South Florida Tech HubSouth Florida Tech Hub

Guest Blog | ‘Reflecting on 5 Years of Growth’ (Michelle Bakels)

on August 3, 2020 / by Michelle Bakels ,

Read Time 3 Minutes

Written By Michelle Bakels

I came across a video I made four years ago filming some of the first lines of code I ever ran, followed by the camera turning to me downing a huge gulp of wine. All of my early tests in the clip had passed, but my patience was clearly worn. Making the transition from a career in the art industry to the tech industry was so much more difficult than I could’ve imagined — as they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Looking back at that video instantly conjured up memories of frustration, fatigue, and endless fights with my compiler.


Shortly after starting my degree in Computer Science, it became evident to me that if I were going to succeed I was going to need to find someone, anyone, who I would be able to talk to about my struggles and ideas. What I found instead was an entire community. After yelling out into what felt like the void, what came back was a phone call from Joe Russo, founder of Palm Beach Tech. “I heard you’re looking for help. What do you need?” Joe and I had never met or spoken to each other before this and yet, after a 10 minute conversation, he introduced me to Chris Cabrera, at the time, Director of Engineering for a local fintech company, who from that day on became a life long tutor, mentor, and friend.

If that experience was all that resulted from my connection with Palm Beach Tech, I would still be singing their praises today. But four years later, they have offered myself and our community so much more. In the last few years I have participated in startup weekends, developer meetups, tech talks, community coffees, and hackathons. I have become the Vice Chair of the Palm Beach Tech Women’s Council and through PBT, the Vice Chair of Code Palm Beach, a software developer for NextEra Energy Resources, and a speaker at the South Florida Software Developer’s Conference. I’ve met amazing people in the community who I now talk to on a daily basis or get advice from (in fact I’m meeting with Todd Albert in five minutes to talk about React as I’m writing this!) And in between all of this, there have been innumerable events, experiences, and moments that I know are completely unique to the community Palm Beach Tech has built here.

As we celebrate the five year anniversary of Palm Beach Tech I think about if someone were to show me five years ago what my life were going to look like today. I probably would have thought this were some sort of parallel universe. I live near my family in a beach town working for a company I admire, connected to my community, and meeting amazing people in tech all the time. It’s not undue to say that I owe so much of that specifically to Palm Beach Tech and the culture of inclusivity and community that they have fostered here over the past five years. If this is what Palm Beach Tech can do in five years, we can only imagine the amazing future ahead for the newly minted South Florida Tech.

Happy 5th Birthday, Palm Beach Tech – Cheers to the future of South Florida Tech and #BuildingSoFlo!


Guest Blog | ‘Reflecting on 5 Years of Growth’ (Michelle Bakels)