Divided by Water, United by Culture - Micheline Doughlin

It all started with a feeling. A feeling of longing, a yearning for community, a desire to find people like me. People who come from small islands, scattered like seeds across the Caribbean Sea.

To many, the Caribbean is an exotic destination, a paradise where they can escape their troubles and live out their fantasies. They stay for a few weeks, enjoying the food and drink, the attentive service, and the stunning scenery. Then they return home, leaving behind the people who made their stay so enjoyable.

“How can you leave such a beautiful place?” They ask. But do they ever realize that it is us, Caribbeans, who cook for them, clean up behind them, and serve them drinks? We do it to make them happy, to help them forget their troubles. But what about our own?

For many of us, the Caribbean is more than just a beautiful place. It is an anchor that grounds us, a reminder of our roots and our heritage. It is an anchor that grounds us. A reminder of the hopes and dreams of our ancestors.

Some people may see our anchor as a restriction, a tether that holds us back. But I see it differently. Our anchor is what allows us to travel the world, to explore new horizons. But no matter how far we travel, our anchor is always with us, reminding us of where we came from.

The Caribbean diaspora, a diaspora within many diasporas, is a diverse one. But we are united by our shared culture and our love for our islands. Wherever we may find ourselves in the world, we carry our anchor with us.

I admit, that I am biased, there is no place like the Caribbean. There is nobody in this world like us. Our culture is a unique blend of different influences, but it is all our own. We dream, love and live in our unique way. The Caribbean way.

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I started this project because I wanted to connect with other Caribbeans in tech. I wanted to create a space where Caribbeans in tech could feel seen, heard, and supported. I wanted to speak to people from diverse backgrounds, with different stories, but who all shared a common dream: to succeed in the tech industry.

Despite the setbacks we may face, we Caribbeans are known for our resilience and determination. We push through, no matter what.

I am a very shy person. But one day, I decided to put myself out there. I wrote a Tweet asking if there were any Caribbeans in tech who would like to be interviewed for my blog.

Lou, from OpenUpTheCloud, asked if he could partner with me on this project, and I said yes! Lou has become a sort of mentor to me, and I am always grateful for the advice and wisdom I gain from him whenever we speak.

I was nervous, I’d never done anything like this before. But with my heart full of fear I started talking to different people about my project, and to my surprise, many people were interested in participating.

Our first interview was with Micheline Doughlin, a pre-law student who made the switch to tech. We spoke for almost 2 hours, and I was happy to learn her story.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Micheline, go ahead. Go over your journey, where you’re from. What got you started in tech?

Micheline: My name is Micheline Doughlin, born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Initially, I wanted to go to law school. I guess being a lawyer is just one of those things well presented in your early life. Like one of those careers, a lawyer, a doctor.

I went to university, I majored in Political Science… The goal was to get to law school, so I studied for the LSAT for years. The year after COVID, when things started to open back up, I was like “you know what? I’m taking a break! I can’t do this anymore. There is no reason, I keep studying (for the LSATs) and I’m not getting the score I want.” I started to look into tech because I would get all these emails from Flat Iron, General Assembly, and these different coding bootcamps. After a coding bootcamp, (where) I learned HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.. a friend was like “apply for this scholarship.” I got the scholarship to Hack Reactor, and that’s where the decision became hard. (I had) to jump into something that I have a new passion for, or go back to what I put in so much time, work, effort, loss of sleep, because this is what I’ve been doing the entire time.

I was comparing the quality of life with both careers and then scholarship or six-figure debt. So definitely that was when I was done with law school. No more preparation. I’m done. (I’m) done with this, not pursuing this, and full-on into software engineering.

Have you found a job since you graduated from Hack Reactor?

Micheline: Since I graduated, I mean I expected this, this is not the picture they paint. When I say “they”, I just mean generally the picture painted for tech is you’re gonna (sic) get a job right away. That wasn’t the pattern in my life. There’s a period you have to, especially when transitioning with no experience, I knew there was gonna (sic) be a lot of work (to do) and I was not gonna get a job right out of bootcamp… I knew it was going to take some work. So right now I am doing all the work.

Speaking on diversity

Micheline: When I first started in my cohort, there were three of us. We were the only ones of color in the first cohort.

Speaking on her experience in Hack Reactor

Micheline: I had a partner that I worked with for the end of the module, where we had to build the practice project. My partner straight up told me “I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not doing it” and I was like “Oh, I’ll do the whole project myself,” because in my mind, in the real world … there is always that one person that has to pull the weight for somebody else, always. So I did the entire project. And I also told my instructor … and the cohort lead did not like that … and they kicked me out of the bootcamp. They kicked me out of Hack Reactor because I did not follow instructions. They called me to a meeting. They’re like “you know why you’re meeting here?” I was caught off guard, I was just confused. I didn’t brush it off, but I couldn’t just formulate (it) at that time because it was so left (field). So I sent a polite, strongly worded email to them (stating) yeah, this is your program, but I feel like what you did was not fair … So then I get an email saying, Okay Micheline.. we’ll let you back in but you have to restart the program all over again. So I went from having six weeks left, starting over at week 19 … When I was dismissed, the instructor told me, “you already have the skills right now to be a junior dev. Module three is you putting an entire project together with a team and you can…”

On how to stop from burning out

Micheline: I used to do that with law school, it was around the clock, and I’m just like nah, not doing it. I haven’t done it in years. My day does not start till the gym. I’m going to the gym and I’m going to the gym and focusing. I’m not doing anything. I’m not taking calls. That is the break right here. Another thing is I can get up and go to Barbados tomorrow. And I think just being in that environment, I know not when to burn out. I’m looking at my screen for six hours, I’m taking a break, I’m going to the beach. I’m gonna (sic) go outside and literally touch grass. My cousin lives down the street, I’m like, “I’m gonna play with this dog.” We live on a farm, so I have chickens, I have pigs, I have goats, we have it all.

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As I mentioned before, the conversation with Micheline went on for almost two hours. We laughed, comforted each other, and even shed some tears (it was mostly me, but that’s okay, we move). While listening to Micheline’s story about receiving a letter from the Bajan government, warning her neighborhood of a power outage, mere hours before an interview, I was reminded of my own childhood in the Dominican Republic.

I remember the chaos of running around the neighborhood, asking my neighbors if their water was also shut off, or if it was just ours. I remember having electricity for only 4-6 hours a day, and never concurrently.

The memories are bittersweet. They remind me of the challenges that I and other Caribbeans have faced, but they also remind me of our resilience and strength.

Nostalgia is my home, my anchor. It is where I go when I am feeling lost and start to double my place in the world. But now, I also have Micheline’s words and her strength to fuel me forward on this journey.

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You can connect with Micheline on LinkedIn here.

She is also doing a coding challenge on TikTok, which you can watch below: