A Woman’s Switch From Low-Income Filmmaking to a “Fun,” Lucrative Programming Life

Alexandra Savramis in focus.

Alexandra Savramis at an App Academy job fair in 2018.
Alexandra Savramis at an App Academy job fair in 2018. Photo: App Academy/CC

Alexandra Savramis attended the famous NYC-based Tisch School of the Arts intending to become a female film director. But on her way to the big chair, Alexandra experienced something unexpected. Creating and producing a film, unlike its common expectation as an ideal creative place, turned out to be a bit boring for her.

“I didn’t feel creatively challenged or engaged with the work. Sometimes throughout the day, the work of [filmmaking] fluctuated, you know, to moments where you need to concentrate and working to having slower parts of the day,” she told us in a phone interview.

Another difficult aspect of working in the film industry was that she couldn’t take advantage of her creative strengths. She had experience writing her own movies but was instead faced with doing a lot of grunt work on sets. Early on, she worked on communication between departments, like the wardrobe and directing groups. So working on more creative aspects, like developing the story with the actors, was a job task that seemed quite far away.

As a result, it wasn’t a total surprise to those who knew her that she might look to do something else for a living. What was surprising, though, was what that work would be.

Why she made a change to programming

Alexandra Savramis (middle, with script sheet) during a film production.
Alexandra Savramis (middle, with script sheet) during a film production. Photo: Alexandra Savramis Copyright

In the middle of her relationship with her boyfriend, living in Israel, Alexandra decided to take a leap of faith. A software developer for Microsoft who was given the opportunity to move to San Francisco, he invited her to come with him and she said yes. In a new city for the first time since college, Alexandra started to reimagine what her life could be like if she did something else. When she saw her boyfriend’s daily enthusiasm for his job, she began to poke around with code. 

Her new interest started even as she was working on the Netflix series, “The Low-Down.” 

“I was like, wow, [programming] is really interesting. You know, there’s a design aspect to it, especially when you’re doing front-end development. And so I thought, “Well that’s something I never thought of. I had never had exposure to coding [so] I started to play around with LinkedIn learning and I tried to build a website,” she says.

When her interest became more serious, she stopped working on film altogether, leading to unemployment and began to budget daily spending down to dollars and cents. The situation reminded her of another aspect of the entertainment industry she didn’t appreciate: the ups and down of a job that could pay well but often offered a flimsy financial foundation. Working in film meant development offices that made shows would come and go, even for well-financed ones.

So she decided to use her unemployment time to make her move. She started programming morning to night, going to the library to brush up on programming concepts, and taking any tests she could to improve. After she found an ad for App Academy online, she applied and actually did well on her tests. When she was accepted, she pushed herself before starting the bootcamp to be as prepared as possible to maximize her learning in the 12-week course.

“You have to have the full exposure to the [programming] concepts because they can seem very overwhelming. It’s is really crucial.”

Alexandra began to love the critical thinking aspects of programming and once she started the bootcamp, she says, began to see what a new future could actually look like. And she liked it.

Her time at App Academy

Alexandra Stavramis with her cohort at App Academy.
Alexandra Stavramis with her cohort at App Academy. Photo: Alexandra Savramis Copyright

Being part of a large class of potential software developers wasn’t a totally intimidating thing for Alexandra, as she was already developing a smart circle of programming friends. But it was still hard, and her developing passion for technology helped push her enough to make it through.

Today, she says the best part about her time at the San Francisco office of the bootcamp was learning how to struggle in the right way, as strange as that sounds.

“App Academy teaches [you] how to learn from struggle and be okay with being uncomfortable because even today, I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable at work. I’m constantly uncomfortable. But it tends to be the thing that I look forward to because it means I’m really learning and growing from it,” she told us.

App Academy’s intense pressure-cooker environment often tests students in difficult ways, sometimes even making them drop out. But Alexandra thrived. She knew the curriculum was set up to illustrate the way actual technology workplaces work through pair programming, white-boarding, and high expectations for quick-thinking to find solutions to problems affecting millions of users. This is why most students that pass these tests transition well to workplaces.  

“You have to sit and dig and figure the problem out on your own. And that’s great because that’s how you learn as a developer and it makes you more experienced moving forward,” she said.

On the benefits of financial security

savramis
Alexandra with her family in Amsterdam. Photo: Alexandra Savramis Copyright

While the most important part of her career change has been her personal day-to-day happiness with the work, the money, let’s face it, has been good to her.

For one, she says she’s simply in a better place mentally about the financial aspect of her life.

“[The programming job] takes away a lot of stress of not having to think about, you know, where am I going to get some money for rent? And am I going to be able to have enough allowance for myself for the week? You get this flexibility that you didn’t have before,” she said.  

While she doesn’t disclose details, she says she tripled the salary she was making working in film. Most first-time software developers from App Academy, it should be noted, make an average of $105,000 for their first post-bootcamp job. 

This new financial security has also changed her attitude toward finances in general. She can now make short-term and long-term investments in herself and other companies, through stocks, a 401K, and payments into a Roth RIA. 

But maybe even better was that her parents can now afford to no longer worry about her finances. Her dentist dad and real estate broker mom were there for her in case she needed money but also added undue pressure to their lives that she felt quite guilty about. And now they’re free.

“Now they really get to enjoy [the money] they would have allocated to me,” she says.

What she’s doing today 

The last six months have been an eye-opening but awesome experience for the Washington D.C. native. Working with different teams at Referral Exchange, the real estate referral technology startup, she has worked as a full-stack developer on issues as numerous such as pulling data to find inefficiencies and building new parts onto a complicated software architecture. She’s also helped design the main site, which is used by real estate agents as a referral network to create efficient matching services of a commission-based economy.

“Everyday we are making queries into the database and examining the data. We’re not retrieving information we weren’t expecting and will help build out features on the site so that can look like anything, from a button on the page to [other things.]”

Alexandra chose the company because she wanted a place with a strong support system where she could grow her skills.

She has also worked on high-priority security issues, mainly using the backend computing languages of Ruby, which she learned at the school, and SQL. Using the skills she learned at App Academy, Alexandra says she has been able to take them straight into the workplace and develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of these languages.  

All in all, she says, she doesn’t regret her path into filmmaking and is very happy where she is today.

“I have to say it is the best decision I ever made. The work is great. It’s always critical thinking, you’re always engaged with what you’re doing. It’s great,” she says.

 

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