Hi, Could you introduce yourself?
Hello, My name is Cara Stellato Connell, I am a self-taught front-end developer and project manager from the Bronx, NY. Currently I am working at Slalom Consulting as a Technology Consultant, and I am also CTO/COO for two start-ups. I started my career while attending Fordham University in the Bronx, I was a History and Political Science major, but did freelance web development to pay for school, food and having fun in the city. After college I continued running my freelance business for about 8 months full-time, then I became a lead developer for Sotheby's International Realty. Throughout my career I have worked for development startups, marketing agencies, and then in 2016 I started my own marketing agency and ran that for 4 years before selling it to get into Consulting. Since college I have always freelanced and always had side-projects going. I currently live in central Connecticut with my husband, Justin, and Pit-bull mix, Buddy.
What are you working on?
My side hustles include being a COO for a company that is currently in development, a SaaS application called TripFind. I am also the co-founder and CTO of a mobile gift-giving application called Givvem. Currently for Givvem we have an MVP built and are looking for seed investment. Lastly, through my full-time job, on top of client work, I am working on 4 certifications (AWS Cloud Practitioners, AWS Solution Architect, Slalom Solution Owner, and Microsoft Power Platform), that I hope to complete by September of this year.
How did you get into your current field?
I originally went to school to be pre-law (hence the History and Political Science majors), however I always had an interest in computer networking and web development. I took a web development class in the 7th grade and then just kept building websites using Microsoft FrontPage for several years. When I got into college I was going to minor in Computer Science, but I took one CS class and knew it wasnt for me. In my Junior Year of college, I finished my internship at the law firm I worked at for 2.5 years, and my buddy asked me if I could work on his friends website for cash, so I took the job, and just self-taught myself how to do all of the coding and design tasks he asked of me. He liked my work and referred me to his friends, so-on, and by the time I graduated I had over 30 clients I was doing website development maintenance for $30 per hour. From there I just kept challenging myself and honing my skills coding all day and all night, eventually over time bringing my hourly rate to $100 per hour. Even when I took on full-time work for other businesses I would work a 10 hour day, come home and keep coding for my freelance clients. It was my job and hobby for about 6 years.
After hitting a peak with front-end I wanted to try Project Management, so my boss at the time gave me the opportunity to PM a small project. I did well on it and got promoted to PM. From there I just focused on Project Management, and Product Management because I really liked building applications and platforms from the ground up. What really got me into Consulting was running my Marketing agency. Once I started that company, I was no longer just a dev, I was no longer just a PM. I became a COO, CTO, CEO, Dev, PM, Manager, Leader, Janitor, all of the things I needed to do to keep my business running - while never having the time to continue doing what I enjoyed most... learning. After four years I stumbled on the opportunity at Slalom and knew it was a great way to get back into learning rather than just being a boss that was busy and stressed all the time. 8 months later, I truly believe taking this job at Slalom has been the best career decision I have made thus far.
What are your goals?
I really want my current side-projects to be success enough for me and my partners to sell them for a good profit. Once I do that I want to take the money that I earned from those ventures and become an angel investor in other projects. Eventually, once I have hit my peak at Slalom (10-15 years from now, maybe more), I want to open up my own VC firm (if I end up being good at the whole investment thing).
Do you have a mentor?
Not currently, but I am always looking. I do lean on my husband for advice quite a bit.
Do you mentor anyone?
I participate in several volunteer organizations that help Girls and Women pursing STEM careers.
Whats the best and worse advice you have received?
Best advice: "You can only control that which you can control." - When something upsets me or doesn't go my way I think to myself "is there anything I could have done to change the outcome?" if the answer is "no", then I choose not to focus on it anymore.
Worst advice: "Therapy is for people who have problems, or for people who are weak." - I think therapy is an extremely powerful tool. Understanding and working on your emotional intelligence is an important skillset that is vastly overlooked, and therapy is a big piece in gaining that skillset. Its important to look at yourself and understand your actions, and why you do things, before you can lead and judge others.
Who do you follow? What blogs do you read?
I read a lot of Medium articles everyday, as well as Tech Crunch. I follow others in the development instagram community because seeing like minded people like me work hard, hone their craft, and obsess over their passion like I do is inspiring and motivating to me. I also enjoy Thomas Frank, Matt D'Avella, and Ali Abdaal videos on YouTube to get me motivated when I need the extra boost.
What’s the best way to keep up to date with what you’re doing?
My instagram! @CaraCodes :)
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