How I got out of my own way and found the happy path in tech, by Hilary Stohs-Krause


We can be pretty skillful at talking ourselves out of opportunities: ‘I wouldn’t be any good at it; someone else deserves it more. It sounds too stressful; I probably wouldn’t like it.’

A decade ago, I believed I wasn’t the right kind of person to be a programmer, despite enjoying it as a pre-teen. Once I finally joined tech fourteen years later after a stint in journalism, I specifically didn’t want any extra responsibility, convinced that a leadership role wasn’t for me. Fast-forward to today, and I’m now three years into being co-owner of the tech company where I started as an intern. Sometimes the roles we think we’re least suited for turn out to be the most fulfilling.


I wrote this talk for a conference where I was asked to “tell a story”. As a second-career programmer who’s mentored and connected with countless other second-career tech folks, I wanted to help build community by sharing my journey from my first career (journalism) into tech. This talk focuses on not only external barriers I encountered (many of which will be familiar to attendees), but also internal barriers I had unconsciously erected for myself, and how I learned over the years to overcome both. The talk is intended to explore vulnerability and growth, and create a sense of “you’re not alone”-ness for attendees (second-career or not) when it comes to common insecurities and doubts.


This talk has a narrative structure, beginning with my first forays into tech and the way that cultural representations dampened my ambitions as a kid. I then talk about institutional barriers I encountered in my first career, and the steps necessary for me to recognize the ways I was being held back and stifled. I explore my decision to switch to tech, and the similar barriers that I initially found, as well as the internalized barriers I’d crafted for myself. Finally, I spend some time discussing how taking chances and engaging with my community opened my eyes and altered my perspectives, allowing me to find true satisfaction and joy in my work, in ways that I would never have seen coming.

Edit proposal


Longhorn PHP 2023 - Rejected [Edit]

Connectahaha 2021 - Accepted [Edit]

Add submission