success stories

Em’s Story: From 1,000 Unsuccessful Job Applications to Developer at Twitch

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Em Comeau applied to a thousand jobs. Seriously. A thousand. It was what some call the “spray and pray” method, and what Em called “just a numbers game,” but at the end of the day, Em (who uses they/them pronouns) was applying to entry level tech jobs without reading the descriptions, without reviewing the tech stacks, and without getting emotionally attached. After all that, they got only six or seven interviews. “I’m still getting rejections to this day,” says Em, almost 9 months later. 

So what happened between the 1,000 unsuccessful applications and Em’s current role as a frontend developer at Twitch (a massive online gaming and live streaming platform)? Onramp happened. 


How Em Started Coding

Em had grown up in poverty and in foster care, with very few systems of support and little structure. After a brief stint in college that didn’t pan out, Em spent their twenties in a series of different jobs—freelance art teaching, secretary work in a law office, and eventually landing in home healthcare. 

Em teaching art to students pre-Covid

When COVID arrived, Em was at a tipping point—burned out from their high-stress, poorly-paid, 70-hour-a-week job. The only path up in their current field required going back to school and taking on a lot of debt, an idea that made them want to cry. Their partner, who like Em enjoyed creative games and D&D, worked in tech, and suggested Em might like coding.

“Tech wasn’t something I thought I fit into,” they explained, “growing up as a creative femme, going into tech just never seemed like an option to me. Not one person until I was 29 ever mentioned it as a path I could potentially take.” They started exploring online coding resources, and quickly became hooked, to their own surprise. Em studied for a month at home and applied to and was accepted to the Grace Hopper Fullstack Academy, a coding bootcamp for women and non-binary people.

After the program, Em stayed on as a teaching fellow and started applying to jobs—lots of them. They saw the link to Onramp’s Twitch Apprenticeship in the Grace Hopper Careers newsletter and, at 2am with a glass of wine in hand, applied.

What Made the Onramp Process Different

When Em got called into their Onramp interview, they tried not to get their hopes up. “I realized that my Onramp interview was the first time in tech I’d been interviewed by a femme person,” Em said, and features of the application process indicated that Onramp was different. The Onramp team was respectful of Em’s pronouns, checked in if they had questions, and was “aware of the power dynamic” inherent in tech interviewing. Onramp’s interview schedule was also flexible, which enables people working jobs or caregiving to participate. In past interviews, Em had “always felt like an impostor, like I had to trick these affluent white dudes into believing I was someone I’m not in order to get a chance to be hired.” But with Onramp, it felt like the interviewers wanted them to be successful.

When Em got the email from Onramp offering them a Twitch apprenticeship, Em said “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that excited again.” 

Is Tech More Inclusive Than We Think? Sometimes.

Since completing the apprenticeship—which is specifically designed to get apprentices to the skill level of an L4 engineer (an entry level designation used by many tech companies), Em has joined their Twitch team permanently, where they are enjoying the perks of tech work. 

“The chillness of this job is weird,” Em explained, “I’ve had jobs where I had to get up at 5am, do my hair, look nice… and now I can work in my pajamas as long as I get my work done. With the agile workflow we use, I know where I need to be in two weeks.” There’s more trust, they said, “My boss is fine with people taking their cats to the vet, or if you have a bad mental health day, taking time off. I can get up and walk around the block when I need to move.”

They’ve also found the tech community to be more inclusive than they expected, given the industry’s reputation for exclusivity and bias. “When I worked in art I assumed I’d be working with like-minded people, but compared to previous jobs I’ve found people at Twitch to be more inclusive in some ways. I’ve rarely been misgendered and my coworkers jump in to correct it if it happens. People are very kind and understanding.”

When they shifted into tech, Em was worried about selling out, “I wanted work that was going to be fulfilling for my soul, which is why I ended up in the industries I did: education, healthcare, etc. Unfortunately, while those jobs can be extremely fulfilling, they also didn’t allow me to pay my rent and lacked a lot of supports.” At Twitch, part of Em’s work is improving the accessibility of the products, “The internet is so inextricably tied to almost every aspect of our lives… So many people are homebound or neurodivergent, and Twitch allows those people to find community in their computers, phones, and SmartTVs.” 

Like many self-taught folks or people from non-traditional educational backgrounds, Em hit barrier after barrier before finding their way into the field. They just needed one strong foothold— a supportive starting place to build their skills— and they found it with Onramp. 

Now that Em is fully settled at Twitch–working towards a Web Accessibility Certification, contributing to their team, becoming a specialist in their own right—they are thinking about that next Onramp cohort. Em created a microsite for the newbies, one where they and their cohort-mates can share resources. “I want to mama bird them a bit,” they said, “I don’t want them to have to figure it all out on their own.” 

If you’re interested in applying for an Onramp apprenticeship, sign up for an account to be added to our newsletter and notified about application launches.

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