From Art School to Software Engineering: How Meg Viar is Paving the Way for Female Tech Leaders

Meg Viar ● Software Engineer ● Nomadic Learning

Meg Viar ● Software Engineer ● Nomadic Learning

Meg Viar will be the first to say that how your journey begins is not where it will end. She attended art school at the Maryland Institute College of Art and later received her masters in education from the University of Nevada- Las Vegas. So, how does one jump from art to tech?

Well, it takes time for seeds to grow into trees.

When Meg was a kid, she was active on Neopets, a virtual pet website. She enjoyed building custom items for her pets and began nurturing the desire to build things early on. She was first exposed to coding as an educator, when she taught second and third graders how to code. During this time, she found a coding bootcamp scholarship opportunity. Although Meg didn’t receive the scholarship, she was still able to get a part of the bootcamp tuition funded as a member of AmeriCorp. Her bootcamp journey led her to opportunities to build great software products. She’s most proud of the back-end solutions she built at her last job, Megaphone.

“When I first started at the company, I had no experience with GoLang or working at the kind of scale they see with their ad serving technology. I took time to learn the basics, hopped in, asked for help as needed, and was able to make valuable contributions to that software.”

Working at Megaphone was a major turning point for Meg because it emphasized the importance of on-the-job learning, especially since she came from a non-traditional background. Software engineering can be scary because the answer is not always obvious, but this is also one of the most rewarding parts of the job for Meg. It leaves room for critical thinking and creativity. She finds herself constantly drawing on her experience as an educator in her work as a software engineer, applying educational theory to her own learning in the field.

“I struggled with worries about whether or not I was a ‘real’ software engineer. When I discovered the importance of problem-solving and self-directed learning in the field, I was better able to recognize the value I brought to the team.”

In order to overcome her ‘imposter syndrome,’ Meg also built self-confidence by drawing upon her experience in working with LET’S GO, a non-profit whose larger-than-life vision was to build a STEM identity in underserved students. LET’S GO focused on cultivating persistence and creative thinking in the students they worked with. Meg applied these same principles to build confidence in her work as a software engineer.

Mentorship was also a crucial part of Meg’s career and confidence-building journey.

“One thing that was helpful to me was having a woman as a manager, who was another software engineer. She was generous in sharing the steps she took and how she was able to navigate her career.”

Meg saw her mentor speak internationally at conferences and be transparent about her journey in STEM. Her mentor helped her to remember that she didn’t need to be isolated while working to establish herself. Finding a network of people she identifies with in her own field of interest is one of the most rewarding aspects of Meg’s career today. Her fulfilling experience with her mentor encouraged her to seek out opportunities to mentor other women. In Washington D.C., she worked with high schoolers through Girls Who Code, a non-profit that aims to increase women in computer science. Meg’s mentorship role helped her to focus on coding and “get over the hump of what programming is and who it’s for.” Peer mentorship also helped Meg build and maintain a sense of community.

“As women, we’re often our biggest critic and we judge ourselves by an unmanageable standard. Go out with confidence, take stock of your own skills, and bring value to your team. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.”

Ultimately, Meg is proud of the community and network she has built of both young and experienced women in STEM. She still loves to learn, and serves as a reminder that the knowledge you gain from one chapter of your journey can benefit you down the road in ways you might not expect!

This story was written by Stephanie Nweke, Wogrammer Journalism Fellow. Connect with her on Linkedin.