Making the switch - Part 2


As we closed out part one of this series, I was working as a manufacturing engineer full time. Then, in the evenings going to night classes for a Master's degree in computer science. Before too long, I felt as though I was unable to make the impact on the organization that I was capable of making. So it was time for me to move on and find a new role. My confidence was still not great when it came to software development. I was scared to be turned away from positions so I decided it was a safer move to find another position as a manufacturing engineer. At least until my confidence increased.

Ultimately, this turned out to be a pretty decent decision for me. This new employer I was a one of a kind. The only manufacturing engineer in the place. Reporting directly to the President of Operations. In reporting to someone so high in the organization, I was able to get a great look at how the daily operation decisions of the facility were made. During this period I also took on a part-time position. Remember in the first post where remote test-taking was part of the university selection? Well, I had found a tutoring center near me that could provide this service. After having to pay for the first exam, I discussed what it took to become a tutor for high school students at the center. Kathy, the owner of the center was amazing. We agreed at that moment I would be filling out an application and starting in the next week. From that point forward, one hand washed the other. She would provide me with a quiet place to study and proctor the exams for me. I would come in and tutor the high school physics and math students she had.

As I continued manufacturing work, another team within the organization had been using a custom-built tool to manage an aspect of the business. I never knew this software even existed until there were some features the team wanted to add to it. The original developer of the tool had already left the organization. I saw this as an opportunity to get a taste of software development for a real live client. Before too long I was working directly with the users of this desktop application to add the desired features. It was officially my first paid software gig. This was HUGE for me. I was loving every minute of it. After a couple of weeks working on this project part-time my confidence had increased. I just knew it was time to start looking for a new role in software development.

I feel like this took quite a long time. I was submitting resumes to places looking for junior developer positions. Nothing came of those application submissions. I had recently learned about software quality positions. I was not entirely sure what they were all about but would take one of those to get my foot in the door. Who knows I may even like that more than being a software developer. At this time it felt like I had 3 jobs; working all day, coming home to study, and looking for a new position all night. It was one of the more stressful times in this whole transition. The uncertainty of all the applications going out. The emotional rollercoaster with each response or lack of a response from the organizations. I do not recall how I found this, but there was an open house at an organization I had not yet applied to. So I figured, what is there to lose? Why not go to the open house and see what it is all about.

I walked away from the open house with some more confidence. Based on the conversations I had there, I knew I was able to perform the majority of the daily activities already with the skills I had learned. That night I applied for a position as an Associate Quality Assurance Engineer. In no time the interview was completed and I had an offer in hand. Finally, I had made my break into the industry. With mechanical engineering in my rear view mirror, I knew that there were vast amounts to learn in the coming weeks/years. I was excited for the change and the endless doors that had opened up. The first months of working in QA were like drinking from a firehose. There was so much information I had to learn it was so exciting to finally be here. As my learning slowed in that role, I figured it was time to make the switch from QA to a software developer. This was so quick and easy. The same organization was looking for associate-level developers. I talked with my team lead, then had a quick interview with the Vice President of software development and the lead architect. As the lead architect came into the interview/discussion, the was already under the impression that I had accepted the offer. So I knew minutes into the conversation that I would quickly reach the goal of becoming a software developer.

In the last post of this series, I want to discuss how I would approach this transition knowing what I know now.