She may have left Prince Edward Island for the bright lights of Toronto, but to get the career and lifestyle she wanted, Emily Coffin came right back home.
Her family moved to the Island when she was 11 and starting seventh grade. After high school Emily studied computer programming at Holland College, but she wasn’t sure that it would lead to any local job prospects.
“I often say that I did all my important growing up here, and I definitely consider Charlottetown to be my hometown,” Coffin said. “I had lived here most of my life, but at one point I felt that I had outgrown it. I didn’t believe there were any opportunities for me here, specifically in the tech industry.”
First Emily moved to Halifax, where she became captivated by the business and design side of technology. Then Toronto called, and she felt at home instantly. It was there that she found Ladies Learning Code (now called Canada Learning Code), which supported young women in the male-dominated tech industry. She volunteered to mentor at a Girls Learning Code (a subset of the larger organization) workshop and was hooked.
“It was amazing to see these young people so excited about technology, and to witness them build something from scratch using code,” Coffin said. “I started mentoring on a regular basis and was eventually brought onto the team.”
She went back to school to take a user experience (UX) design program. Emily wanted to work for herself and freelance, but she found the market in Toronto was saturated with UX designers, and she struggled to make that dream a reality.
But Prince Edward Island was a different story.
“There is a demand for UX designers here, and not enough supply to meet it – so I was easily able to find work, given my experience and education.”
Coffin moved back to the Island in 2016 and has freelanced as a UX designer for more than a year. Last year, she started a tech education company of her own – codeAtlantic – focusing on in-depth programs in areas such as web development and design. The company operates out of Charlottetown’s Startup Zone.
“I am extremely impressed with how supportive the tech and entrepreneurial communities are here on PEI. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed, and everyone is eager to share knowledge and resources with others.”
The only thing missing was her Canada Learning Code community from Toronto. But she remedied that soon after arriving back on the Island.
“PEI was the only province in which we didn’t have a presence, so I approached our CEO about starting a chapter, and she enthusiastically gave me the green light,” Emily said. The PEI chapter has since run several successful workshops for youth and adults.
“The flexibility of making my own schedule, and the lower cost of living, means I’ve been able to enjoy a work-life balance I hadn’t been able to enjoy while in Toronto,” she said. “I sometimes find it funny that the smallness of this province is what I had desperately wanted to get away from, but now it’s one of the things I cherish most.”
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