THE BLOG
07/23/2013 05:50 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2013

How I Learned To Code

Editor's Note: This post is part of HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the conversation here or on Twitter (#hpSTEM) as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.

I was two years into a master's degree in couples and family therapy only to learn that I didn't want to study couples and family therapy. About this time last year, I realized just how much I wanted to become a Ruby on Rails developer. Working with clients and doing paperwork in the mental health field, which I started over six years ago, had become emotionally draining -- and my husband, a Ruby on Rails developer at a small start-up, seemed to be continuously renewed each day in his work. So, I decided to go out on a limb and attempt to change companies and careers.

Fortunately, many companies today are in search of software developers.

That's because there is currently a lack of well-qualified developers, especially well-qualified female developers and computer science graduates, in the current job market, down from 25 years ago when women made up about 42% of software developers in the United States.

While there are several theories regarding what's happened to cause this gender gap over the years, what it really boils down to for me is that the time is ripe for women to get back into tech. The opportunities are numerous, and given the general lack of developers in the job market overall, the jobs are plentiful.

Thankfully, in today's climate making the career change to a developer is fairly accessible compared to where it was several years ago. There are many different avenues and resources one can take advantage of to build their skills to the point they are desirable to an employer.

Here's how to begin:

1. Read.
There are many different books to choose from, but a beginner's Ruby book called Learn to Program by Chris Pine, which assumes the user has almost no coding experience, helped me. As such, the book goes slow and is easy to read.

2. Reach out to contacts and groups.
I followed up with a weekend at RailsGirls, a workshop designed for women who are interested in learning Ruby on Rails. While just a weekend won't be enough to make you a star coder, it's a great way to connect with the Ruby on Rails community and see what opportunities are out there.

3. Enroll in a program.
Following Rails Girls and my basic learning to program book, I decided I was hooked - there was something special about writing even the smallest of programs and seeing the computer dutifully obey your commands. Deciding to see how deep the rabbit hole went (answer: very deep, I'm absolutely positive I'll never see the bottom), I followed up by enrolling in a University of Washington certification course in Ruby on Rails. This program would take me much more in depth into programming, beginning with learning the Ruby programming language and ending with more advanced techniques for working with Rails, the most popular web framework written in Ruby. Since this was a program designed for people who had slightly more than the novice background in coding that I had, I supplemented my learning along the way with online lessons through The Pragmatic Studio, Code Academy and Code School, picking up more Ruby, CSS and JavaScript as I went.

4. Deepen your learning.
Somewhere in the midst of all this learning through the UW, I decided it would behoove me to pick up yet more experience in learning to code. This led me to Code Fellows, a local start up bootcamp designed to teach people coding in a short period of time. In my case, it was a month long program of 9-5 (often later) all-day coding. Mornings were spent in the classroom, while afternoons were dedicated to building an app of our choice as a portfolio piece. Out of all of my experiences, I would say hands down that an intensive bootcamp is one of the best ways to build your skills- the short time period requires you to learn quickly, yet also provides the valuable coding time needed to get your code up to snuff. On top of that, you'll end up building invaluable relationships with fellow students and teachers.

Remember, though how you choose to build your skills as a developer varies, and is all about what appeals most to you, whether it's an intensive bootcamp style of learning or just thumbing through a book on coding. And, ultimately, what's most important -- is not where you come from, but what you can do. Future employers want to see how much code you write and how often you write it, not just fancy degrees and certifications.

So, don't hesitate. I encourage you to learn to code! Just try it. It can't hurt. And, after a few months, if you don't like it, try something else.