If you’d have asked me at the start of 2022 what job I’d be doing in a year’s time I probably wouldn’t have said software engineering. I’ve been in different accounting and finance roles throughout my career and last year I made a big decision. I joined the Made Tech Academy.
The academy teaches you the basics of coding and you don’t need professional experience to join. It runs for 12 weeks and then you go on to work with clients on amazing projects that make a difference. Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to do that in such a short space of time.
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come and share my journey. I truly hope it inspires others to think, “I can do that, too”!
Don’t settle for jobs that don’t fulfil you
What I was doing before joining the academy wasn’t fulfilling for me. I used to get Sunday dread about going to work each Monday – no one wants that. We spend a lot of time at work and it’s exhausting and demotivating to do something you don’t enjoy.
In my previous roles I often found myself watching the clock and counting down the minutes until the end of the day. That doesn’t benefit you, the organisation or your clients. I believe being passionate about what you do makes you better at it.
I felt stuck, like I’d dug myself into a hole that I couldn’t get out of. The pandemic cemented how I felt about my career. It took away the little things that were still great about work, such as the social aspects. But in hindsight I’m glad as it gave me the motivation I needed to make a change. It came to a tipping point when I thought, “OK, Emma. You can either accept this is your life now, or you can make a change and start again.” Of course, I chose the second option.
Find what you enjoy and don’t be afraid to fail
I’d be lying if I said it was super easy to find what I enjoy and be sure I could make a career out of it. So I did it in phases to make it a little less overwhelming. This really helped me and I hope what I’m about to share will help you, too.
If you can’t figure out what you do enjoy (like me before joining Made Tech), write down what you don’t enjoy. For example, I know I don’t like doing the same thing every day. I like variety in my role. I also know I love working as a team rather than independently, so I’d need to go into a career that would allow me to collaborate with others.
Figuring these things out got the ball rolling. I realised how much I love problem solving and learning new things. And that’s what I love most about being a software engineer.
Look into career paths that relate to what you figured out in phase one. Don’t be afraid to try new ways to help get you there – like courses or training programmes. But also, remember it’s okay to fail or accept you may not get it right the first time around.
After I did these things I came to the conclusion that a career in tech would be a perfect fit for me – and more specifically, a career in software engineering.
Being a woman in tech is a superpower
Changing careers can be really scary, especially as a female wanting a career in an industry that’s dominated by men. According to Tech Nation, 50% of workers in the labour market are women. In tech, it’s about half that at 26%. But being a woman in tech can be your superpower.
There may be more men in the industry, but there’s so much support out there to help women. I started my learning journey with a company called Code First Girls (CFG), the largest provider of free coding courses for women in the UK. I completed their Web Dev Coding Kickstarter course and within 8 weeks I was able to build a simple website which had me hooked on coding. If you want to have a look, it’s called North West Escapes.
I loved every minute of it. So I took the leap and completed a CFG degree. This was by far the most challenging part of changing careers as I was working full time as a finance officer during the day then spending my weeknights and weekends learning to code.
One of the biggest challenges was the major work/life imbalance that comes from deciding to work full time while doing an intensive course. I usually play netball 3 times a week. For 3 months I was unable to play while I completed the course. But if you want something enough, you make it work.
I visualised the long-term gains I’d get from doing this and how I’d finally feel satisfied with my career. Of course, I didn’t want to burn out. So I made sure I was still taking care of my wellbeing, whether that was relaxing in front of the TV when time allowed or taking my dog for a walk around the park.
You have more transferable skills than you think
If you’re thinking of changing careers but believe you don’t have the right skills for your dream job, in a lot of cases, you’re probably wrong. There are so many transferable skills you can draw on. You can then fill in the gaps.
Organisations like Made Tech really value those transferrable elements and appreciate that it’s not just your technical skills that make you a great engineer. For example, I had local government experience which is a big focus for Made Tech and I’d also developed a continuous improvement mindset which is highly valued here too.
Another transferable skill is my attention to detail given my heaps of finance experience. Looking at the small details really helps when you’re racking your brains trying to figure out what your code is missing – it could end up being something as minor as a comma.
Growing my confidence
My confidence has grown a lot since joining Made Tech. I’ve been given the training and time to explore my working and communication styles. It’s given me more insight into what works best for me. I’ve also been given opportunities to grow the skills I was less confident in before, like presenting and facilitating meetings.
I’ve worked alongside some amazing people on similar journeys into tech, which has made me feel really supported. And I also want to give a shout out to the more experienced engineers who have shared their knowledge and experience with me. Learning from my teammates has been a game-changer.
I’ve been putting into practise what I’ve learned so far, including new computer languages and systems. It’s been awesome seeing how everything comes together to build something great.
The next part of my journey
I can’t wait to start working on a range of different client projects. For now I have some time to work on my skills and gain some extra qualifications.
It’s a daunting but exciting place to be. There are so many different routes to explore. I’m excited to get stuck into projects that are helping make society better. Don’t be scared to take the leap and change careers if it’s something you really want to do. I promise, it’s worth it!