In 2017, Chryssa Jones was working as a university administrator, focused on helping underrepresented students succeed in higher education. She wanted to move into tech, but she was working full-time, raising four kids and struggling to make ends meet, so she was apprehensive — plus, she didn’t see many role models like her in the industry.
“When I thought about making a career change, I had a hard time picturing myself in the tech industry,” says Chryssa, who is Native Hawaiian. “I imagined tech companies were staffed by people that did not look like me.”
But she took the risk and joined a web developer bootcamp — and after that, she landed her dream opportunity. She became a developer at an educational organization that serves Native people, where she was able to combine her expertise and passion for education in underserved communities with her new skills as a developer. “I was surprised to learn that there are tech jobs in every industry,” she says. “I thought I would have to leave my career in education behind, but instead I found the best of both worlds.”
Initially, Chryssa thought pivoting her career to tech would mean starting over, but she quickly recognized that her experience was still relevant. “You can bring all of your skills to the table and find a niche that works for you,” she says.” She also was excited to find communities where she felt a sense of belonging, like the first time she participated in a hackathon with other women in tech at an event for International Women’s Day. “I had fun, I learned a lot and most importantly, I learned that I was right where I belonged. It was incredibly validating.” she says.
Chryssa continues to focus on finding opportunities to support her community and amplify the voices of Native people, especially in an industry where they are underrepresented. When she came across Google’s Women Techmakers Ambassador program, she knew she wanted to get involved. “I firmly believe that there is room enough for everyone in this industry,” she says. “I wanted to help women that were struggling with some of the same fears and challenges that I struggled with.” After being accepted into the program, she’s been working to support her local tech community in Hawaii, hosting events and sharing her story.
Today, Chryssa’s journey has come full circle. She’s paying it forward everyday as the Director of Curriculum at Nucamp, a low-cost education provider that is “disrupting the bootcamp industry and breaking down barriers” for people who are underrepresented in tech looking to make a career change — just like she was five years ago. “Now, I’m creating life-changing opportunities for others,” she says.