Katya Eames and her father Joe

Change. Innovation. Disruption. Sure, we all know the business buzzwords.

But can you walk the walk, talk the talk — and have the courage to really embrace a new way of thinking when it gets personal?

Salt Lake City programmer Joe Eames did. Eames, a front-end developer and tech conference organizer, did what you might expect any parent with a strong interest in education would do when his 16-year-old daughter Katya said she wanted to drop out of her junior year of high school.

He not only agreed, but also encouraged her decision.

And now both father and daughter — a self-described fan fiction author, web developer in training, blogger and "Russian spy" — claim it was a smart choice.

A Little Background

Earlier this year Katya Eames quit high school to attend a three-month programming boot camp at DevMountain, a coding school in Utah.

DevMountain started in 2013 in Utah. With over 300 graduates, two campuses and six course offerings, DevMountain is one of the highest rated coding schools in the United States.

Katya Eames wasn't one of those high school whiz kids.

In fact, her dad went so far as to say Katya is "not what you would call a good student. She struggles with completing homework, especially in classes she has little interest in."

Katya Eames left high school for reasons that will resonate with many in the start-up world. She has the heart of an entrepreneur — and was tired of spending time in classes she didn’t find engaging.

She was frustrated by the lack of classes that interested her, and annoyed that her teachers seemed less concerned with what she was learning than what she scored on tests.

Her father said he felt like public high school just wasn’t serving his daughter's best interests anymore. "It was time to do something radical on her behalf" because at 16 "she just didn’t belong there anymore," he noted.

A Change of Heart

Science and technology didn't come naturally to Katya Eames. She told CMSWire she was more interested in the humanities until her dad introduced her to programming about a year ago.

 “I did Irish dance for nine years and I enjoyed theater. I thought maybe I was going to be in one of the arts fields. I never thought about going into the science fields because of how much math is involved and I’m terrible at math.” 

But she discovered coding required less math than she expected and that she could use a calculator for the math it does require. 

Her biggest challenge was learning to think in a more linear, logical manner: “I’ve always been more of a creative, artistic thinker. It was hard to shift how I thought and go through a problem step by step.”

No Worries

Katya Eames isn't worried about missing out on the high school experience. She keeps in touch with her high school friends, and still went to her junior prom. 

She has no intention to return to high school or get her GED, but plans to get her high school diploma via online education.

Her plan is to become a full-time programmer by 19 or 20, ideally at a company like Google, Netflix or Tumblr. But “Any company is really good for me at this point,” she added.

For now, she's content speaking at schools and persuading students, parents and educators about the merits of careers in programming. 

“I show kids that the science fields aren’t boring and that anyone can get far,” she said. “I’m showing the kids, especially the girls, that this kind of career is possible. I think it’s difficult for girls to see themselves in a science career because from a young age, girls are taught that science and math are for boys.”  

Lessons Learned

So what are the business take-aways from this unconventional teen? Katya Eames has some pretty solid advice to share, and its applicable to people of all ages and situations.

  1. Challenge the status quo. Don't let age, gender or any other arbitrary barrier keep you from your goals.
  2. Stay focused. Don’t let other people discourage you from your dreams.
  3. Be passionate. It’s the only way to get what you want.
  4. Ignore your critics. If you let other people put you down, you're going to get discouraged. And that means you won't work as hard as you need to work to succeed.
  5. Don't judge on appearance. That man or woman or kid you think is the spouse or the child of the keynote speaker may in fact be the keynote speaker.
  6. Always keep learning, even if you learn in untraditional ways. That's especially true for programmers, because technology is always changing, and so the languages we use to program that technology has to constantly adapt. 

Title image by Joe Eames.