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Kelly Miller: The Importance of Investing in Yourself

“I’m working towards a version of my life that is fluid in all the things that are me. Living is art, and I’m having so much fun creating the mural that is my life.” - Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller refuses to be defined by one title.

Four years working as a teacher pushed her beyond what she expected. Underpaid and overworked but with a heart that still burned for the education field, she decided to make her impact in another way. 

In 2018, Kelly enrolled in Tech901’s Code 1.0 program. Afterward, she sat down with us to discuss her journey. In this convo, she said she shared that she was initially daunted by the program but quickly rose to the challenge.

“I was intimidated by entering a new field,” Miller said. “I didn't know how to do it. I just really wanted to do it. Tech901 has opened the door and allowed me to start a new career.”

Since this interview, her new career has done more than flourish.

Currently, Kelly manages the digital application for Memphis Shelby County Schools’ virtual education and logistics “1:1 Program”. She is also a software engineer, muralist, web developer, tutor, artist, and bodybuilder.

“I cover my bills, and I pursue what I’m called to; it’s that simple,” Miller said. “I wake up every day high on life, and I’m staying obedient to my passions so I can keep feeling this way.”

This month, we caught up with Kelly to learn about her continued journey and how tech has played a part in all of it. Read our conversation below.

Q: What is your most significant growth point since 2018?

A: Definitely my tech skills. I remember getting my first internship and knowing that at some point, I would be able to work at the same pace and efficiency as some of the senior-level engineers, and I didn't know how to get there. But I knew that if I kept at it over time, there was no way I would stay at that level. The more you see, the more you can problem-solve. And the more you see, the less you panic about things that may come up. Everything in life has a pattern, and you just have to find it.

Q: What is your current full-time position?

A: I manage Shelby County School’s One to One virtual program. I manage the app's data, which tracks student performance. The application tracks information about student devices district-wide. Before that, I worked with a company called ECS which does government contract work for the Postal Service. There, I created data dashboards from the postal workers' devices. We were using GPS pings to develop all types of datasets. Through those data sets, we created stories and made the data more digestible. We painted pictures using the data for consumers to grasp more easily. 

I’ve also begun to develop more dynamic programming for my tutoring, which I do on the side. This tutoring has become Learning Leaps.

Q: That was my next question! What is the Learning Leaps program that you’ve developed?

A: Learning Leaps is an activity-based interactive program designed to enhance math skills for kindergarten through 8th-grade students. I’m an educator at heart and know that this field is my ministry. But I was underpaid and exhausted in the classroom and left that to pursue my other passions and establish a firmer financial base. But leaving education created a void in me. So, I began doing private math tutoring, and it went well. Over time, I began to develop software for my tutoring, which has become Learning Leaps. Eventually, I want to open my own learning center.

Q: You shared much about your incredible mural work on social feeds. When did this become a focus for you?

A: I’ve always been an artist but decided to pursue it more seriously in 2016 while still teaching. I promoted it on my own and started to get more mural gigs. I became interested in web development and design to keep that business flowing. This was another reason I enrolled at Tech901. I’m always seeking an understanding of human behavior, and seeing how people react to different types of art made me more interested in UX (user experience). In my online design work, I not only want to make it pretty, but I want to make it user-friendly and satisfying to use.

Q: Just last week, you posted about your recent bodybuilder competition. One, that’s just very cool. Two, what led you to pursue this?

A: I decided in August of last year to do the competition because I wanted to improve my body, and I also thought it would be kinda badass, to be honest. I entered the “wellness” category, which means an athletic, healthy physique less focused on bulking. I’m competitive, so adding competition to my exercise regimen pushed me to develop a better routine. Fitting in two to three hours of exercise a day means I have to be efficient in everything I do—meal prepping, picking outfits, etc. The process also helped me see that the foods I eat don’t just affect my physique but also my performance in my other jobs. 

Q: Where do all of these avenues you’re traveling down converge?

A: Some may say that mural work, software engineering, web design, tutoring, and bodybuilding do not go together. But that’s not true for me. I think all things in life overlap. I get frustrated by schooling that silos each subject. I could teach a version of the same lesson for every school subject. When I work on murals, I often create different pieces and marry them later; elements that started separate converge to fill out one big canvas. This is how I view my life. I cover my bills and pursue what I’m called to; it’s that simple. I wake up every day high on life and stay obedient to my passions so I can keep feeling this way. I’m working towards a version of my life that is fluid in all the things that are me. Living is art, and I’m having so much fun creating the mural that is my life.

Q: For those considering Tech901, what would you say is the program’s most significant benefit?

A: It teaches you what you’re made of. Because it’s so affordable, Tech901 allows you to put yourself in a sink-or-swim situation. They will guide you, but you have to put in the work. If you’re seeking improvement, trying is worth the risk because the worst thing that can happen is discovering it’s not the field for you. I know people who gamble $200+ on sports games regularly and others who spend hundreds on Starbucks monthly. Tech901 is inexpensive and opens up so many doors. It did for me, and it can work for you too. 

Q: It’s been 5 years since you graduated. If we catch up again in 2028, where do you see yourself?

A: I think some of the skills I'm doing now will be passé. You have AI coming in, and how we interact with technology will be completely different. So my view on the tech stuff is I want to understand the moving pieces and manage the people or teams tinkering with this because I don't want to code forever. So I see myself staying at least one foot into the technology part of it but also trying to leverage my skills in the management space, potentially managing my own learning center.

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