I am a career changer, and someone on Twitter said that career changers play on hard mode.
I've been self-employed as a translator for almost a dozen years, getting commissions from a wide network of social scientists that passed my contact to each other by word of mouth.
However, I don't see my place in social sciences. I want to be less involved with people's hardships. With my mental health, I cannot constantly read about human suffering. It brings my productivity to a halt.
But if a machine breaks, I will be happy to fix it.
Since I was a kid, I was fascinated with system administrators and programmers. In school, we had C++ classes plus I learned some web programming on my own. Later, I learned some Linux administration skills from my boyfriend. I looked up to my college friend who had Arch Linux with no GUI on her laptop. She boasted that she browsed the web using only the command line! Indeed, sysadminship had a magical glow for me.
At that time, I thought IT was something "complicated", "tricky" – not a "boys' club" though, as I was lucky to have a couple of girls around me interested in computers.
I finished my BA in Musicology, worked as a music columnist, played drums and sang in various bands, and continued translating scholarly texts for a living.
Years later, in 2018, I attended the Django Girls workshop for women who want to try their hands at programming. This year, I was already mentoring there. I got acquainted with the St. Petersburg branch of PyLadies, a community of women Pythonistas, and went to Python-related meetups.
I also developed an interest in DevOps. I went to an offline course, but ran away from there since I wasn't getting much assistance/respect from the teacher who mostly retold us googlable stuff. I copied the course curriculum on a sheet of paper and decided to finish it myself, with the help of a friend who agreed to be my mentor.
I even won a small game development grant, but I still didn't feel like part of the industry.
It's been eleven months since I started. So what do I do now?
I decided to look for a job in October 2019. Indeed, I had to master all the algorithms, explore all the DevOps technologies, do a couple more pet projects, and go on vacation with my husband. But suddenly, the mentor friend suggested that I hand him my resume so he would show it to his colleagues. The company is a cloud provider, and they were looking for interns. I figured that if I accidentaly moved a bit faster than planned, it's for the better. So I sent him my resume – reviewed by my other friend who works as an HR manager.
The hiring process took a lot longer than I expected. They've been reviewing my resume for a week and a half. But luckily, I had an insider agent at the company – my friend regularly reported to me about all the developments, and it seems like his involvement accelerated the process.
Besides, a Python meetup was coming up, and that time, it was hosted by the company I sent my resume to. I went to the meetup not only to listen to the talks, but to get to know just anyone from the company and to ask what working there was like. Another friend of mine was organizing the meetup. I walked up to him and immediately asked to introduce me to someone from the company. He introduced me to someone who happened to be the chief HR manager. She had already heard of me (which is not a surprise, I bet that my mentor friend asked A LOT about how my resume was doing). She, in turn, introduced me to the lead Python developer and the HR manager who was hiring DevOps engineers.
The thing is, I didn't (and don't) really know what EXACT kind of IT job I would most enjoy. I like writing code, but I also like configuring stuff. So I was interested in two intern positions, developer and DevOps. Then, a magic sysadmin unicorn flies in front of my eyes, and whoosh – I opt for the DevOps position, although I have much less experience.
I figured the most important thing is being perseverant and chatty. Luckily, this is what I find fun lately. After making sure everyone remembered me, I went home and continued about my daily translating job and my unfinished DevOps course. It will be nice if I am hired, and nothing will happen if I'm not, right?
Two days later, I was invited to the interview. This would be the first interview in my life. (I am not counting the one for a translator position, where they said goodbye to me after I finished my second sentence.)
I've been reading a lot of articles (including those on DEV) about finding your first job, what they look for in candidates, etc. My HR friend also gave me some tips. So I felt pretty ready for the battle.
I was contacted by a different HR manager, who I didn't know, via Telegram. She sent me the intern position description. It was "strongly recommended" that I "knew" more than a dozen different technologies. If that's for an intern position, what are they looking for in seniors, then?
Luckily, my mentor friend explained that "knowing" means "having tinkered with it a little". So I decided to brush up on what I already knew and learn about as many unfamiliar words from the job description as possible. I read about load balancing techniques and disk storage, watched videos about container technologies, and did tutorials. All of that on the day before the I-day. I was full of determination and did twice as much yoga to calm my nerves.
I came to the office well in advance because I thought I would get lost in the neighborhood. One hour commute by metro and by foot – and I am there. I bump into my acquaintance from the meetup right at the entrance. After I get registered at the security desk, he shows me the coffee space.
While I'm waiting, I take a walk around the office (or at least the part where I am allowed). People look friendly and quite diverse for a Russian IT company. My mentor friend is sitting nearby, discussing something with a colleague. There is workout equipment mounted against a wall. Everything looks fine from the first glance. I am sipping tea.
Eventually, the HR comes and takes me to the room. There are four more people interviewing me, as I applied to two positions – two Python developers, a DevOps engineer, and a big boss (didn't remember the exact position) who looks like a guitarist I played in a band with, but thinner and with a small beard.
I think what helped me is my chatty muscle – I turned on my "radio mode" and talked without stopping. I told them about my pet projects and what I learned at my DevOps course. I also asked a lot of questions myself. The "big boss" pointed out some improvements I could make to the deployment of my game project.
The conversation sounded like a nice chat, except that I felt a weird vibe from the HR. She talked me through the employment conditions way too quickly. I was nervous, so I was dropping in and out of what she was telling me. I also didn't forget to mention than the atmosphere of the team is very important to me. She jotted something on the piece of paper. OK, if and when I sign the contract, I will have to read very carefully.
The interview lasted about an hour. The HR told they would contact me next week, since it was Friday already. Again, the decisions in this company are made very slowly.
After the interview, I couldn't really get what happened. I was supposed to be happy about the start of my journey. After all, wasn't it what I wanted most – to get into the IT industry? I read about a lot of Americans who got their first job in software development only on the 59th time and spent years before they got accepted. So it didn't seem like a big deal. However, I was completely drained.
I was also worried that I named a far too small amount when they asked me about the salary. I had read that the person who first says the number loses, but the conversation was built in such a way that it was inevitable. My friend, who I consider an example for all Russian female developers, calmed me down by telling me that it's most important to get on that train, not look for more money while I'm at the very start. That was true, and besides, the company promised a lot of social benefits once I finish my trial period.
The next day, I woke up emotionally exhausted. My husband cooked and took care of me while I was just lying on the sofa, crying and playing a sea world simulator. Later on, the exhaustion became physical, and I had to call the ambulance because I was in a lot of pain. Obviously, I had to skip my self-defense class, which didn't exactly help my mental state. It helped, however, that almost all of my friends who I texted supported me. I understood that I am normal and things like this happen. I took care of myself and was in shape again in a couple of days.
By Wednesday, I still had no answer. So I contacted the HR who interviewed me. She was on vacation, so I had to wait until someone else contacted me. Again, I texted my mentor friend and complained a bit...
Finally, on Friday, I got an offer. And I accepted it.
I was assigned tasks associated with documentation translation system. Funny how it connects to my previous job. Now I can take revenge on the buggy translation software I had used by repairing something else...
I couldn't rejoice, though. I was too tired of the whole process. Plus I still feel like if I am too happy, something would break.
But that's how my journey starts. June 10 will be my first workday. We'll see how it goes.
If it wasn't for my friends, I wouldn't be there.