This is my mid-career switch experience from teaching to software engineering. If you are thinking of doing the same, I hope my post would help you in some ways. Long story ahead.
I graduated from NIE with a bachelor in arts degree and was bonded to MOE for four years. During my four years of teaching, I gave my all and was performing above average. However, I always knew I wanted to try something else besides teaching. At that time, I didn’t know what the alternative was but I just couldn’t see myself in teaching for the rest of my life. Towards the end of my four years bond, I wrote my resume and applied to various job adverts on LinkedIn. I was lucky as one of the companies replied me. While I didn’t have the necessary skills they needed, I promoted myself as someone willing to learn and keened to work for the company. I was prepared to take a pay cut as I knew I was starting from scratch again. I settled for a 40% pay cut for this new job.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well for me as I found the job to be rather mundane. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere with the skills from this job and decided to cut loss by ending my employment with the company at the end of my probation period.
The good thing that came out of this was I realized I wanted to work in an environment where there would be minimal face-to-face interaction and it should be stimulating enough for me. During that period, SkillsFuture was encouraging people to join the IT industry and they were promoting this professional conversion programme for mid-career switchers to train them in IT programming. I decided to go for it. At the same time, I made use of my $500 skillsfuture credit to purchase programming courses on Udemy and continued with my learning at home.
To be honest, the courses provided by the training institute were insufficient. I was expected to learn OOP, MVC programming in 5 days, which was just impossible for someone like me without any programming background. But I was determined to figure it out. So when I was not in class, I would be following my Udemy instructor and learning on my own. The entire conversion programme took around 6 months. I updated my resume with a few mini projects I did and began my job search process. In total, I applied to close to 100 job applications and only heard back from 4 of them. I still remember the agony I went through to this day. You must understand teachers have it easy when it comes to getting a job. Our jobs were handed to us even before we graduated. We didn’t have to go through this excruciating job searching process and I was jobless for more than half a year. All the self-doubt, anxiousness and negative thoughts were just eating me up every night. While waiting to hear back from the companies, I practised my interviewing skills, did leetcode, continued with my Udemy courses and prayed. I also gave part-time tuition during this period to help with my daily expenses.
After being unemployed for more than 7 months, my breakthrough came. My friend referred me to their company’s HR internally. I was given an opportunity to do an online technical test which I passed and was subsequently interviewed by the project manager and MD. What helped was the mini projects I did and knowing the basics of OOP. They extended an offer to me and this ended my 8 months drought. I was drawing a fresh grad pay. It was 20% higher than my last drawn pay. While it was still lower than what I was last drawing in teaching, the opportunity to work and learn in this industry was more important than the salary. I knew I had to be humble and learn from my colleagues who were all younger than me.
The learning curve was steep but I enjoyed every part of it. I’m coming to 3 years in this industry and in these 3 years, I attained two cloud solutions architect associate certifications and was promoted to a senior position. I burnt many nights and weekends away studying and upskilling myself in new technologies.
Looking back, leaving teaching was a leap of faith
With a degree in arts and four years of work experience only in teaching, it was really difficult to find something comparable in the commercial sector. To those who are thinking of leaving teaching or even joining the IT industry, I would advise that you try out those programming courses on Udemy first during after office hours and weekends. It’ll minimally take you 3 months to figure out what you are doing. But you must persevere. Rewatch the videos until you get it. Figure out if this is for you. Most of the udemy courses will teach you by building projects. Make changes to those projects and customize them so that you can show them in your resume. If you plan to go for the diplomas or certifications provided by higher-level institutes, make sure you have enough savings to do so.
Even if you don’t plan to, you should also make sure you have enough savings for your expenses in case you need to settle for a pay cut. Those in teaching, at least leave after you’ve collected your 4 years connect plan.
I got headhunted by another company during this recent tech hiring spree with a happy increment. I’m now drawing a salary higher than what I would be getting if I were to stay in teaching. Most importantly, I’m doing something I can see myself doing till my retirement. Was it scary? You bet. But I grew so much in these three years when I chose to leave my comfort zone and I’m glad I made that decision 4 years ago. Oh, and not to forget the benefits of working from home.
To those who choose to stay in teaching, I have nothing but admiration for all of you. The working hours are tough and there is no such thing as work-life balance. You are a teacher to your students 24/7. Thank you! To those who need a way out, maybe this could be an option for you to consider. All the best!