11 December 2013

How I Abandoned My Fears and Got Into the Tech Job I Love

What TVs Are Really For photo 2013-11-01160803_zps69fbde91.jpg
How televisions should really be used.

Some days I can hardly believe that a year and a half ago, I was working at a job that didn't pay enough for me to pay rent, forcing me to rely on generous relatives. After struggling to figure out what I was doing for a couple of years after a Master's degree, I was relieved to finally have any income and I enjoyed working with a talented Italian, but the job seemed to be a dead-end one, and besides that, it wasn't at all what the job description had said; I had to do sales-type work, it was boring, it wasn't creative, and sometimes I felt like stabbing my eye out.

I tried to make the job fit its description by regularly putting content about the company in several places online and building a customer community, but the company engineers couldn't seem to complete anything so I'd have some good, original content. At one point, they were too busy to work on designing a website for a customer, so the COO and I started looking at website designs and he asked me to make a mockup. I didn't know how to do that, but I was fascinated by the idea and dedicated myself to learning by doing. My browser was soon overwhelmed with over 90 tabs as I started looking at tutorials for making Photoshop mockups, because I ran into more and more fascinating links about picking up tech skills.

However, when I signed up for an intensive course for women to learn web development and was accepted, I still hesitated. I was scared.

I didn't want to disappoint my co-worker by quitting. I wasn't confident that I could learn tech skills quickly. I'd already gone a couple of years without what I would consider a real job and didn't want to feel like a non-contributing member of society again. Dedicating myself to learning tech full-time would mean not having an income; where would the means for food, transportation, insurance, and such come from? To make matters scarier, my relatives needed their basement back, so housing was unsure. Not only would I not be making money, I'd be going deeply in the hole to pay for rent and the course. Finally, I felt too old to make a complete career change. In other words, there was every excuse not to go for it.

So why did I?

Somehow, despite all the doubts in my head, there were some ideas that refused to go away:
  • It was clear that I was more interested in techie stuff than in what I was doing. Even if I didn't end up liking the curriculum or the course didn't help launch me into a tech job, it was a way out.
  • I learned to make a mockup pretty quickly, didn't I? Maybe it was possible for me to learn more. 
  • I realized that in the end, my career wasn't about always pleasing my co-worker; it was about finding some kind of satisfaction and being able to support myself, and I was underestimating him if I thought he wouldn't understand that. 
  • If I could find a way to fund this career change, I could get into a job that would enable me to pay it off and have a higher quality of living.
  • It was better to make a change now than to suffer for years and try later.
In moments of inspiration, I started to work things out, one by one. I got permission to work very part-time for a little while longer, meaning I'd still have a minuscule small income and I didn't feel like I was letting down my coworker as much. I found quite the alternative way to temporarily finance an education break and get a discount on rent by getting married and becoming an apartment manager.

Of course, with this transition of a lifetime and even with the support of a loving new husband, I still had fears, but it was those very fears that motivated me--if I didn't keep at it, I'd be in the hole even longer. If I gave up, I could be back in a job that sucked my life away without giving anything back.

I am so glad that I went out on a limb to transition into tech. I like my work, I've found a supportive professional network, and the pay would have made my eyes pop out two years ago. If you are considering a career change and are fearful as I was, consider the future. How will it be if you stay where you are? How could it be if you were to overcome your fears?

To any women even slightly interested in computers and the internet, I'd encourage you to move into tech without delay. Why tech? Stay tuned; I'll be addressing that question in a post next week.

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  1. I think you are awesome! You inspire me to be brave & take a leap in the dark. I miss you too! -Autumn

  2. This is fascinating to me. Huge switches like that are the hardest things for humans. Well done, and thanks for sharing.