After working in a TV newsroom for over 15 years, Nick Bradshaw decided he was ready for a change. He found himself burnt out by the 24/7 news cycle and discovered a new career path through a friend: Android app coding. Nick decided to turn his side hobby into a full-time, paying job and found success. Read on for Nick’s advice on how to navigate a career change successfully.
What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?
I am an Android Engineer. I help build mobile applications for a fantastic company called moovel. We build mobile transit ticketing, and urban mobility apps, like TriMet Ticketing, Hop FastPass, and a variety of other transit-centric apps for agencies around the country.
How long did it take you to find this job?
I was lucky enough to be recruited for this job through Randstand Technologies. From initial contact by the recruiter, to my first day on the job, it took about a month and a half. It’s an amazing feeling when your position is in high-enough demand that other people reach out to you with job offers.
How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?
First and foremost: Make your LinkedIn profile shine. My current job actually found me and I credit that to having a polished and updated LinkedIn profile. Getting my first gig in the tech industry after working for 15 years as a journalist was not necessarily easy; here’s my story:
I had plenty of success in my television news career. I had a hand in covering just about every major local, national and international event that happened in, or impacted, the state of Oregon. I was managing an entire newsroom, crafting daily and long-term editorial goals. I even had a camera mounted to my desk and made daily appearances on TV delivering breaking news, or traffic reports. I had my own segment- I was “Nick at the Newsdesk!” As satisfying as all that was, the news business is hard and I was drained. I wanted to be doing something that I could enjoy for the next 30+ years.
In 2009 I met a friend who was teaching himself how to write code and was making Android applications in his spare time. I was completely inspired by the idea that someone with little to no computer programming experience could figure out how to make an app with nothing more than drive and A LOT of time researching on the internet.
I dove in head-first and stumbled my way through establishing some rudimentary coding skills. I had some ideas for apps and managed to turn my ideas into actual products. I even made a little money doing it. My hobby certainly wasn’t lucrative enough to pay the bills, though. Life being what life is, I was promoted to a management position at the television station, my hours changed and my boys were now mobile toddlers who needed constant attention. The time I once had to sit in front of the computer and work on my apps slowly dwindled until I stopped developing all together. I was left thinking my only path to success as an Android developer had slipped through my fingers. It wasn’t until years later that I learned there was another path.
I decided if I was going to make a career change, then I might as well aim to turn my hobby into a paying job. I discussed my situation with my wife and she told me to go for it. I now knew what I wanted to do, it was just a matter of figuring out how to do it.
My original plan was to go back to school to get a degree in computer science. I looked at various online degree programs and was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of pursuing a degree while working full-time and helping to raise our two boys. I reached back out to my same friend who had introduced me to developing to begin with. He was now working in the tech industry and told me that as great as a CS degree is, it’s all about having hands-on experience under your belt and showing that you can learn quickly. He had heard good things about a new type of degree called a “Nanodegree” through an online school called Udacity. I checked it out and knew immediately that it was exactly what I was looking for; it was online, not super expensive, was extremely hands-on, and had an accelerated track.
I started the “nanodegree” program and was determined to finish in under a year. It certainly wasn’t easy. For one- my work day at the television station started at 4:00 a.m. everyday. My wife and I spent our afternoons carting our kids to and from sports practices as well so I had to get creative when it came to study time. I woke up every morning at 2:00 a.m. to work on the lessons and took my computer with me to every practice so I could study while cheering on my boys.
I had a plan to make the transition from journalist to full-time developer and wanted to make sure I was doing everything possible to make that a reality. A HUGE piece of that was networking. I started attending a monthly Google Developers Group meet-up hosted by eBay, here in Portland. I went to tech-career conferences as well and introduced myself to as many people as possible. I also found LinkedIn profiles of people in the industry and tried to match my own profile style and wording to theirs.
As I was approaching the end of my Nanodegree program (in just under a year, btw) I spotted a job posting for a Jr. Developer position at eBay at the company’s mobile headquarters, here in Portland. I really hadn’t thought of myself as being technically ready for a job yet but my friend encouraged me to apply and reiterated that demonstrating enthusiasm and the ability and willingness to learn were highly sought-after traits.
I applied and was thrilled to get an interview!
The world works in strange ways, however, and my path to becoming a professional Android developer hit a snag. The hiring manager at eBay contacted me with the unfortunate news that the scope of the position had changed and they ended up needing a more senior developer instead of a junior role. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.
Then came the real bombshell- I was unexpectedly laid off from the television station. I was pretty discouraged but I felt there had to be a reason that this all happened right when I was finishing up my Nanodegree program.
Regarding eBay- in telling me the scope of the job had changed, the hiring manager also suggested we should meet up to chat more. Long story short, I met with him and a few other managers who were impressed enough with my story and my determination that I was introduced to another manager who had a spot for a contract position on his team. We talked more, I went through some more interview processes and I officially landed my first professional gig as a bonafide Android developer working for eBay!
I worked as a contract employee for a year before I was approached by a recruiter for my current position at moovel. After having a year of professional experience under my belt, it felt great to walk into a job interview, not as a guy switching careers who just needed that one break, but as a professional developer, evaluated on my skills alone.
What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?
Getting my foot in the door in a completely new field was by-far the most difficult part of the career switch. Tenacious networking got me in front of the right people. Once I got an audience, I focused on a few messages identifying my strengths to convince my would-be employer that hiring me would be a good investment:
- I am making a career switch because I am passionate about this new-to-me industry. I didn’t just pick this field out of a hat. I’ve worked hard to get here and I don’t plan on stopping until I find success.
- I am a professional professional. I found success in my previous field because I know how to effectively lead a team and/or be a constructive member of a team. I am a driven employee who is not satisfied unless my career path is traveling in an upward direction.
- I am worth taking a risk on, as I will be a solid investment for your company from which you can expect to get real returns on in a reasonable amount of time.
What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?
My advice to anyone trying to make a career switch or land that dream job:
- Don’t give up until you get where you want to be.
- Be creative- if you don’t have real-world experience in the field you are looking to get in to, find out a way to get some. Volunteer, go back to school, do a personal project.
- Take advantage of all the career tools you can find, such as resume examples in your field and a LinkedIn profile review. Find people on LinkedIn working in the industry and emulate their profile.
- Network, network, network. The ability to comfortably small-talk and think on your feet takes time to hone but it’s a valuable skill worth honing and will set you apart from those who have a hard time conversing.
- If you get an interview: research what types of questions are typically asked and study for your interview!
Why do you love your job?
I love my job because the work itself is incredibly satisfying, challenging and constantly evolving. I love the idea that the I am helping to develop technologies that make people’s lives simpler, easier, or just more fun. Knowing that millions of people have had a phone in their hand, and have interacted with something I made is exhilarating.