joining the group and events near you.