OwnTrail | Blog

Marching along with software engineer Sidney Buckner

Sidney Buckner is a software engineer, cohost of the Ladybug podcast, and a home cook with some drool-worthy recipes (if you follow her on Twitter, you know what we’re talking about here). She shared more about her journey including marching band, less-than-fulfilling jobs, the women who supported her journey into tech and more.

Your love of music is apparent in the first milestone on your trail about your high school marching band experience. With many options to explore a passion for music, what made marching band so foundational for you?

I grew up with music in the house ranging from Frank Sinatra to Korn. So anybody who knows me personally knows my music tastes are broad, and maybe unreliable as a DJ since I see the beauty in all kinds of music that’s not appropriate for the occasion. Funny enough, marching band didn’t start off as a passion for me. I started playing flute in middle school because of the curriculum requirements. I would have played piano if that was an option! In my first season of marching band in high school, I actually missed the first week of band camp because I forgot I signed up for it. I think it was my first time performing during our football game’s halftime show was when it all hit me. The bright lights, the crowd surging, the immense amount of calm and confidence I felt being with an awesome group of high schoolers, the precision of our movements, and the music together. I love performing! It makes me emotional thinking about it even now! It really is a unique and different way to perform with music that isn’t always appreciated. It really gave me a sense of belonging, especially during a time when you’re full of hormones and trying to balance your sense of identity as a young adult while still watching Saturday morning cartoons. Like any other sport (because marching band is a sport, and I will die on that hill thinking so), marching band also gave me a sense of discipline and camaraderie with a higher goal in mind, and it took me to places like the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, San Antonio for the Rose Bowl Halftime Show, tossing flags in the color guard, and even becoming an instructor myself for a short time. Traveling and performing might not be much to some, but I am the creative person I am today because of it.

“I love performing! It makes me emotional thinking about it even now! It really is a unique and different way to perform with music that isn’t always appreciated.”

Sharing your experience with an unhealthy job environment and “rage quitting” is so relatable and authentic! What do you hope happens from you sharing your experience and the accomplishments that came afterward?

First off I want to say that “rage quitting” a job must be done strategically and if anyone out there sees my content, I hope you all know that it wasn’t the greatest decision I’ve made and left me very broke for a short time! I have an incredible privilege to which my family was supportive and knew this was the best decision for me at the time for the sake of my health. Never quit a job unexpectedly unless you are prepared financially or have another job on deck! And there is no shame in having a job to pay the bills in the short term.

To be honest, I really don’t think rage quitting was all that relatable until The Great Resignation during the first shutdowns of the pandemic. To survive, we’ve all been taught to eat a little bit of gold-speckled shit. And whoever in our families and environments tell us to do that I think wanted the best for us, but also didn’t take into account the mental toll it takes on people. I quit that job as an office assistant because I felt my treatment was demeaning and the environment was hostile. A younger me loved more than anything an opportunity to be petty out of spite. But I had stayed for about a year to have my basic needs taken care of.

“I kept taking small steps towards my career in tech because I knew things wouldn’t magically happen as soon as I wanted.”

In sharing my experience I hope that people understand that I took that big leap only because I had my basic needs met to live. We don’t all have that. Survive first. Then if you feel it is time to make a shift in your jobs, relationships, where you live, etc, small steps are still steps to progress. I kept taking small steps towards my career in tech because I knew things wouldn’t magically happen as soon as I wanted. I went to a coding bootcamp, made small projects, kept in contact with teachers and instructors, networked on Twitter and LinkedIn until, finally, I got that one “yes” that changed the whole trajectory of my career. I had a lot of help to get me where I am today, and for everyone who has supported me, I am forever grateful.

How did you decide a career pivot into tech was the right next step for you?

Money. That might be taboo to say for a lot of people but let’s face it: We all like knowing that a steady check comes in every two weeks that pays the bills. That’s the short answer at least:

When I was in college playing with HTML and CSS for the first time in a very long time, I was completely enamored by the instant changes I could make to websites. But I thought only geniuses were cool and smart enough to do this professionally. In school, I was not cool and definitely not a genius. It was only when tech was made relatable, and accessible to me is when I had a change of heart to try. I literally had nothing else to lose considering I didn’t like my job! Mind you this took YEARS to actually try! When I was first interested in tech I went to LaunchCode, the nonprofit coding bootcamp in St. Louis that teaches adult students how to code. I went originally to their class interested in UX design. At least that way I could be in tech and make something look cool! But I didn’t care for just designing. I was bored and wanted a tougher challenge. And after doing mounds of research I switched to the Web Developer learning track in LaunchCode’s CoderGirl class. Now, did I use any of what I learned soon after? No. Not at all. It really wasn’t until I had my moment to rage quit a few years later that I thought “I’m better than this. I can get paid better and not have to deal with this bullshit.” That decision lead me to Savvy Coders, another bootcamp in the St. Louis area which gave me the confidence and mindset to propel forward and make money while learning on the job!

Between the Ladybug podcast and your YouTube channel, you’re doing the work to help others — especially women — progress and feel less alone in their tech careers. Why is this so important to you?

“I literally would not be here today without the women in my life who decided I was worth giving a chance.”

I literally would not be here today without the women in my life who decided I was worth giving a chance. And that list has grown so long: Crystal Martin and Kaite Mathews who helped me change my path to web development at LaunchCode. Elaine Queatham from SavvyCoders accepted me into the program and literally changed my life! Shelly Collins, my manager and very good friend, Alison Williams for her strength, friendship, and wisdom. Ali Spittel, Emma Bostian, and Kelly Vaungh for welcoming me to the Ladybug Podcast with open arms. Jessi Wilcox, Jonaie Johnson, and Mandy Schultz gave me the chance to teach at LaunchCode. Hana Glenn for taking time every week to help me be better in JavaScript. Pariss Chandler, Jocelyn Harper, Erika Myles, Caitlyn Greffly, Hannah McMahon, Madeline Campbell, Heather Renee May, and Rhona Pierce for lifting me up and being amazing, supportive friends. Ari Hale for pushing me to tell my story and make money the way that I want to. These women didn’t owe me a thing! Still don’t! They support me anyways. Who am I to keep this blessing to myself? I have the means and path to keep lifting people up. That is the bottom barrel, the least I can do to pay back the kindness I was given.

“Who am I to keep this blessing to myself? I have the means and path to keep lifting people up.”

What’s the next big aspiration you’re looking forward to personally or professionally?

Professionally I really hope to grow into my role and contribute to women having a space for themselves to bond, connect and be vulnerable. I literally get to contribute to something for women alive and tangible with programming. That’s so cool! I really hope that I can be more honest in my content with balancing a 9-5 and my business. I want to focus on helping people stay organized in their careers and businesses without going too crazy. There’s still so much more I wanna do, but we’ll just focus on the day-to-day for now.

Want to chat tech careers or share how much your band experience means to you? Connect with Sidney and follow her trail!