Newbie Feature: Ashley Long / Business Systems Analyst

Monday, February 21, 2022

Ashley Long

WHERE: Houston, TX

WHAT: Business Systems Analyst 2

SALARY EST.: I make $80,000 a year. My first tech job I was making $50,000

She considers herself a Blerd, and Techie

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, Ashley tell us a little more about your background:

I grew up on the south side of Chicago with two lower middle class parents and two older siblings. Neither parent went to college traditionally (my mother actually recently got her Bachelor’s degree) but they were always on us about doing well in school and making something of ourselves. I currently live in Houston and have been in Texas for about 6 and a half years. I turn 30 this year. 

I always played around with coding from a young age (think back to MySpace lol). I would learn something, play around with it, then take a break. I kind of went through that cycle until I graduated in 2014 and decided to get into freelancing so I would take on small graphic design or website building projects here and there. In 2018, I decided to seriously get into tech after working in customer service for years and finally getting fed up with it. My last customer-facing role was in claims at Geico and the year I left, I was so stressed that I was sick every month from January to June. I ended up having a pretty bad car wreck in July of that year so I couldn’t return to work and it was the first time I had felt at peace in a long time. It was definitely a blessing in disguise. I knew then that I couldn’t go back. I quit and took up DoorDash and continued freelancing until I could find work somewhere else and when I wasn’t driving I was on my computer learning and picking up new skills or completing small projects. By December, I had my first tech job as a Wordpress eCommerce Site Developer. 

NIT Staff: We love myspace back in the day and totally picked our HTML coding skills from that. We needed to have the best looking background and music. I love how Myspace created so much buzz for new techies back then. It's such a loss form of art when users could customize their experience outside of a banner. We know so many amazing customer service professionals that pivot into the tech industry. We tell so many people that work in freelancing jobs for tech companies like DoorDash an Uber are great ways to test the waters of Tech.

How did your traditional education (or non-traditional) prepare you for your current job?

I studied sociology in school because at the time I just didn’t think I could make a career out of coding. I would play around on codecademy here and there but never went past the HTML and CSS lessons. In April and May of 2018 I was in a coding boot camp because I finally decided I was going to take it seriously because I HATED working in customer service, but the course didn’t really do anything but review what I already knew by then and teach me about GitHub. I left my job a few months later and spent every free moment I had online learning and teaching myself. With the exception of that boot camp (which I really don’t count) I learned everything I know online and for free or cheap. I updated my knowledge on HTML & CSS, learned some new frameworks and other languages, built myself a design portfolio and a dev portfolio, and started advertising freelance work again.

I think it’s important to note that while I don’t “use” my degree, I do use the knowledge I gained from studying more about people and how they function in society to influence my work when it comes to creating something user-friendly or visually appealing and accessible. 

What do you do to stay up-to-date on your technical certifications and knowledge?

I honestly learn a lot of what I need to know on the job. The type of roles I’m in now require more app-related knowledge like Salesforce Commerce Cloud or their Email Studio; Epsilon has their own online messaging studio that they built for managing clients’ email and SMS campaigns and things like that, that you can only learn when you’re working for a business that uses it. As a matter of fact, learning Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud at one job has opened me up to a ton of opportunities with other companies. Since learning those two platforms I’ve been asked to interview with Disney, Apple, NASCAR, and some other great companies. 

What coding language (if any) are you most comfortable with?

HTML & CSS are my bread and butter in the email space. I also taught myself XHTML, SCSS, Bootstrap, Flexbox, SQL, jQuery.

What is your biggest challenge working in tech?

One of my biggest challenges which really doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day but makes it more challenging to find jobs is not being very strong in JavaScript or any of its more robust frameworks. I’ve tried time and time again to learn JS and I can get the basics but trying to build something sends me running right away from it. That unfortunately does limit the scope of what work I’m able to do but I’ve found that I’m still able to find great jobs doing what I know how to do. There are still plenty of jobs that only require you to know basic front end code, you just also have to show them you can quickly learn whatever software they’re using.

Know your worth and don’t waver on it!

What the coolest project you have worked on?

The coolest project I’ve worked on was a Google Maps API-integrated web app for a construction company. They had built this product that collects oil out in different sites across the country and they wanted to be able to show on the map where it was located but also the current levels, if the machines were operating properly, etc. that would be updated every minute. It was actually my first time working with an API but it was very cool. 

What are you passionate about outside of tech?

Outside of tech I love fashion, makeup, music, and I’m really big on experiences so I’m always traveling or trying something new. 

Got any favorite tech jokes or embarrassing stories?

Anything embarrassing that has happened to me on the job has usually been me wracking my brain try to figure out why my code was broken and having one of my more senior coworkers coming to show me I was missing a semi-colon or I had one too many spaces. Something silly like that. 

What are your goals for the future?

In the future, I want to step into more of a consultant space. I’m actually working on a full service agency that helps people like me to break into the tech industry and stay competitive.

Who’s your favorite Tech celebrity and why?

I’m not sure if she’d be considered a celebrity but I love Kimberly Bryant, she founded Black Girls CODE. I think it’s amazing that she’s created something for young Black girls to get into tech. This is an amazing space to be in at any age but obviously the sooner the better and she’s doing the work to show a little girl who looks like me something she may never have had access to otherwise. 

Best advice you have for a Newbie trying to get into tech?

It doesn’t matter what your educational background is as long as you can show that you know what you’re doing. Know your worth and don’t waver on it! If you’re worried you don’t meet all the requirements for a job, apply anyway. If you meet all the requirements, you’re over-qualified and they’re just going to overwork and underpay you.

Best place you would consider for resources online?

Linkedin! Beyond being a great site for networking and applying for jobs, they also have courses for just about anything!


Where can Newbies connect with you online?

I’m on Linkedin