In February of this year, I started as a Junior Software Engineer at Avast in the Secure Browser team — a team I knew from my time in HR at the same company. Yup, you read that right: I went from Human Resources to coding. At the age of almost-30, I decided to completely switch gears, throw out all the work I’d done on my career thus far, and become Junior again.
Making the decision to make the change was probably the most difficult part. Like any 30-year-old, I’ve had plenty of change in my life already: changing careers; jobs; cities; even countries. I asked myself, “Is another change really a good idea?” Plus, I had a stable and secure position with an income that allowed me to live in a convenient area of London.
But then, I switched my perception. Instead of looking back and counting the years I worked towards the HR role, I started thinking about the future. It’s a future in which I still have up to 40 more years to be in a role I (hopefully) love. I also read a lot of stories about career changes from people who were even older than I was and who had many more responsibilities — and they did it, too. So I took a leap of faith and decided that it was the right thing to do.
And so the research began.
At first I tried doing online courses, but I struggled with combining a very busy full-time job and the daily long commutes with studying. After trying out several different ways of self-teaching — like in the mornings, during lunch, or in the evenings — I realized that my goal of changing careers within the next 12 months might not be achievable.
But during all of my research, I came across coding bootcamps that could be done full-time in three months and thought, “That’s a much better option for me.” Realizing I couldn’t pay any big fees up front, I went for the one bootcamp that had a deferred tuition scheme. And after passing the interview and test, I started the bootcamp in September and graduated in January this year.
It was an amazing experience. Everyone was from different backgrounds, many not tech-related, so I didn’t for a single second feel like I didn’t belong there or that I wouldn’t be able to succeed. And it’s safe to say that, despite quite an academic background, I have never learned as much as I learned during those 12 weeks.
In addition to motivation and determination, one of the most important factors for a smooth career transition is community. It’s important to surround yourself with people who understand or at least accept your decision and journey. Get your name out there. Talk to people. Ask for and get help. And, at the same time, offer help and support wherever you can. Build your network — even if saying that feels like you’re just repeating a buzzword. Especially for women in tech: If we don’t support each other, who will!
Even though it felt a bit strange at first to go to the other side of the office and have different equipment — not to mention not meeting with HR colleagues (whom I do miss) anymore — I didn’t regret the decision for a second. And this is confirmation for me that my decision to do such a “crazy” thing was right. I am absolutely fulfilled with my new role and career perspectives.
I’ve also come to realize that no experience, skill, or background goes to waste during a career change. In fact, it’s an asset. It will always help me to be able to connect with people and understand the people side as well as management.
So if you’re thinking of making a big move like completely switching directions midstream in your career, I say do it! Or, at least, seriously consider it. You might be surprised by how happy it makes you.