After making my decision to leave the world of academia, my next choice was deciding what I wanted to do next. Naturally, many people thinking of changing career don’t typically ask “what do I want to do next?”, but rather: “from my existing skillset, what can I do next?”
For me, the most terrifying part of choosing my next career was based exactly on this latter question. Whilst self-reflection on the skills you currently possess is never a bad thing, they do not necessarily have to define the only thing you can do in any potential future career.
Initially, I focused my career search on data science roles, which was most similar to what I did in academia, or perhaps the “safe” option. But, before long I started asking myself, “what would I love to do?”
Many people envision what they want to be when they are young; be that an astronaut, a barista, or for me a penguin (yes, the literal animal… and yes, I was a child). With the penguin career being off the cards, another field I desired having a career in was technology. I wanted to develop innovative experiences that could connect with millions of people, potentially enhancing their day-to-day lives. So, I decided to seek out positions in this career that I would love to do rather than only focusing on those I knew I could do.
A major challenge in this journey was both proving to myself and others that I can pivot my existing skillset to a new career. Expect to be asked why you want to change career (and really if you are changing to something you would love to do, that one should come easily), but to also provide evidence that you are committed to do so.
Whilst a new career will certainly require learning new tools you may be unfamiliar with (e.g. specific programming language), it is highly likely that you have a vast array of transferable skills, and evidence to back them up, that may be arguably more valuable to an employer.
My past experiences had given me a varied and excellent toolset of transferable skills that would be directly applicable to a software development career within an agency. For example, I had achieved exceptional interpersonal, team-working, and collaborative problem-solving skills during my scientific research career when working with peers all over the world. These are all useful in the development process when working in teams, but also when interacting directly with a client.
However, research can also result in isolated study for long stretches of time where there is no given answer to a problem. This had tuned me to become an independent learner and problem-solver whilst maintaining the self-drive, dedication, and commitment to create the best work I could with the tools at my disposal.
These transferrable skills were also of great help in developing new technical skills. Fortunately, developing technical app development skills doesn’t have to be difficult nor expensive. Many e-learning courses exist (some of my favourite are linked below), which are also bitesize enough that even the busiest person should be able to find the time to do a few units a week, if not more! All you need to add is the passion to learn and the hard-work to see it through.
Whilst there will surely be many challenges along the way of a career change, if you can muster the confidence and drive to follow your dreams whilst also putting in the hard work to do so, you won’t only survive, but thrive within your future industry!
In the meantime, here are some of my favourite resources for self-learning of iOS development:
Also check out local tech events through Eventbrite, and Meetup.com that will often provide the opportunity to meet like-minded people that you can share your journey with! Or, I guess if you really must become a penguin, head to your nearest zoo in your best formal dinner wear!
Make your dreams your reality!