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John McLem Adan
John McLem Adan

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Switching careers: From a Marketing Grad turned Software Engineer

Back when I was still in high school, I’ve always been fond of our subjects which were related or connected to computer hardware or software, from visual graphics and design to word processing and spreadsheets software, hardware assembly and servicing, etc.

So when the time finally came for me to enter university, computer science became one of my choices, next to accountancy and marketing. Unfortunately, due to some constraints in my grades, I wasn’t able to qualify for the program, so I took marketing instead. Upon entering the program, shifting courses wasn’t an option for me as I had this mindset that I didn’t want to waste time and my parents’ money and that I also wanted to graduate on time and not be left out by my classmates and my former classmates and friends in high school. When graduation came, which was supposed to be one of the grandest events of my life, I wasn’t so excited for some reason. It seemed that I was only grateful because the endless academic challenges finally came to an end. Most, if not all, of my classmates, was so emotional during that moment. But for me, it was just an ordinary event of my life. Little did they know, I already had a plan of entering again into university after graduation, but for that time, to take up another degree, an associate degree in computer science in a different university because I had a plan to attain a short technical degree as my way of upskilling myself so I can dive into digital marketing after finishing the program. To support and finance myself in my second time at university, I decided to work in a call center at night and then attend my classes at day. Unfortunately, my way didn’t work out so well as I was always deprived of sleep. I only got 2 hours of sleep on weekdays after school then go to work then go straight to school again and sleep only after my classes, which also badly affected my health. After 2 months, I decided to quit my night job and focus on schooling instead and spent the money I saved from my job. When the academic year ended, I finally decided to stop schooling and get a full-time job in digital marketing, hoping to land one even without finishing that associate degree. Unfortunately, I ended up in a customer service role in a startup consulting firm because I became desperate after job searching for a few months already and needed to pay bills and help my family. After 3 months, I got transferred to another department and became a Marketing Operations Specialist. After 7 months, I got transferred again but this time, to the development team, where I became a QA Tester. It was my 3rd job in the same company, and it was also how I got into tech. While on my full-time day job then, I also got into a coding boot camp and attended night classes for 6 months as I saw it as an opportunity to continue my interest in computer science. But during that time, my goal was to dive into test automation after learning to code as I was already working as a tester and I wanted to become a Software Development Engineer in Test. After finishing the training, my goal changed and so I had a plan to apply for a junior web developer role instead in my company but unfortunately, it wasn’t the best time for me and the company. I decided to stay with the company 4 months after graduation before we parted ways.

I eventually landed my first job as a PHP Web Developer at a startup digital solutions company relatively near to the office of my former company. It was also an interesting fact when I found out that my former company was a client of the company where I got my first developer job. Fast forward to today, as of this writing, I’m now working in a different and relatively young startup IT company here in the Philippines as a Software Engineer. Recalling my experiences from school to the workplace, I realized that we as people, change, as well as our goals, aspirations, dreams, or ambitions. And there’s totally nothing wrong with that. Along the way, I knew that some of my decisions became unpredictable, at least in my perspective. Most were the result of my ever-changing or evolving goals that I myself actually didn't expect or anticipate at first. In general, I also came to realize that your university degree should not dictate the trajectory of your career, that you can choose to switch to a different career path even if it doesn't exactly suit your academic background (an exception for careers in law, medicine, and engineering as these are highly specialized fields that require related degrees). Although coding boot camps are still relatively new here in the Philippine landscape, companies are starting to adapt and are willing to hire boot camp graduates (even self-taught developers) as long as you can show and prove to them that you have the necessary skills to do the job. Lastly but not least, in case you’re curious why I didn’t take up computer science in college when it was still early or if I ever had regrets for doing a crazy decision to reenter university right after graduation, I admit that it also didn’t become easy for me but I didn’t have any regrets after all because those experiences contributed to and made up who I am today, and it made my carer journey unique.

So if you’re a fresh graduate or even an experienced professional and you want to dive in and switch careers to tech as a software developer or any other job not directly related or suited to your degree, may this be hope and encouragement to you.

Are you also a career switcher, or just have some thoughts or insights about this blog? Let me know in the comments below. Would love to hear your stories too!

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