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Jessica Wilkins
Jessica Wilkins

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Why I turned down a music job at Disney to pursue a software career

No this is not clickbait, this is a true story. 😄

I was offered a music job at Disney studios back in March of 2021. But after a lot of thought and consideration, I ended up turning down the offer.

But why would a musician turn down a job at Disney to chase their dream of becoming a developer and technical writer?

Where it all began

Before the pandemic, I was busy performing, teaching and recording in operas and orchestras all around Southern California as a classical musician. I was also the owner of my own online sheet music company.

Even though I was working on average 60-70 hours a week, I didn't care. Music was my life and I was happy. 😄

But when the pandemic hit, everything changed. The first few months were tough, and I struggled to accept the reality of not performing.

Luckily, there was a little bit of light coming through all of the darkness and that light was programming.

In June of 2020, I had decided to learn how to code and within a few months was completely in love with it.

By early 2021, I was starting to hit my stride as both a developer and technical writer.

I was a few months into my first junior developer role working part time for a small tech company. The owner of the company saw my posts on the freeCodeCamp forum and offered me the job.

The first couple of months were overwhelming but I started to gain more confidence and feel comfortable with the challenges.

Around the same time, I was approached by Quincy Larson from freeCodeCamp to start writing technical articles for the news publication. Even though I was hesitant at first, I accepted the offer and was being paid per article.

Things were starting to fall into place and I started to believe that I could build a successful career in software.

So I started turning down music gigs and reducing my teaching hours so I had time to focus on software.

But then, I received an unexpected phone call that could have changed the course of my software journey forever.

A musician's dream job?

In late March of 2021, I received a phone call from a music contractor I had worked with for many years.

He told me he was friends with the Head of the Music Prep Department at Disney Studios and they were looking for music arrangers to join their team.

He then asked if he could introduce the two of us so we could set up an interview for the job.

I was completely shocked by the phone call but I said yes to the meeting.

I was able to connect with the Disney Head over email and we had setup a time for a phone chat.

He was a very nice man and talked about his journey into Disney and detailed what the job was.

The job was to work as a music copyist and arranger for the music scores used in Disney movie recording sessions.

This was also a huge opportunity to build deeper connections within the recording scene and perform more high profile gigs.

He went on to ask me what I had been doing for the past few months during the Covid lockdown. I told him all about my work as a developer and technical writer.

He liked my story into tech but did inform me that I would not have time to pursue software anymore. He said I would probably have a little time to work on software projects as a hobby during the weekend.

This job, as well as the gigs that came with it, were going to require me to jump back into the hard grind of 60-70 hour work weeks.

I had a few days to think about it but I was really torn on what to do.

Choosing the right path for me

After a lot of consideration, I ended up turning down the job to work for Disney.

Here are the main reasons why I said no.

1. The long work hours

Before the pandemic, I was driving around all over Southern California for work and putting tens of thousands of miles on my car every year.

There would be times where I would start teaching private lessons in the schools at 8am and would have a performance or rehearsal in the evening.

There were many nights where I wouldn't get home until 10 or 11pm.

Covid forced me to slow down and evaluate what I wanted out of life. As much as I loved my music career, I didn't want to jump back into the long work weeks.

2. Software development would have only been a hobby

There is nothing wrong with learning software development as a hobby. But that is not what I wanted deep down.

I really wanted to pursue a career in software as a developer and technical writer.

And with this new music career, that wasn't going to be a possibility.

What happened after I said no

Within a few months of turning down the offer I started to receive more responsibility at my developer job and accepted a staff author position at freeCodeCamp.

I was starting to build more of an audience through my writing and tackle harder projects as a developer.

I am really proud of the work I have done so far and know it was the right decision at the end of the day.

My advice for career changers like me that want to pursue a software career, is to just go for it.

And make sure to have some fun along the way. 😄

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