It’s Not Too Late to Enjoy Going to Work Every Day

May 18, 2020

Career change isn’t for everyone.

It’s an uphill battle of company and industry research, countless meetups, dozens of cover letters, competition with more experienced candidates, networking dates and rejection. So much rejection.

The following women from Austin tech shared why it’s worth it. 

Everyone’s journey into a new career is different, but for many, it starts with acknowledging a lack of fulfillment. Some women we spoke with weren’t passionate about their day-to-day roles, while others wanted to experience new challenges in a different industry entirely. 

Once they determined a change was necessary, these women put in the work to land their dream jobs. Between scouring the internet for free resources to develop new skills, to enrolling in bootcamps and formal programs to further their education, the women we spoke with said their transitions required resilience, hard work and patience.

 

Flatiron School team in group photo
flatiron school
Syd Bailey
Flatiron School Austin alumni

Syd Bailey recommends self-directed kindness and empathy during a career switch. The Flatiron School Austin alumni made daily efforts to ensure she was taking care of herself while she worked to become an engineer. Self-care is important when imposter syndrome creeps in.

 

When and why did you decide to make a career change? 

In a past life, I was a diversity and inclusion professional focused on helping companies diversify their tech organizations. I had the opportunity to listen to the stories, trials and tribulations of engineers of color, particularly women. I saw how their unique perspective, views and opinions shaped products and innovation. It was then that I decided the biggest difference I could make in diversity and inclusion was to be one of the engineers in those meetings.

I needed to get my feet wet in the world of programming before taking a leap of faith. So I went online and studied every free resource that I could. I reached out to every friend I knew in the space and asked them what they loved and hated about their job and career overall. When I felt comfortable enough, I looked into furthering my education in computer science and decided on a coding bootcamp, and ultimately, Flatiron School.

I had to make the decision to forgive myself for not knowing everything.”

 

What challenges did you face while establishing yourself in this new career?

Imposter syndrome. When I got into my first engineering org, I was terrified that everyone on my team would figure out that I was a fraud or that I didn’t belong there. I didn’t believe that I had made a complete 180-turn in my life so quickly and that I actually deserved the position I got.

Believing in oneself is a conscious effort. It’s a mantra that’s said in the mirror after brushing your teeth; it’s taking a deep breath before debugging a broken app; it’s a proverbial pat on the back after finishing an 8-hour day of reading documentation and writing one line of code. 

Every day, I had to make the decision to take care of and forgive myself for not knowing everything. It was tough in the beginning, but being honest with my colleagues about what I did or didn’t know, and being kind to myself, helped a ton.

 

What advice do you have for other people who are considering making a career change?

Find a mentor or someone you trust who’s in the same space you’d like to be in, and ask them as many questions as possible. Ask what their path was and whether they have any advice for you. Also, believe in yourself and take the plunge. You won’t regret it.

 

Social Solutions team working
social solutions
Tully Moorhead
Senior Product Owner

While it’s exciting to take the next step in a career, it’s also vital that professionals doesn’t neglect the duties of the position they’re moving on from. Social Solutions Senior Product Owner Tully Moorhead recommended over-performing in your current role before asking to switch teams.

 

When and why did you decide to make a career change? 

I decided to change my career path several months into my client success role at the company. I loved speaking with clients and working with them to solve problems, but I wanted to work on bigger, more strategic problems. And as the daughter of architects, I have a passion for good design and wanted to be closer to design decision-making. All those qualities pointed me toward product. 

The first step in changing careers requires self-reflection. I took about six months to think about what I wanted. In step two, over-perform in the current role. The third step means respectfully expressing interest and learning. Join team meetings, offer to take notes and complete small projects for future colleagues. Concurrently, have an honest conversation with the current manager regarding your intention. In the fourth step, be patient and seize opportunities as they arise. The more you perform and deliver, the more trust is built and the easier it is for someone to say “yes” to a move. 

The first step in changing careers requires self-reflection.”

 

What challenges did you face while establishing yourself in this new career?

The biggest challenge for me was remaining patient and managing up. Patience is unfortunately not a strength I possess and it took around nine months for me to fully transition from client success to product. It could have taken longer were I working at a company with a different culture and structure.

While transitioning roles, the position a person was hired into is priority No.1. Over-perform in the current role, ensure your manager is getting everything and more they need from you, and be cognizant of the optics of a transition.

 

What advice do you have for other people who are considering making a career change?

Provide time for self-reflection. I was considering returning to consulting and getting an MBA to move into product, but ultimately decided to stay with Social Solutions and move laterally. This decision was the right one for me but it took a long time to decide, as it should have. Be kind to yourself because even though the transition will be hard, it will be worth it. 

 

Evernote team in group photo
evernote
Ellen Guerrero
business analyst

“Be transparent about what you don't know,” said Ellen Guerrero, a business analyst at Evernote. Prior to making the jump from the customer experience team, she made sure to speak with trusted colleagues and friends with experience in more analytical roles.


 
When and why did you decide to make a career change? 

I took an opportunity to take part in a SXSW panel on customer experience. There, I realized I wasn’t as passionate about the customer experience leadership career path as others in the room. I felt like I always fell into CX roles because it was what I knew. I was no longer challenging myself, which made me complacent. And I didn’t like that.

So I spoke with trusted colleagues and friends who were in more analytical roles. After one friend shared their non-traditional career path with me, I realized I might not need to go back to college for four years. I might be able to rely on my motivation and the vast availability of resources online. So I took to Google to better understand my options. I needed a solution that would work around my day job. And I enrolled in a six-month data analytics and visualization boot camp through Trilogy Education and University of Texas. 

Think about the worst-case scenario and the most unattractive parts of the new path.”

 

What challenges did you face while establishing yourself in this new career?

Finding the confidence to trust that I know what I’m doing while still learning. I’m transparent about not understanding something and explicit about my limitations. Taking on unfamiliar challenges has helped, and the subsequent victory when I complete a difficult task is empowering and motivating. 

Also, setting expectations and driving clarity through excessive communication has been essential. These practices were helpful as I worked to understand a new set of priorities and went from being a leader to an individual contributor. Moving from being responsible for a team to only one person sounds easy, but it can be jarring when there’s suddenly a lot of time for yourself and your deliverables. 

 

What advice do you have for other people who are considering making a career change?

If you’re thinking about your career changing, you probably want it to. Find out what would make you feel fulfilled and recognize the support that’s already available nearby. Friends, family, co-workers and other sources can offer more than just words of encouragement. They can be a catalyst for change, but also sources of opportunity. If I didn’t have the support of my team at Evernote, I would not have been able to make this transition at the pace I did. Look into new industries beyond the job descriptions and the companies hiring. Get to know the people who do the work.

Lastly, think about the worst-case scenario and the most unattractive parts of the new path. Are those things OK? If not, find out why. If so, you’re ready, so go for it. People don’t have to have one job or be tied to one career path. Anyone that has said that is limiting themselves and can limit others. Some of the happiest people I know who inspire me the most are ones that have tried multiple things and continue to do so.

 

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