Career change is a unique and sometimes challenging process. One of the more destabilizing aspects of the experience is once again becoming something you probably haven’t been in a while—not qualified. It’s a hard thing to go through, when you’re used to being accomplished in your career. Dealing with this feeling, and overcoming the self-doubts it can lead to, is an important part of successfully executing a change in careers.
We’d like to share a story with you today about someone who went through this experience, and successfully overcame the challenges he faced. Emmanuoel graduated from our Nanodegree Plus program with a great set of skills, but he still lacked the dreaded “minimum industry experience.” Through networking and building community, Emmanuoel was able to strengthen his portfolio, and increase his industry knowledge. He earned a contract role alongside another Udacity graduate, and soon, he’ll have a full-time iOS developer job.
My Career Change Begins
Hi, I’m Emmanuoel, and I graduated from the iOS Developer Nanodegree Plus program in October 2016. Back then, I was just beginning my career transition from finance and business management to iOS development. With no relevant education or work history, I knew it would be an uphill battle.
I began by aggressively applying to every entry-level position I could find. However, as the weeks went by, I started to notice that most entry-level positions were, to put it mildly, not so entry-level. After interviewing with several employers, it became clear that I needed some work experience if I was going to break into the industry. While all the theory and skill development is important—and sometimes enough to get you an interview—in the end what really seals the deal on a job offer is that you can demonstrate how you put those skills to test in a real-life work environment.
After all, what better insurance do employers have than someone who has already done the job before?
I was having a very difficult time figuring out how I could enter the tech industry. Fortunately, I learned early on to network. Through finding and being active in a community, I was able to dive deeper into topics relevant to my career goals, meet other developers and employers, and overall build my confidence as an aspiring iOS developer.
I had actually gotten into the iOS development scene in my local area early on in the Nanodegree program—first through Udacity Connect (Udacity’s “blended” learning program that mixes online learning with in-person sessions) and then a local meetup called Learn Swift LA. At Udacity Connect, I met Raghav, a fellow iOS Nanodegree Plus student. After we graduated, he and I continued going to meetups in the area, and we even taught a few Learn Swift LA sessions together.
It was through this meetup that we both got our first relevant—and paid!—industry experience. We were approached by an employer who offered us a contract project. They had seen us at multiple events and even attended a few of the sessions we led.
We jumped on the opportunity and began to work immediately.
I hadn’t actually considered contract roles when I started my job search—my goal was a full-time position. However, I came to realize that being able to apply my skills and gain experience could really help my efforts. So I accepted the contract project, believing it would be a stepping stone toward more opportunities.
Going into the contract, Raghav and I knew work experience was valuable, but we hadn’t realized just why it was so highly sought after. Working with another developer not only sharpens your existing skills, but it also brings up challenges that you would not otherwise have the opportunity to overcome. We learned a great deal from having to draft our own freelancing contract, using Git in a team environment, compromising on ideas, adapting to differing best practices, and much more.
I experienced pair programming for the first time, which is a popular Agile software development technique—I truly felt like a real iOS developer! We gained insight from each other’s approaches to programming challenges. I further improved my ability to offer constructive criticism and receive my fair share as well. When reaching any milestone in our app, we had lengthy discussions about the strengths of each approach we had developed, and the whole process of collaborating proved to be very rewarding. To sum it up in an expression, iron was sharpening iron.
I am happy to report that Raghav was able to get a full-time job just a couple of months into the contract project. As for myself, I am in the final stages of procuring a position as well! So as you can see, the combination of networking and pursuing contract roles worked out well for both of us. Just a few months ago, we were newcomers trying to break into the industry. Today, we both confidently call ourselves iOS developers.
Our contract role really attracted employers. They saw that we were serious, skilled, and passionate about our respective career changes. They had proof we could work with other developers and deliver a product to an employer.
4 Tips For Making A Successful Career Change
I know my struggle with finding work experience, even for an entry-level role, is not unique. The truth is that nearly everyone struggles when making a career change. Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do to greatly improve your circumstances, and you can absolutely succeed in making the change. Based on what I’ve learned, here are four things I recommend:
Network with others. You will be surprised at how many doors networking opens. I recommend finding local gatherings on Meetup, and attending weekly.
Be open to any role. Be excited about the work you do, but be open to reimagining how you might enter the industry. Every chance to work on a project, especially if it’s for an employer, is a chance to develop work experiences.
Consider contract work. Freelance and contract roles, including volunteering, can serve as excellent stepping stones to get you where you need to be.
Be persistent! It will take a little time and effort, but when you put in the work, you are bound to succeed and reap the rewards. So above all else, be persistent!
We are so excited for Emmanuoel’s successes, and honored to share his story with you today!
In an era that requires a commitment to lifelong learning, career change is virtually inevitable. But as Emmanuoel shows us, the process is manageable when you embrace networking, take on shorter-term opportunities for the sake of experience-building, and give yourself permission to reimagine your path as you proceed. —Trinh Nguyễn, Udacity Program Coordinator