The Pressure to Choose
As soon as you’re 18, you have to make one of the most important decisions of your life: what will you do for a living?
Some people make the right choice and find themselves in their dream job a few years later. Others aren’t that lucky and are stuck working in a career that isn’t exactly what they imagined it would be. And I use the word “stuck” because that’s exactly how it feels. You think, “Hey, I committed to this field years ago and spent endless hours studying for exams; how can I throw all that away?!”
But I think it’s never too late to switch careers! That’s what I did, and let me tell you, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
Time for a Change!
After getting my Biology degree, I was in my third year working in a microbiology lab when I realized I wasn’t happy. Being a biologist wasn’t how I’d pictured it. The days felt repetitive and the work wasn’t very exciting at all.
I remember at some point, a thought that had never crossed my mind before suddenly wouldn’t go away: what if I actually did something about it? I didn’t know many people who’d made such a big change after getting a degree, so I wasn’t sure that it was something you could or should be doing at all — it felt kind of wrong!
From Hobby to Career
All of this happened during one of the most challenging times for many people around the world: the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
People had to deal with quarantines and isolation from the rest of the world. And if they couldn’t work remotely, they suddenly had more free time than they’d ever had in their lives before. Everyone was recording that weird dance that was trending or baking their tenth loaf of bread for the week.
Others, like me, tried to make the most of their time by learning new skills, such as programming through a random YouTube course.
Choosing a “language” and learning its basics was fun – even if, at first, I only learned how to write “Hello world” on the screen. But soon, I could start doing slightly more advanced things, such as a calculator that only allowed you to add two numbers or a small website with close to zero design.
It was interesting enough to keep my afternoons busy.
You Are Not Alone
Now, going back to the main story: my discovery that I was unhappy with my career choice. After spending some time online, I realized that many people felt like me at some point. Reading about other people’s experiences always helps, and if that happens to be a success story with a happy ending (like this one!), it makes it even better. That’s why I’d always recommend that people speak out about their need to change paths. Then others know they aren’t alone and have someone to talk to.
Maybe it’s a loved one or a friend of a friend, and if not, the Internet is a huge place. In my case, I was lucky that almost everyone I reached out to online was happy to talk to me about their experiences. I could even connect with an old classmate in the same position.
The fact that I was now a female front-end developer made it even harder because, let’s be honest, up until that point, I’d mostly met male engineers. But we’ll get to that later.
What Is the Correct Path?
I don’t believe there are right or wrong paths. Perhaps just a correct one — or rather, a correct beginning: taking the first step, choosing to do something about your situation. Once you decide you want to change, you’re on the right track, and it’s all easier from there!
One of the best things about this field is that everything is online, the community is huge, and there are dozens of ways to learn about the same thing. As a beginner, it can be overwhelming, because of the vast immensity of resources to choose from. Some of my favorites were FreeCodeAcademy, The Odin Project, Codeacademy, and the MDN Docs. But there are many more choices, Google is your best friend.
There’s also the option of attending a coding bootcamp like I did if the traditional route of going to college or getting a degree doesn’t appeal to you. Yes, ootcamps are expensive, but they’ll provide you with the right network and tools to get a job in this field if you don’t have the time to be a self-taught programmer.
Women in Tech
If you’re a woman, like me, you might find once you start doing your research, that most of the blog posts you’re reading, courses you’re taking, and video tutorials that you’re watching happen to be made by men. And that might make you believe that the tech field is mostly male — and you might be right. Engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM.
It's difficult to be inspired to pursue a career when you don't have role models you can identify with, and the big names in the industry are mostly male. There is still a long way to go in terms of female representation. But it’s not all bad news, since the number of female engineers is increasing, compared to previous years.
Should you let the gender imbalance stop you? No! You can still rewrite your narrative, and contribute to changing the statistics. All engineers, no matter their gender, race, or age, can make a difference in people’s daily lives. Of course, there are bad apples in the industry, but that should not discourage you. For every one of them, there’s a great community out there encouraging women in the field. Tech culture is changing, hopefully for good.
It felt like a really long journey, but after some hard work, I’ve discovered you can actually really enjoy your daily work. I was lucky enough to find a big, amazing engineering team at Lingokids, where each member matters and has an impact on the company. But that doesn’t mean the job is done, and that’s one of the best things in tech — it’s difficult to get bored when there is so much to learn, not only from all the changes and new technologies arising but also from your peers.
So, if you, or have someone close to you, is having second thoughts like I once did, remember, it’s never too late, and the future is tech!