Reinventions: Abbey Perini

'You don't have to know everything there is to know about programming'

Reinventions profiles people who've made big pivots. Meet Abbey Perini, who started as a do-all admin, then became a full-stack web developer.

What were you before?

I was an admin in high-volume engineering recruiting. I did everything after an interview was requested for a candidate—scheduling interviews, pushing for feedback, proofreading thank-you notes, managing onboarding, sometimes even hiring and firing. I provided customer service for clients and our current contractors, which could be anything from getting documents for a client to attending weekly calls, to getting issues with a candidate's paycheck fixed. I was the point of contact for 150-plus candidates and dozens of clients.

What triggered your reinvention(s)?

After about two years in the role, it became clear the team was not growing fast enough for me to become a manager, as I was told to expect when I was hired. More importantly, every day started to look the same. I started applying within and without the company, and researching different career paths. Outside of the company, I only got job leads for multi-level marketing schemes and sales roles, which I knew I did not want. Finally, I was rejected after interviewing for a role within the company that was the only good match for my experience, and that I knew I was more than qualified for.

What did the first steps look like?

In March 2020, about two and a half years after I started trying to find another job or find a new career, my husband said, "Hey, what about web development?" I had been considering data science, so I had a list of questions to ask bootcamps ready to go. I found one that checked all my boxes. I interviewed and committed to a cohort in October 2020. Then Covid hit, no one was hiring, and I suddenly had plenty of time to study the pre-work the bootcamp suggested. 

In August 2020, a client argued with me over multiple emails about the current day's date. That day I moved myself to the September cohort, and put in my notice.

What was one hard obstacle to overcome?

Self-doubt. I'm very much a planner and not prone to giant leaps of faith. I really had to work to cultivate a sense of confidence independent of external validation. I focused on building an online presence around the things I enjoyed about programming. To my surprise, it resonated with people. I'm eternally grateful this turned out to be the correct leap at the correct time.

What was easier than you thought?

The coding itself. I took to it like a fish to water and absolutely loved it. Don't get me wrong, it took a lot of studying and determination, but web development in particular turned out to be a natural fit for many of my strengths. 

Doing this all from home, during a global pandemic, was a blessing and a curse, but I am also very aware I am privileged enough to have had the means to do so.

What's something you learned along the way that other people, hoping to do something similar, should know?

You don't have to know everything there is to know about programming. That's very much impossible. All you need to know is how to find the answers you seek. 

Did anyone or anything inspire you along the way?

A couple Dolly Parton documentaries. Networking groups like Women Who Code, Women in Tech, and Virtual Coffee. Not to mention mentors and friends—including a few I found through the bootcamp, Twitter, and networking groups.

What has this fundamentally changed for you?

My self-confidence. Every time I hit run, and something people can actually use appears on my screen, I get a lot of joy and a little more self-assurance. Doubling my salary after seven months of unemployment was a bonus.

Do you think you could go back/do you want to?


Tell us your reinvention song.

Between working in the same room as my husband and studying, I listened to 2,154 new artists on Spotify in 2020. In honor of that, here are my top three reinvention jams:

"SUPERBLOOM" by MisterWives
"Cheerleader," the Felix Jaehn Remix by OMI
"Slow Dance" by AJ Mitchell, Ava Max

How would you define yourself now? 

My current title is software application developer, but I would describe myself as a full-stack web developer. I love colors and putting the internet boxes where they should go, pixel by pixel. I also build servers and databases. I can build and design everything from the cute button you click in your browser window, to how your data is stored, and everything in between. I am very happy that my current role expects me to be full-stack over front-end or back-end. I will be maintaining and finishing one web app before moving on to another in the same integrated suite of web apps.

Reinventions is a questionnaire series with people who are making pivots in their lives. If you're going through a reinvention and would like to be interviewed for the series, please get in touch.

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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