How Celeste Carter Changed Her Career…and Her Family's Future

Celeste Carter dreamed of becoming an software engineer … but when tragedy rocked her family, a new career in tech became the key to their future.

January 12, 2023

When Celeste Carter gave birth to twins in 2019, the plan was that she would become a stay-at-home mom, and would homeschool and care for her children. But a year later, that plan fell apart when her husband passed away.

With two children to support, no job or savings, and a pandemic that closed her affordable day care, Carter needed a new plan—one that would give her and her family the stability and financial support they needed.

“The world shut down," Carter recalls. “I no longer had my husband to help navigate the world ahead of us, I had to make a way."

After considering her options, Carter decided that technology was the place she needed to be. Unfortunately, she didn't have the money she needed to pay for the courses and certifications. But she found—and earned—a scholarship to a full-time coding bootcamp, which she attended in January 2021. Working from her home, coding away in JavaScript and Ruby up to ten hours a day, Carter realized that she wasn't just learning new skills. “I was also teaching my daughters how to be resilient and how to survive when things fall apart," she recalls.

Building a Future

Building a new career isn't just a matter of learning new skills, and when she was not coding or taking care of her children, Carter took advantage of every opportunity she could to learn something new, build her network, and set herself apart from others. “I'm not the norm; I'm not a traditional technologist " she explains. “I'm older, I'm a single mom, and I'm just finding a career and that's a huge step!"

In July 2021, Carter learned about a new Emerging Talent Software Engineer (ETSE) program at JPMorgan Chase. Designed for early-career software engineers who have gained their coding skills through non-traditional pathways, ETSE has a unique method for interviewing potential recruits: It hosts a virtual hackathon, in which candidates work with JPMorgan Chase's Hack for Good program. Designed to connect new programmers with communities in need of their expertise, the 12-hour hackathon gives participants a chance to showcase their abilities…while helping a worthy cause.

The morning of the hackathon, Carter grabbed her breakfast and made sure she was ready for the marathon ahead of her. “I checked that my laptops were charged and I lined up bottles of water and orange juice around my desk," she remembers. “It was game time!"

When Carter met her team, she sprang into action, assigning roles to each of her colleagues, based on their strengths. Over the next 12 hours, the team worked together to build an app to support working womens' overall well-being. In the process, Carter flourished as a developer and scrum master. “Being a scrum master was really unique for me," she says. “I was coding but I was also overseeing our front end and back end teams"

A New Job…And a New Challenge

Two days after the hackathon, Carter was sitting in her living room watching her bootcamp's final presentations on Zoom when her phone rang. It was a JPMorgan Chase recruiter, offering her a full-time job.

“I couldn't wait to become a full-time engineer," Carter says. “I was going to have the opportunity to wake up every day and create something out of thin air." Carter graduated from the coding bootcamp that week with a diploma in one hand and a job offer in the other.

But before Carter could start her new job, nature threw her one more curveball: New Orleans, her hometown, was in the path of Hurricane Ida. Suddenly, she had just one goal in her mind—securing the safety of her family. After her tumultuous year, Carter knew that she could face the new challenge single-handedly, but as a new JPMorgan Chase employee, she didn't have to: The company provided support for her and her family to evacuate to Plano, Texas.

Carter has been at JPMorgan Chase for a year and a half, and is thriving as an Emerging Talent Software Engineer. Two years after surviving the most devastating challenge of her life, she's living her dream job and supporting her children. All of this, she says, has taught her a vital lesson: “You need to have the courage to do whatever it takes and get in front of it."