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Gladys Pascual
Gladys Pascual

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Using lockdown to switch careers - from Chemical Engineer to Software Developer

As Ireland went into lockdown following the Covid-19 outbreak, I decided that this was the perfect time to upskill and further my prospects within the tech industry.

Although I enjoy my current job, I'm aware of the opportunities and flexibility that a career in tech can offer, not only in Dublin but also abroad. The decision for a career transition did not come easy. After all, I spent so much time to get to the career that I have right now, with four years to do my Bachelor's and another four to complete my PhD. My biggest worry was: am I just throwing all those years away? Luckily, I have a supportive partner who made me realise that I have 30+ more years of working life ahead of me. A lot can change in those 30 years and I would like to put myself in a position where a vast amount of opportunities are widely available.

So why coding?

An area of my job that really interests me is developing modelling solutions. I believe that the problem-solving skills that I obtained from my background in Chemical Engineering are transferable into coding and with enough fundamental knowledge, a career in tech is a path that I can excel in and also enjoy.

First step to my career change

I started considering my options around February 2020, but I wasn't sure which course option to go with. I did not want to quit my full-time job, therefore a part-time course was the best option for me.

I started with a five-week Coursera course on HTML, CSS, and Javascript for Web Developers delivered by Yaakov Chaikin. It was an amazing course that gave me strong fundamentals on HTML, CSS, and Bootstrap. More importantly, it strengthened my passion for coding, and quickly realised that becoming a Front-End Web Developer would suit me best. I was ready to take my coding journey to the next level.

After extensive research on which course would give me enough skillset and project work to get me that first Junior Developer role, my options were either on-campus bootcamps in Dublin or online learning programmes. I was leaning more on the online programmes such as the Front End Development or Full Stack JavaScript Techdegree courses offered by Treehouse, or the Front End Web Developer or React Nanodegree programmes offered by Udacity. On-campus boot camps were quickly out of consideration as the commute during Dublin's rush hour would not be feasible with my demanding work schedule.

THEN THE LOCKDOWN HAPPENED. Fortunately, my company remained as an essential business and we continued our operation during the lockdown. On the other hand, all my extra-curricular activities and travel plans were postponed which led to all the extra hours I now have on my hands. As Ireland went into lockdown following the Covid-19 outbreak, I decided that this was the perfect time to upskill and further my prospects within the tech industry.

Next, I saw that Wild Code School was offering their part-time Front-End Developer Course remotely due to the current lockdown. I went to one of their remote presentations in April to learn more about the course, but without any intentions of the course, mainly because it is a lot more expensive compared to the other online courses we've looked at. I'm glad that I went, because I learned that the remote course offered a curriculum structure that I want, the supervisor that I need, and most importantly the ability to work with a group of like-minded people. I signed up, started the remote course in mid-April, and fast forward to today I am on my week 10 of the course and I am loving it! I am always excited to come home and learn more JavaScript and now React, despite how tired I am from a full day of work.

If you got this far, thank you for taking your time to read my story. If you're someone thinking of a career change, I understand that it's not an easy decision and I hope this blog helped a little bit. Don't hesitate to comment or contact me if you have any questions. ✌🏼

Top comments (8)

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matthewwas profile image
Matthew Wasbrough

I took the same route from chemistry PhD to JavaScript developer in 2015/2016 after I finished a post-doc. It was certainly right for me and I hope it all works out for you. Good luck with the new career.

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gladyspascual profile image
Gladys Pascual Author

Thank you for sharing Matthew, it's really nice to hear that someone else went through a similar path.

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akash_p profile image
Akash

Hi Gladys. Im a petrochemical engineer and i transitioned to web development.
We really do need a separate community for chemical engineers who are also techies.
Do you have any telegram group of people with similar interests?

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gladyspascual profile image
Gladys Pascual Author

Hi Akash, great to hear about your transition, well done!

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chloee profile image
chloe

I also took a similar route & used my lockdown to transition from Chemical Engineering to Software Engineering! However, i'd only just graduated in 2020 with my chem eng masters and worked for only around 4 months in a kind of chem eng related job before deciding to try to switch to software. Luckily, there are a few companies that take in STEM grads and train them in software :) The modelling & problem solving is also what made me want to switch plus also the lack of jobs in chem eng. I also couldn't see myself living somewhere other than a main city and most process plants are in the middle of no where. Very happy with my early career switch!
All the best with yours :)

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gladyspascual profile image
Gladys Pascual Author

Hi Chloe, this is long overdue - congratulations! :) It's amazing to hear that you found your passion early on and pursued it! Fair play! I also agree so much about the location, it was one of the main factors for me too. Best of luck to your career! :)

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beckermd profile image
Daniela Becker

I did my career change in 2014, but to back end even though I stared learning HTML and PHP. Hope you have a successful career 🙂

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gladyspascual profile image
Gladys Pascual Author

Thank you for sharing Daniela :)

In defense of the modern web

I expect I'll annoy everyone with this post: the anti-JavaScript crusaders, justly aghast at how much of the stuff we slather onto modern websites; the people arguing the web is a broken platform for interactive applications anyway and we should start over;

React users; the old guard with their artisanal JS and hand authored HTML; and Tom MacWright, someone I've admired from afar since I first became aware of his work on Mapbox many years ago. But I guess that's the price of having opinions.