June 18, 2015 - by Mark Li

From Teacher to Software Engineer: How Katherine Wu is Taking the Leap

Katherine Wu is a yogi, problem solver and student of life.  

After six years of working in education, she indulged her curiosity for programming and signed up for Hackbright Academy’s part-time Intro to Programming class. Over the course of the 10 week program, what began as a curiosity quickly grew into a newly discovered passion.

With her newly acquired coding skills, Katherine applied and was admitted into Hackbright's Software Engineering Fellowship and she is now officially pursuing a career as a software engineer this summer! 

We caught up with Katherine to talk all things coding, learning new skills and her mantra going into this new chapter in her life. 

Can you tell us about your background? 

I earned my BA in English Literature and Linguistics and an MA in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). I specialize in second language writing and have been teaching international students in higher education settings for six years now.

You came from the education system, what propelled you to look into coding?

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While working on a curriculum team, I realized how pumped up I was developing the infrastructure for faculty collaboration. As I researched ways to create specifications, optimize workflow, and apply version control, I noticed two things: One, I’m digging into engineering! Two, whenever I solve a curriculum problem by applying an engineering concept, I felt excited and complete.

This experience created the “aha moment,” making me realize that solving problems creatively and constantly learning new things are what truly energizes me. Therefore, I decided to explore a career in software engineering because its fast-paced rhythm and energy offers exactly what I seek: creative problem-solving and non-stop learning.

What was your first step once you decided to try coding?

That's when I decided to take Hackbright’s Introduction to Programming class and also learning python on Code Academy. After the evening class at Hackbright, I’d return home tired but content, thinking, “It’s an awesome day because I learned new stuff!”

You made a major step and, after taking the Intro to Programming course, decided to apply to the full-time fellowship. What made you decide to become a software engineer?

I took the intro class because I was interested in the world of engineering, but wasn't sure if programming or the learning environment at Hackbright would be a good fit for me. The intro class allowed me to gauge my interest in coding and confirm that I can learn effectively there so it was an easy decision at that point to commit to the fellowship!

What's your goal in pursuing this technical path?


Ultimately, I want to be a modern renaissance woman—one enriched by technology and liberal arts; one that can appreciate the logical beauty behind lines of code, the layers of richness in literature, and the complexity of teaching/learning.


Is there anything specific you would like to build during Hackbright Academy's software engineering fellowship?

From my teaching experience, I learned that there is a constant need for international college students to expand their vocabulary. Each student’s needs vary depending on their specialization and proficiency levels, yet current vocabulary learning apps focus only on general vocabulary and lack meaning-focused exercises. Therefore, I’d like to develop a vocabulary learning app that can be customized according to each users’ needs and provide meaningful practice.

Eventually, I’d like to combine my liberal arts background and programming expertise, and dive in the ed tech industry. My dream is to bring interdisciplinary perspectives in building products that make learning accessible, effective, and enjoyable.

What advice would you give to other women who are thinking about trying the part-time program?


It's a great way to explore your potential. The part-time course motivated me to explore coding more in-depth during my own time.


Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" --William Butler Yeats

As an educator, this quote has guided both my teaching mentality and methodology. It made me realize the importance of creating a community of learners and cultivating sustainable learning mindsets -- course content changes over time, but friendships and perseverance last.

Now that I'm learning programming, this quote still serves as a good reminder: it's not only about how many rules or algorithms I can memorize, it's also about reaching out when I need help and developing a sustainable mind and attitude for continuous learning.


See yourself in Katherine’s shoes? Learn more about our 12-week full-time software engineering fellowship at our Info Session on July 13th so save the date, and RSVP below to join us in person or remotely.

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