How a Classically Trained Cellist Quit Her Job and Left NYC to Become a Full-Time Developer


Layne McNish is a full time developer in Portland, Oregon, who went through Galvanize’s 24-week full stack program in Denver Colorado. She’s not your typical developer. Here’s her story:

What were you doing before you decided to get into programming?

I was a publicist in NYC working for various music clients…as well as John Stamos (seriously).  Before my time in NYC, I studied to be a classically-trained cellist in Oklahoma, but then changed my major to a humanities-focused degree.

What specifically interested you about learning to code?

While I enjoyed the people I worked with and the clients I represented as a publicist, I didn’t enjoy working in the industry at all. I wanted a career change, so I started doing some internet research on programming schools. Someone on my Twitter timeline posted about gSchool, and I decided to read a few articles about which ones were the best. I saw that nearly all of the students at gSchool secured a full-time job after leaving the program.

The deadline for gSchool was the day I was doing all my research. I applied at the last minute and found out within 2 days that I was accepted into the program. I then quit my job and made plans to move from NYC to Denver – it was all really, really fast.

I went from “maybe I should think about changing careers” to “oh crap, I’m moving” within a week.

What was the program like?

I loved it. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever known, and I can’t say enough good things about it. What was really helpful for me was that we created a bunch of different groups based on what we were interested in – and they weren’t just coding-related. We had groups about hiking, fitness, and other fun stuff, in addition to areas of programming we wanted to learn more about outside of the classroom.

I’m still in touch with almost everyone from my class, and we chat constantly on our Slack channel that we created during the program.

What were some of your misconceptions about coding before gSchool?

I definitely thought it would be a very math-based program and 100% technical, based on what I’d heard about computer science from other people. Before I even started the program, my boyfriend (who works in computer graphics), showed me that programming can be super creative and that anyone can learn how to do it. I eventually figured out that it was more like solving a puzzle than doing a bunch of abstract math problems.

Coding is all about answering the question “how can we make all these things work together?” There’s no right way to do it. For example, after our exams, we would go back and try to figure out different ways to solve the problems. You don’t have to do it one way – you can do things the way you want, as long as it works.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read how to do it in a textbook – you can think creatively and come up with your own solutions. My background has definitely helped me be a better programmer.

What’s life been like for you after graduation?

I have a full-time programming job in Portland that I love. The company I work at is extremely collaborative – we pair program – and my experience working with others at gSchool definitely prepared me for the work. At my job, we work very quickly. Other companies only push code a few times a month, but we get things out the door on an almost-daily basis. I’m not gonna lie, the journey to get here was tough, but it was well worth it.

Overall, the best thing gSchool taught me was how to learn. Even though I don’t know every single thing about programming, I now know how to tackle problems that are new to me, and ask for help when I need to. That’s the most valuable thing I’ve taken away from the entire experience.

Layne McNish is a full-time developer in Portland.