Stickler’s interview left me with an important lesson: You can experience burnout—even from something you love. “I can show other people…that there is a world where you can do multiple things,” says Stickler. “Where the thing that your college self decided you wanted to do for the rest of your life doesn’t have to be the thing you do for the rest of your life. And if there is a way to find value in yourself alongside your journey as an artist, so you’re not constantly seeking it from somebody else, like why not find that, right?”
“Your path doesn’t have to be linear. The only person who has created these rules is really yourself. There is space to explore other parts of yourself.”
“I still don’t feel like I fit in, but I also feel like I should be where I am. I want people, and especially women who want to get into tech, to see that people like me do exist in those spaces. We need to get more of us in there.”
When COVID-19 hit and Broadway shut down, everyone was suddenly in the same boat — forced to find other work. So Stickler took the leap and applied for tech jobs.
“It gave me the opportunity to feel safe and secure in a time when the world was a mess, and it allowed my husband and I to both realize that we did not want to live in 650 square feet in Brooklyn anymore,” she says.
With COVID numbers spiking in New York City due to the spread of the Omicron variant, numerous Broadway productions have stopped performances as cast members tested positive or relied on banks of covers, swings, and understudies to step into parts they don’t normally play. Stickler’s story caught attention as one of the more extreme examples of someone returning to perform in the midst of an emergency. She spoke with Vulture over the phone about the surreal experience, why she went into software engineering, and how coding is a bit like being an understudy.
When COVID-19 hampered a Broadway musical, they turned to a software engineer to fill the lead role. Having been given only 24 hours’ notice, Carla Stickler was on a plane from northern Michigan on one of the worst travel days of the year to New York City to star on Broadway as Elphaba in “Wicked.”
Talented lesser known performers are becoming the heroes of Broadway for stepping into lead roles when other performers can’t take the stage due to COVID-19.
“You know, it – for me, having kind of stepped away from performing and thinking that I would never have this opportunity to perform Elphaba again, it was really magical, and there was so much joy in it. I think she’s such a wonderful, wonderful role. Honestly, if I never did it again, I’d be fine. I’d feel complete. It was just such a wonderful moment.”
“I think everybody is really doing the best they can,” she says. “I do think the fact that the show has been able to stay open is a testament to how devoted the actors are to the show and how great and talented the group of people that they have hired over the years are.”
Software engineer Carla Stickler made a whirlwind comeback to the stage as Elphaba after receiving a call to fly to New York for an emergency performance due to COVID and holiday staffing shortages.
Carla Stickler, a Broadway star who transitioned into tech in 2020 with Flatiron School. Even as a total beginner, Flatiron School’s curriculum, instructional support, and career services helped Carla completely pivot her career. Carla shares how she’s progressed as a developer since bootcamp graduation, and why artists make such important additions to tech teams.
A former actor traveled to Broadway to fill in for one of Wicked‘s lead roles over the weekend as the show faced a shortage of stars amid the ongoing COVID pandemic surge.
Carla Stickler shared on social media Monday that she performed as Elphaba in a recent showing of the Wizard of Oz–inspired musical — even though she now works as a software engineer based in Chicago.
“Last night I got the chance to perform Elphaba on Broadway after not having done it since I left the company full time in 2015. To say it was an incredible moment would be an understatement,” Stickler wrote on Instagram, sharing a video of her curtain call.
“I am so overjoyed to have performed with this amazing cast and crew,” Stickler continued. “They helped carry me thru the show last night, and without their energy, cheering me on, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
“I wonder what it would look like if we encouraged young students to go into the arts not because they cannot see themselves doing anything else, but because their imagination for what they can do is unlimited. Who says we can’t learn other skills alongside our careers as artists that will provide us enough money to meet our basic needs?”
“It’s important that people see there are folks like me and many others who have found joy in new careers and can still enjoy our creativity in ways that may not be as flashy, but are still fulfilling.”
For a few days in January, alumna Carla Stickler (IAC 97-00, IAA 00-01) found herself in an unusual place–back in the spotlight–when she put down her laptop, picked up a broom, and stepped into the lead role in Wicked on Broadway.
Carla Stickler, a Fall 2019 Software Engineering graduate from Flatiron School, describes herself as a professional multi-hyphenate. After spending more than 10 years performing in Broadway musicals such as Wicked, Mamma Mia!, and The Sound of Music, her desire for stability, a better work-life balance, and a chance encounter with an old friend led her to tech.
She shares her journey from Broadway Star to Software Engineer below.