When Noemi Romero — a single mom with two kids — lost her job as a nanny, she did what she has always done: solved the problem. With her drive and practical mindset, it’s no surprise that she found a perfect fit in General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive1 program. Now, she’s a GA grad and customer quality engineer at Chicago-based startup 4Degrees. Learn how she overcame every obstacle to find security for her family and a new, fulfilling career.
My technology journey has been non-standard. Early in my childhood, my family brought me to the U.S. in pursuit of economic opportunity. I dropped out of high school to care for my first child and earned my GED a few years later. Then, I worked full time as a nanny to support my family as a single mother — this is when I had my second child. I also attended a bootcamp and some internships to learn how to code — I always had a dream to work with software after having been exposed to programming in school. In March 2020, my efforts paid off as I began my first paid position as a developer at 4Degrees, a Chicago-based software startup. I am thrilled to finally have the opportunity to pursue my career goals, and I am determined to make the most of it through continued personal and professional growth.
In my new role, I have learned that there are many skills necessary for success in a tech career — I am both eager and determined to develop them. I feel that I have so much to contribute, but I’m not always sure how to frame my ideas or communicate them effectively. I want to grow professionally and learn to speak my mind. I want to help push 4Degrees forward by learning how to best utilize my natural strengths, talents, and unique perspective. I want to be a better teammate and bring more value to the company by sharing my ideas and asking more questions. I want to be able to create new initiatives for the company. I want to learn more about my own strengths and how to best use them to give that same assistance to others who need it. I want to connect and support other single moms or women in similar situations — because everyone deserves a chance at a better future.
What were you doing before you came to GA? What prompted you to make a change?
I was working as a nanny, but when the kids got older and no longer needed a nanny, the family gave me three paid months to find a new position. What motivated me to make a change was that I always wanted to enroll in college — I had to drop out of high school when I became a teen mom. Being a new mom in high school, my priority was to take care of my daughter, so I became a nanny to provide for her. But I always had the dream of finding a career for me.
What was it about web development and software engineering specifically that intrigued you to explore it as a career? What was the defining moment that pushed you forward?
I did a summer programming course when I was a freshman in high school. I fell in love with taking the computers apart and reprogramming them. I knew right then and there I wanted to be a programmer or in a field related to technology.
What motivated you to choose GA over other programs?
I chose GA because I liked the curriculum and resources they offered. The timeline of the program was perfect for someone like me. I thought to myself, “I can’t afford to go to a four-year college — but a three-month course, I can manage.” As a single mom, this was just what I needed to be able to make the career transition. They made me feel welcome and supported. They gave me an opportunity by awarding me a scholarship, and I will always be grateful to everyone at GA.
Can you tell us more about your scholarship? What was the application process like and how did you feel when you learned you received it?
The application process was very thorough, and the people were very friendly. I learned about the scholarship when I was looking to go back to college and learned about bootcamps. I called GA and asked if there was any chance someone like me could take the program. I was very happy to learn that GA was offering a full scholarship for one person at that time. They told me that it was a very thorough process, and it would take time. The interview was amazing. I got to be myself, and they made me feel like I belonged there from the beginning. I felt so blessed when I got the email — I thought it was almost impossible for me to get it because so many people deserve an opportunity.
How did you balance your life as a mom and GA Immersive student?
It was definitely not easy. I felt like I was not spending any time with my kids. But I had a conversation with them when I learned I had received the scholarship. I explained that it was going to be hard for everyone but that we all deserved a chance at a better future — and that this is what I wanted to do. They were very supportive. They did get overwhelmed at times, but they saw me staying up at night, sleeping very little, running here and there. I guess they saw how much I wanted it, so they helped me by stepping up and becoming a little more independent. I also had a friend who helped me make lunches and pick them up from school.
There was also a lot of support from everyone at GA — inside and outside the classroom. They helped me keep going even when I felt like I was never going to get it. It was a combination of support from my kids, friends, GA staff, and fellow students, and my dream for a better future that kept me going.
When you have loved ones to support, it can be harder to take that professional risk to change careers. What would you say to other parents facing this decision?
There will never be a perfect time if that is what we wait for. We have to fight for our dreams, and we all deserve the chance at a better future. It is better to struggle temporarily in the pursuit of a better life than to struggle for the rest of our lives because of temporary obstacles.
You are a problem-solver — both as a developer and a parent. Do you find that the program influenced you as a parent? A person?
It definitely did. It helped me have a different perspective on a lot of things. It helped me look for more solutions and possibilities when I encountered a problem. It also helped me want to become better every day because I saw what we accomplished as a class. If we learned so much in three months, imagine what we can learn afterwards now that we have the learning skills we need.
What kept you going? What would you say to a student who is afraid they may need to quit?
I kept going because I was doing the program for my kids and my dream of a better future. They were my inspiration and motivation to take the risk — they were my FUEL. This was an opportunity that I was not going to take for granted. It is very hard to make a career change, but you are worth the hard work. In those moments when you feel like quitting, remember why you are doing it.
Since graduating, how has GA made an impact in your life?
I have been able to connect with incredible people because of the networking skills I learned at GA. I have been able to provide a better education to my kids, and I have been able to continue to grow professionally.
1 General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive (WDI) was updated and relaunched as the Software Engineering Immersive in 2020.