Career changes are scary. It takes a special kind of person to leap into the fire as an adult with bills to pay and family expectations to meet. If you’re thinking of making a career change, do you have what it takes? Have you thought about your family, your bills, how you will feel being the newbie in a career surrounded by smart young grads?

Here at Metova we have 11 employees who took a leap of faith. They made it through the uncertainty and fears and landed on a new path all on their own before coming to Metova. Now as developers, software engineers, and marketing/sales people these 11 originally spent their days as a photographer, air force staff sergeant, nanny, animal science technician, public relations person, neuroscientist, 911 dispatcher, analyst, cook, urban planner, tax collector, and work at home mom. Most of them made their career change between age 28 and 36 and worked in their previous career for 5-7 years. One interesting discovery is the difference in the amount of schooling each person did for their past and current career. There was an even distribution between going to university or not for the past careers. However, most did not attend university in order to change careers; 5 of them attended a bootcamp program and 3 of them did not attend school at all. With age comes wisdom as they say. It turns out passion, curiosity, and motivation are the winning ingredients to learning success, who knew?!?

Read on to get some insider knowledge and some helpful advice before you take the plunge too!

Shahin career.pngShahin Zangenehpour, Scientist -> iOS Developer / UX Researcher

 

What were your motivations for making a career change?

I was really burned out. I went from loving my job and being excited to get up to being annoyed I had to go to work for no reason at all other than being burned out. But it wasn’t just the job itself, I had hit the ceiling for earnings and was still struggling to pay the bills and I was commuting 1.5hrs each way having to take 3 buses. I had no time left for any hobbies or socializing and when I saw my partner I was always exhausted.
Abbey Jackson, Nanny -> iOS Developer

Doing the same thing every day week after week was becoming a grind and I wanted to do something I was passionate about that would actually make me happy.
David Knapp, Cook/Caterer -> Software Developer

 

Given that you invested a significant amount of time (bachelor or graduate degree) in your previous career, what motivated you to abandon all that work and do something different?

I always enjoyed technology and puzzles. My senior year of college I started teaching myself basic web development. I found that I enjoyed that way more then what I was going to school for.
Michelle Hey, Public Relations -> Software Developer

I found my previous career incredibly unfulfilling and began coding as a hobby. The challenges with developing apps were numerous and satisfying to overcome, so I stuck with it.
Tony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

Marcus-_career.pngMarcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

 

What was the hardest thing for you about changing careers?

The 6 month time period of receiving no income.
Michelle Hey, Public Relations -> Software Developer

I think the hardest thing was working full time and juggling that with classes and family life.
David Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer

The Iron Yard, a “boot camp” type program which I attended to prepare myself for a new career, was a lot of work. It wasn’t an easy time, but it wasn’t the hardest thing. The hardest thing, I think, is being the least knowledgeable person in the room at work. I went from being a subject matter expert at my previous job to… well not a SME, but I feel like I’m supposed to be.
Brent Thomas, Evaluations Analyst -> Software Developer

The hardest thing for me was that I had to move away from my friends and family (and my dog!) to find a job I wanted.
David Knapp, Cook/Caterer -> Software Developer

Getting out of old work habits and into new ones. Not having to stick to a schedule was nice but took some adjustment. I had to learn to manage my time better.
Bo Malone, 911 Dispatcher -> Developer

 

How did your friends and family react?

They were happy that I was taking initiative and making changes in my life for the better, but finding a new job required moving away, so there was a little sadness involved.
David Knapp, Cook/Caterer -> Software Developer

Although it has been a long and tiring journey, my entire family and friends were very supportive of my goals.
Christina McIntyre, WAHM / Tax Collector -> iOS Developer

They were excited. My mom always wanted me to be an engineer so working for a tech company was next best.
Jennifer Pike, Animal Sciences -> Marketing/Recruiting

No one believed that I was serious about wanting to be an app developer until I told them that I had accepted a job offer to be one.
Tony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

My family and friends were very supportive although worried that a self-taught programmer may not be able to be successful without a college degree.
Marcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

DavidJ-career.pngDavid Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer. Images by David Jones

 

In your first job in your new career how did you feel? How long did it take you to get comfortable?

It took about 6 months to feel like I actually had some inkling of what I was doing. Now, at almost 3 years, I’m working on transitioning into other roles and handling multiple commitments at a time.
Bo Malone, 911 Dispatcher -> Developer

A bit of schism of feeling generally over-qualified for the position but technically needing the experience to further hone my skills and be at ease with the newly selected career path. It took over a couple of months till I felt at ease with the process.
Shahin Zangenehpour, Scientist -> iOS Developer / UX Researcher

I felt like a failure. I had a bad first job experience that basically trampled my confidence. I thought every single day about giving up and going back. Now my confidence is building but I still cycle through days where I think I am never going to make it and be a “real” developer. Some days I feel stupid and it’s hard to ignore those thoughts, other days I kick ass and I can’t imagine why I felt that way the day before.
Abbey Jackson, Nanny -> iOS Developer

It was really great to be able to wear jeans and t-shirts to work. I felt comfortable within a couple weeks.
Tony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

I feel like I don’t belong yet; I don’t know as much as I think I should. I’m not comfortable yet.
Brent Thomas, Evaluations Analyst -> Software Developer

 

Did you / do you have any regrets?

I did have many regrets at first, especially as landing a job turned out to be more and more difficult for someone with my qualifications. But now I feel completely vindicated.
Shahin Zangenehpour, Scientist -> iOS Developer / UX Researcher

No regrets whatsoever, I love working at Metova
Bo Malone, 911 Dispatcher -> Developer

I still really miss working with animals. I used to miss the human interaction that working at the hospital gave me and how you never knew when an emergency might come up. No regrets, just a different world.
Jennifer Pike, Animal Sciences -> Marketing/Recruiting

Moving to Nashville from Washington, DC was a bit of a culture shock, but the real regret was wasting nine years of my life (school + jobs) at my old, unsatisfying career.
Tony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

My only regret is that I didn’t diversify the knowledge I was acquiring. I focused on a narrow group of technologies that were specific to my position and I wish that I had spent more time trying to learn things outside of the scope of my job.
Marcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

It was a pretty rocky road but I have absolutely no regrets.
Abbey Jackson, Nanny -> iOS Developer

Christina-career.pngChristina McIntyre, Work At Home Mom / Tax Collector -> iOS Developer

 

What things did you or others do to make the transition easier?

I visited my old job a couple of times to say hi. I think I could always have a job there if there was an opening. It was nice to have a fall-back.
Jennifer Pike, Animal Sciences -> Marketing/Recruiting

I think having a good support group while working through my degree program really helped. My wife really helped to take up some of the slack, and now I get to do the same thing for her while she works on her Master’s degree in Counseling.
David Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer

I ultimately decided that some form of structured training and add-on networking and career placement could be the missing ingredient for smoothing the transition. Again, a great decision in retrospect.
Shahin Zangenehpour, Scientist -> iOS Developer / UX Researcher

I asked for help. That’s a very hard thing for some people.
Michelle Hey, Public Relations -> Software Developer

 

Was it easy or difficult to get your first job in your new career?

It was somewhere in-between easy and difficult to get my 1st job as a developer. The person who hired me, knew me as a Network Engineer and since I had proved that I could learn those skills on my own, they knew that I was capable of learning what I needed to learn to become a developer. However, some of my peers were not supportive since I had no college degree and no formal training.
Marcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

On a scale of 1 (being easy) and 10 (being difficult), I’d say a 7. I think the most difficult thing was all the rejection I received before I got the “YES.”
Christina McIntyre, WAHM / Tax Collector -> iOS Developer

The first job was actually pretty easy to get. The first interview was difficult though and took almost a full month of hustling but once I figured out how to present myself the interviews started to come and once I started interviewing I got offered every job I interviewed for.
Abbey Jackson, Nanny -> iOS Developer

It was the easiest it’s ever been for me to get a job. The difficulty I had in the past was the main reason I stayed so long in a job that I hated.
Brent Thomas, Evaluations Analyst -> Software Developer

Jennifer-_career.pngJennifer Pike, Animal Sciences -> Marketing/Recruiting

 

What barriers do you think you faced while looking for your first job in your new career?

I felt like I had to really convey my passion for programming and my desire to do this kind of work to compensate for the fact that I was 9-10 years older than most of the candidates the companies were looking at. I really had to convince them that I knew what I was doing and that I wasn’t completely green.
David Knapp, Cook/Caterer -> Software Developer

Lack of experience was the #1 barrier. Everyone wants a junior developer to have experience but very few companies are willing to give you that chance. Being that I was an adult career changer, I didn’t have the luxury of taking an internship to gain that experience. So that definitely was a draw back in my search.
Christina McIntyre, WAHM / Tax Collector -> iOS Developer

The biggest barrier was really my own distaste for and reluctance to engage in the job search process.
Brent Thomas, Evaluations Analyst -> Software Developer

It has been a smooth ride since the transition has taken effect and I believe most of that is due to the high demand for my newly acquired coding skills combined with the fact that I am enjoying the entire process tremendously.
Shahin Zangenehpour, Scientist -> iOS Developer / UX Researcher

Being completely new with zero experience was pretty daunting.
Bo Malone, 911 Dispatcher -> Developer

 

What advantages do you think you had over other candidates when looking for your first job in your new career?

Previous military service with an honorable discharge. Employers were willing to take a chance on me with the expectation that I could be a trusted, responsible employee.
Marcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

Being that I made a career change well into my 30’s, I had already acquired quite a bit of experience with communicating with customers and people in general. I also had the benefit of running a successful business for several years.
David Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer

I went through a 6 month bootcamp that had a lot of companies mentor students and provide amazing network opportunities. Companies knew the school’s reputation and were willing to take on new hires in this field.
Michelle Hey, Public Relations -> Software Developer

Knowing people and being familiar with the company. Many people had already met me or seen me around.
Jennifer Pike, Animal Sciences -> Marketing/Recruiting

Abbey_Career.png

Abbey Jackson, Nanny -> iOS Developer

 

What hesitations/fears/etc did you have during this whole process and how did you overcome them?

I compare myself to other developers. I questioned whether I was not learning fast enough or getting things as easy as others. I had to overcome that right away and focus on my capabilities. My learning progress got much easier after that.
Michelle Hey, Public Relations -> Software Developer

Starting from the bottom again felt really daunting; however, knowing that there was going to be great potential for growth fueled my fire to keep pressing forward.
David Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer

My biggest fear is if I can “catch up” to other developers and be an asset to my coworkers. Being that I didn’t train to be an iOS developer specifically, I’m on that learning curve where I struggle to grasp all the concepts that others take for granted. I just trust myself that I’ll get it. When I trained in Ruby/Rails development, I had the same problem. So I just continue to push myself because at some point it will all click!
Christina McIntyre, WAHM / Tax Collector -> iOS Developer

I really was afraid that people would dismiss me because I was older than all of the other applicants. Technology is traditionally a young person’s game. Everyone wants to be or hire the next Mark Zuckerberg and they want their hires to be up on the hot new development trends and age can be seen as a disadvantage, especially when considering long term plans for a new hire.
David Knapp, Cook/Caterer -> Software Developer

 

Any other tips or comments you would like to give to someone considering a career change?

I would say that it’s never too late to make a change. If you find something that you are passionate about, then there really shouldn’t be any blockers from keeping your from attaining your goals.
David Jones, Photographer -> Android Developer

In the words of Dr. Emmett Brown, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Marcus Hoelscher, Air Force Staff Sergeant -> Software Developer

YOLO.
Tony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

Tony1.pngTony Robalik, Urban Planner -> Android Developer

At Metova, we encourage cross-platform training, lateral moves to different departments, and generally anything that will help our employees feel a passionate connection to their job, workplace, and employer (that’s us!). Starting a new career and following a passion can be a scary thing and Metova supports those looking to change paths. If you have changed careers and are looking for a developer position, take a look at our job openings.

 

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