Chasing Curiosity: Malisa Middlebrooks Followed Her Interests and Found a New Software Career

Chasing Curiosity: Malisa Middlebrooks Followed Her Interests and Found a New Software Career

8th Light
8th Light

February 03, 2023

Malisa Middlebrooks came to software as a former clinical lab scientist working in healthcare. Like other career changers, Malisa was attracted to the endless complexity of software systems. She enjoys puzzles and problem-solving, and her curiosity has driven her through multiple phases of her life.


She applied to 8th Light because of our apprenticeship program and culture of learning that she felt reflected her learning style. “I wanted to have a career where I could continue to grow and learn,” Malisa says. “I was attracted to the apprenticeship and the continuous learning and growth culture at 8th Light.”

Malisa paused her apprenticeship at 8th Light to return to her previous hospital and assist with the rush of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since her return to her software career, she’s begun pursuing a new specialization in DevSecOps, mentoring apprentices, and chasing her curiosity wherever it leads her.

Name: Malisa Middlebrooks
Location: Chicago
Time at 8th Light: 4 years and 3 months
Time in the industry: 4 years and 3 months

Diving Into DevSecOps

Lately, Malisa has been digging deeper into the support systems of modern web apps, with both her client project and her internal initiatives focused on DevSecOps. This work bridges the divide between the developers who write code and the operations pros who ensure that code works on every user’s machine, emphasizing automation and embedding a “shift left” approach to security and operations across the organization’s tools and processes.

DevOps is not just a technology that can be implemented but a mentality that must be adopted and incorporated holistically. As a result, it’s also the source of frustration and friction for teams who've been successful working differently.

When a deployment pipeline is not functioning correctly, “the tendency and the pain point is, [the team] will want to try to deploy less often,” Malisa explains. “One of my colleagues here at 8th Light said it’s a bit like exercising: when you do it once, and you’re sore, you think, ‘This is awful, I should exercise less,’ when really, you should start exercising more — or in our case, deploying more often.”

The work provides ample learning opportunities, and she’s supported by participating in 8th Light’s Infrastructure Guild. Guilds are internal teams that share knowledge, expertise, and new learnings on various overlapping technologies.

“I get excited about collaborating with other 8th Lighters,” Malisa says. Through Slack and two weekly Zoom meetings, Malisa collaborates with many of 8th Light’s DevOps experts to accelerate her growth in AWS, infrastructure as code technologies like Terraform, and system administration problem solving. “It’s a great place to discuss, ask questions, and get ideas for implementations on our client projects from people we don’t work with directly,” Malisa adds.

Motivation From Mentorship

8th Light’s community of learners fuels a virtuous feedback loop that not only supports everyone with a broad base of expertise available at any time, but also provides opportunities for the development and growth that comes from teaching. “It’s reaffirming at the beginning of your career to teach others starting right behind you in their software journey,” Malisa says. “It’s so motivating as a mentor to see apprentices grow and answer their questions that never occurred to me yet.”

Although Malisa admits to being apprehensive about becoming a mentor, she found she was more prepared than anticipated. “The fantastic thing about it was that you do have something to offer because you are just a little bit ahead of that new apprentice,” Malisa says. 8th Light’s mentor teams are a blend of experience levels and backgrounds on purpose because someone newly out of the apprenticeship will have a different perspective than a more senior colleague, and both of them will bring valuable insights to the apprentice.

For Malisa, the most rewarding part comes at the end. “It’s cool because then, at the end, you get to see that other person’s journey,” Malisa says. “I got to send off my first apprentice onto her client project, and we got great feedback from the client that she was just a wonderful addition to their team.”

Building Confidence Through Curiosity

Now that she’s an experienced mentor, Malisa says she’d tell herself to finish every sentence that starts with an “I don’t know” with “... yet.”

“In software, there’s just too much to know. I’ll never know all of it,” Malisa says. “But by gaining confidence in saying the word ‘yet,’ you believe in yourself. You can pick up the tools and continue to learn with the confidence that you will know it someday.”

This uplifting add-on also speaks to Malisa’s enduring commitment to curiosity to guide her life, which she applies even to her hobbies. “I like to run and discover new paths. I also enjoy reading different books, so I really love Free Little Libraries,” Malisa explains. “I take it as an exercise in fate; I go on runs and find new random books that interest me.”

Best finds:

  • A book about investing from a female’s perspective

  • The Arduino project book, which is kind of like a Raspberry Pi.

Check out our other Employee Spotlights or learn more about careers at 8th Light.