And you may ask yourself, “Well… how did I get here?”

Adrienne Paquin
5 min readAug 3, 2021


Returning to my STEM roots after years in the performing arts.

*This IS my beautiful room in an apartment.

If you had not spoken to me since the middle of high school, you might be slightly confused to see that Adrienne is an actor now. Yes, I sang in the acapella group (where we usually didn’t actually sing acapella) and I ran cross-country and track & field (11 seasons — pretty good for a girl who hates running), but I truly excelled at math and science. AP Bio, AP Calculus, Honors Chemistry (where a friend and I competed at just how high we could get our exam scores over 100) I was always a STEM girl.

I wanted to be an astronaut, then a neuropathologist, then just anything having to do with Bio/Chem. When I was 12, my uncle bet me that I would “walk into MIT” — no pressure! (Spoiler: I was rejected by MIT.) By the time I applied to colleges, though, I was in the middle of a shift.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I decided I wanted to be a performer. At first, I decided I wanted to be in musicals. Singing had always come naturally to me, but in high school, you had to choose between athletics and drama — you could not do both (hence the 11 seasons of running instead of 12). I did only one musical and one short play in high school, a far cry from the true “drama kids” who participated all year long. So, despite the fact I applied to all my colleges for Bio/Chem, I wrote my essay about how much I loved performing (YIKES — what a confusing application mine must have been!)

I’ve often asked my parents why they let me do such a 180 degree shift in focus. They’ve always said that if I wasn’t good at performing, they would have talked me out of it — but I was naturally good on stage and, from their view, it was up to me to choose what to do with my life. 17 years old, making the big choices.

Since I would be paying for school myself (*cough*LOANS*cough*) and I was going into the acting field (we’ve heard the phrase “starving artist”, yes?), I knew I had to choose the cheapest school I was accepted into: UMass Amherst. I am SO glad I did. I had a wonderful experience learning the craft of acting, from wonderful teachers in a truly magical place. I still think of the Pioneer Valley as home and return there often.

After undergrad, I began the process of figuring out how to “break into” the professional theatre scene. I started auditioning at every theatre in New England (lots of driving), working retail/café/bartending jobs, and living at home with my parents. I also pursued more education — there is always more to learn about the craft of acting, a truly life-long journey — and spent a summer at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.

That summer confirmed that I would be a life-long learner. I love the acting craft and I love learning new things. It was that summer that solidified for me that I wanted to get my MFA in Acting at some point.

I came back to my first professional theatre gig (the musical Rent), and there followed a few years of working regional theatre gigs around New England and New York — eventually moving to NYC for periods to audition for theatre gigs there. I never forgot about my plan for grad school, though, and so I took a break from working in the field to earn my MFA.

3 years at Columbia University passed quickly by. A serious investment of both time and money, but I still see it as worth it. I am a far better actor than when I walked in the door. Since then, I have appeared on 2 TV shows and a commercial, performed regionally and, a true bucket list item, performed Shakespeare Off-Broadway.

BUT there is a lot of time between these gigs, and Off-Broadway doesn’t really pay enough to pay the bills in NYC (don’t get me started about lack of funding for the arts in this country and how we need to be paying artists a living wage…). Between gigs, I worked all kinds of odd jobs: babysitting, assisting an interior designer, social media, Christmas caroling, escorting tech bros to the airport like I was their kindergarten teacher… the list goes on.

So that is what I was doing when the pandemic halted our lives as we knew them in 2020: nannying for a wonderful family and had a regional theatre gig coming up in a few weeks. And I probably would have continued on that path for the foreseeable future.

The pandemic allowed time (perhaps too much time) to take stock. I loved taking care of children, but I know I have potential for more.

*What do ME do?

Coding has been in the back of my mind for years now, after my college roommate went to a software engineering bootcamp and has loved working as a coder ever since. Plus I was on the look-out for “pandemic proof” employment (something that had never crossed my mind before) and, ideally, a second career that would allow me to continue to work as an actor.

After pushing through the freezing anxiety of losing my “survival jobs” and my career for ____ amount of time, I signed up for Harvard’s CS50 to see if computer science was even interesting to me at all. And it was! I really enjoyed learning the basics of computer science and getting into the various languages touched on in the course. It is truly satisfying to write the code correctly and get the computer to give you the result you were expecting. Being a detail-oriented person, I don’t mind searching through lines of code to see where my typo or missing “;” is. It was a great challenge and I really enjoyed the intro that CS50 gave me.

So with an intro under my belt, I did my research on software engineering and bootcamps, and spoke to some friends with bootcamp experience. I then had to take the really scary step to actually pull the trigger: committing to 15 weeks of software engineering, both financially and time-wise.

And so I did.

*Eleven **Weeks ***LATER

And what an 11 weeks it has been! Although it is very challenging, especially in such short time, to learn this much material, it has been fun and satisfying to learn in a whole new field. I feel like I made the right choice.

I am ready to bring my communication and creative skills to the software engineering world. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am also ready to be one more woman in rooms making impactful decisions.

The adventure continues…

**except different.



Adrienne Paquin

An actor trying her hand at software engineering.