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February 1, 2019

Online scholarship helps Castine woman reboot career as software developer

Courtesy / Lourdes Wellington
Courtesy / Lourdes Wellington
Lourdes Wellington, of Castine, was able to make a mid-career move into software development thanks to the Google Developer Scholarship Program, a joint effort between Google and online education provider Udacity.

Lourdes Wellington is a Castine-based software engineer who rebooted her career into that burgeoning field thanks to an online scholarship program that gave her a new lease on life.

Formerly of New Jersey, she and her husband moved to Maine — which they had grown fond of during vacations — after he accepted a teaching job here.

Keen to start a new professional chapter herself after an established career in business and finance and then IT within in the pharmaceutical industry, she decided to look for opportunities in the technology sector.

"I had worked in the administrative side of financing and accounting, so it seemed like it was a natural thing for me," she told Mainebiz. "I was always the go-to person to fix this and that, so I had been moving into this area as a career."

When cancer struck, eventually leading to an arm amputation, she postponed her plans — but not for long as she focused on recovering and moving on. One day on the computer at home, an online blurb about the Google Developer Scholarship Challenge caught her eye.

The program, launched in October 2017, has awarded scholarships to tens of thousands of learners nationwide to help them strengthen their mobile and web developer skills through a curriculum designed by experts from Google and online education provider Udacity Inc.

In January 2018, Wellington was among 50,000 aspiring developers around the country selected to participate in the Google Developer Scholarship Challenge.

Three months later, she was among 5,000 top challenge performers awarded a full Udacity nanodegree scholarship that normally costs around $1,000 in the United States, according to a Udacity spokesperson.

Putting her new skills to work

Wellington started the Udacity program last spring and finished shortly before year's end.

Now busier than ever, she's using her new skills mainly to work on a website she created during the program for an organization that seeks to empower widows and orphans in Nigeria by helping them achieve food self-sufficiency.

A pastor at her church had told Wellington about the organization, which funds boreholes for the building of catfish ponds and helps build and cultivate fields for vegetable farming. The website she created, and continues to work on, includes pictures and a slideshow of fish ponds, as well as background about the founder and information on how to donate.

"The website is a great way for them [the organization] to communicate to the whole world," she explained. "I wanted to help out this charity that was formed just recently, and I'm trying to do that as fast as I can. People need a lot of help."

After the initial scholarship, Wellington enrolled in another Udacity course she's now taking on a new type of user-interface programming called React. She's also looking for a job as she juggles various projects.

To anyone else thinking about a career in software development, Wellington suggests online training, which for her also led to personal connections she sees lasting a long time.

"You feel like it's home," she said.

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