Part time-learning leads Aisha Mahmoodallah to start her own coding business
Aisha Mahmoodallah had already been to school, and had a job, but wanted to pursue another interest: Coding and web development. Centennial College had the solution for her, in the form of part-time courses in the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science that led her to pursue her passion without putting her life on hold. Centennial College actively supports women entering science and engineering fields, and Aisha would take .net development courses at the college, then branch out to another form of success: Starting her own web development business, Sugarcode. Here’s how, with the college’s help, she got to pursue her passion and create her own career as a women in the tech industry.
“I was working full-time, and I already had a degree in molecular biology, and so I wasn’t looking to go back to more school,” Aisha says. “I wanted an entryway into something new, something I was passionate about that I discovered through my work.” That thing was coding, which she had gotten into while in the workforce
“I was working in the pharmaceutical industry,” she continues, “and it was a lot of repetitive data analysis, so I started writing little programs using Visual Basic, like macros in Microsoft office.” Eventually, that job would end, leaving her with a desire to continue her coding.
“I left it feeling a sense of frustration about the way they were so opposed to the use of technology,” she says. “So I ended up getting a job with my uncle, who has a geotechnical engineering business, and they didn’t have much for me to do, so I started helping out, because they do similar data analysis there.”
Eventually, that desire to learn more about coding would bring her to Centennial College, where she’d learn part-time, so she could keep her job while picking skills up.
Woman in technology
“Programming was something I always had a feeling about, an interest in, but I never thought I could do it,” Aisha says. “Taking that course showed me it’s so easy to break it down and do it step by step.” She never perceived any issues being a women in a STEM field, either, and takes the view that anyone can achieve success in the world of technology, if they’re willing to put the effort in.
“If anyone is willing to sit down and learn how to do something with passion, there’s no stopping that person,” she says.
“I ended up taking two courses,” Aisha explains, “an advanced and introductory course, with Mike Oullette, who was so enthusiastic and passionate about programming. I learned how to do some really cool things with C# for document formatting and data analysis.”
“It was really good to have somewhere to go and just practice, get feedback, and talk about the problems that I was having,” she says of the course. “When you’re new to programming, you get a lot of exceptions, you run into a lot of things that can just stop you in your tracks.” More importantly, though, the courses would give her time to create projects of her own.
“At the end of the advanced course, we had a project to just make something with what we learned,” she says, “and I was able to use that to make an add-on for Microsoft Office that allowed the company to create report formats dynamically, and that would save people a lot of time.”
“Going to college is totally different, and I really appreciated the practical environment of it,” she says of the whole experience. “It made me kind of wish I went to Centennial College right out of high school.”
Making it on her own
After completing her courses at Centennial, Aisha would take a daring next step: Starting her own business, Sugarcode, in 2014.
“I wasn’t really sure about how to go about getting a job doing what I knew how to do,” Aisha says about the beginnings of Sugarcode. “I didn’t really know how to present it, and I didn’t really have a portfolio, so I made some websites, because I was around a whole bunch of people that needed websites. I just did it for them, and then that grew into a self sustaining business.”
“Someone in my position, with so much education and passion for what I do, it was a natural step for me,” she says. “It wasn’t easy, but it was natural, especially in this type of economy.”
“At the end of the day, I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my time and my knowledge,” she says. “I get to do what I’m the very best at.”