Student Spotlight: Nina Bachvarova – Women Who Code Scholarship Recipient

Nina is the first recipient of the scholarship awarded in collaboration with Galvanize and Women Who Code—a San Francisco based nonprofit organization who’s global mission is to inspire and empower women to pursue and excel in technology driven careers worldwide. 

This is Nina’s story about how she discovered the exciting opportunities available in San Francisco and her journey so far working to become a software developer.

More than a decade ago, a brave family decision to move a world away brought Nina’s family from Bulgaria to sunny California. From an early age, she had two strong female role models in her life—her mother and maternal grandmother, both beloved teachers for many years. The highly regarded importance of quality education in her family would play an instrumental role in Nina’s pursuit of discovering her passion to work in development, and eventually finding her way into the tech world.

Nina was introduced to the booming tech world in San Francisco shortly after graduating from UC Davis in 2010, and it was not long until she decided to pursue a more technical career. The first logical step was to inquire about the Computer Science (CS) undergraduate programs at two local universities – Stanford and UC Berkeley. Unfortunately, both educational institutions do not allow students to apply for additional undergraduate programs after successfully completing Bachelor’s degrees. Understanding that the conventional educational route was out of reach at the moment, Nina didn’t give up on her new goal and turned to the Internet to find an alternative way.

She discovered the rich meetup culture in the Bay Area through the local organization Women Who Code. In the following months, driven by her enormous desire to succeed, and motivated by fellow women, who had successfully made the transition from a non-technical background to full-time engineering positions, Nina started attending various community-driven workshops such as Girl Develop It! and RailsBridge. She continued on expanding her industry knowledge by joining more local meetup groups in both San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and most importantly, she began learning on her own starting with the basics: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

“At first, it was quite intimidating not knowing where to begin, and to think that a career change was possible without the industry-standard four year college CS degree was an unconventional approach for me. But I wasn’t alone in my desire to change careers. I felt even more compelled to continue on this exciting journey when a fellow female meetup-goer got a job as a UI designer after six months of learning web development on her own. I knew it was possible to even do it by myself with hard work, discipline and support from family and friends. It became clear to me that it was all up to me and I wanted to completely immerse myself in my studies.”

Women Who Code provides essential community support for women like Nina, where they meet over dinner with other like-minded females to discuss the latest and greatest in the tech community, and to provide support for one another every week: “Being a member of Women Who Code has provided countless opportunities to attend workshops and events, providing a safe and enriching environment for women intrigued with technology, who are eager to learn what it is like to learn and to create technology on their own. Most of all, Women Who Code is a community of like-minded women, who actively support one another on our personal journeys to learn and to grow organically”.

And organically, through one of the recent Women Who Code newsletters, Nina learned about the upcoming Galvanize Full Stack cohort, applied for the full-ride scholarship, and after the interview process she is now a student at the first Galvanize Full Stack cohort in San Francisco. “I am humbled, honored and grateful to both Women Who Code and Galvanize for this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I truly hope more such scholarships become available to support women and minorities on their own journeys into pursuing a technical career. We need concrete actions in order to change the current, widely debated opportunity gap in the tech community. We need more similar scholarship opportunities for women and minorities” says Nina.

At Galvanize, Nina found the energy that comes from being integrated into the tech community. In the upcoming months, she will be learning new technologies to create exciting projects. Upon graduation from the Galvanize, Nina hopes to become a full-stack software developer, working to combine her love for human development and technology.