Finding Success as a Career Changer

Finding Success as a Career Changer

Written by Mindi Weik

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I found tech later in life and leveraged prior experiences to slingshot toward success. Let’s start with a brief background snapshot for examples to consider how to harness existing skills.

My Communication degree focused on public speaking, public relations, and interpersonal and organizational communication. My jobs as a young adult led me toward becoming a program director and aquatics director at a non-profit. Non-profit work is financially tough, and the long hours quickly burned me out.

A transition brought me to real estate as an assistant. My boss and I also created a real estate marketing “side hustle.” I discovered real estate wasn’t for me, took over the side hustle, and leaned into the business.

The side hustle was a creative outlet: I was a licensed drone pilot, built websites, photographed homes, created print materials, and operated a 3D camera along with “gig” work doing home showings and attending inspections/contractor meetings.

COVID-19 came, challenging many of us. Neither real estate nor the instability of “solopreneurship” was what I wanted. Finally, I paused to contemplate my career. 

Tech drew me in, and I invested in self-learning to code, but it was slow. During COVID, I found my way into a small remote SaaS company building real estate tools and websites. In Support, I grabbed every technical opportunity, attempting to slingshot my way to the technical side. After two years of learning to code independently, I needed a bootcamp’s accountability to advance technically.

I’m approaching my fourth year with this company as a Platform Expert, Onboarding Manager, and finally a Software Engineer last May.

Lessons Learned

My lessons can help others thrive in a new career path. Here are three tips to ramp up a career-changing journey!

#1 – Identify your “foot in the door.”

Consider whether current or prior industry experiences can open doors. It may be the boost needed to get closer to or achieve a career goal.

My first career was influenced by eight years as a young adult lifeguard working around pools and patrons, teaching people to swim to become an Aquatics Director. Combined with the chance to show leadership in college, I could run an aquatics facility and its programs.

Later, I landed my role in a tech company through my real estate experience. It sounds counterintuitive, but relating with and translating for our customers helped me act as a liaison between customers, product, and engineering teams for new features or customer issues.

#2 – Use expertise in new pursuits.

Expertise will differ depending on background. Pinpoint these skills and harness them to propel a new career!

I honed customer and team communication through multiple careers, team training from aquatics (emergency training), and project management from real estate.

The support allowed me to leverage all of these expertise areas. I used my communication skills daily! I embraced moments to train my teammates and organized work with project management. As I moved to Onboarding, I trained my team on the deeper system aspects and used project management skills to identify and automate our processes.

These skills propel me in my current role as a software engineer, too! I have a unique empathy for our customers and their needs. I collaborate with teams. I jump at opportunities to present concepts I’m learning or to demo work. I also directly contribute to our project planning.

#3 – Intentional work is better than hard work.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of working hard without direction. Take it from Arit!

I worked hard as a real estate assistant. I worked too hard in Support to prove — mainly to myself — that if I worked hard enough, I would be technical enough.

Recognition, when received, felt nice, but it wasn’t getting me closer to a technical career. It seemed easier to push forward than take an intentional step back to consider what was right for me.

Once I explored what I wanted, clear decisions were easy and took me on the direct path. Realizing real estate was going nowhere fast; I discovered how much I enjoyed tech and wanted to be in that space. When I approached burnout in Support, I found I needed pointed help getting to the next phase.

Decisions were suddenly easy. I have a more fulfilling career now, and I hope my experience can help other career changers. Intentionality can amplify your career!