Saron speaks with Shona Chan this week about her experience navigating the world of software following a successful career as a doctor in the field of Anaesthesia. Shona shares her experience working in the medical field for 10 years until she decided she wanted to pivot into tech. Shona talks about how she made the decision to go to a bootcamp to learn to code and how she got her first job in tech. Finally, she talks about transferable skills from her medical career to her newfound tech career and reiterates how there are so many skills career transitioners can take from one career to another.
[00:00:19] SC: You know, you make a decision that you make with the information you have at the time, and I’ve had an amazing career in the past 10 years and this is sort of building on that and going a slightly different direction, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything. You’re allowed to change your mind. It’s okay. I would never have wanted it to be any different.
[00:00:39] SY: Shona and I talk about how a project at work sparked her coding career and why she was confident in her decision to make a career transition after this.
[00:00:54] SY: Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:55] SC: Thanks for having me.
[00:00:56] SY: So tell me what it was like for you growing up. Did you get into tech at a young age?
[00:01:01] SC: Actually, not really. I think my first exposure to tech or coding, if you like, was when I was a teenager. I used to play Neopets online.
[00:01:14] SY: Oh, yeah.
[00:01:16] SC: Yeah. And that was I guess my first taste of HTML, like to have like a shop on Neopets that my friend and I would customize, but it was really basic, simple stuff, changing the color or using the marquee tag, stuff like that. And then that was the one and only time I kind of touched HTML and then I didn’t really learn anymore after that until recently.
[00:01:40] SY: And what kinds of things were you into at a young age?
[00:01:42] SC: I used to love ballet. I did that for a long time. I think I liked the creative aspect of it. You’re able to like express yourself. The music was great. I loved that kind of thing. And then in school, I got into shooting air rifles, not real bullets.
[00:02:01] SY: Oh, okay. Interesting. Yeah.
[00:02:04] SC: Yeah. It’s quite different from ballet obviously, but I really liked the precise nature of it, the fact that you can like do the same thing over and over again and just try and get it like perfect. I think I liked that about it. So yeah, it’s just kind of a mishmash of stuff.
[00:02:22] SY: So then you got a little bit older and I know you were interested in being a doctor. When did that dream come up for you?
[00:02:29] SC: I think for me that was around the age where we had to apply for university. So I think I was probably 16 or 17 at the time. I think I’d always known that I was interested in the sciences. I kind of gravitated more towards that in school than the arts. And yeah, I guess like biology, physics, chemistry, those things. They did interest me. I liked the kind of analytical, like logical aspects of those things. But I also loved talking to people, working with people. I mean, at 16 or 17, you don’t really, well, I didn’t know that many career options really. A lot of people around me were also considering medicine. And I thought, “Yeah, that makes sense, if you like science.” And if you like people, then it sounds like it would combine those two things. So that’s kind of what I decided to apply for and that’s kind of how I got started with medical school and from then became a doctor.
[00:03:32] SY: Yeah. You finished it. You finished medical school. You became a doctor. What kind of medical field were you practicing in?
[00:03:39] SC: So I was anesthetist. So I specialized in anesthetics, we call it here, but I think in the US it’s anesthesiology.
[00:03:46] SY: Yes. Yes.
[00:03:46] SC: But yeah. So I’ve been a doctor for about a decade. And the first few years out of medical school, you’re kind of rotating, just like finding your feet, trying different specialties. But I’ve been in the field of anesthetics for the past six, seven years.
[00:04:01] SY: And when you became a doctor, was it what you hoped it would be?
[00:04:05] SC: I think in some ways it was, but in other ways, it kind of surprised me, I think. I guess you have a very probably sheltered view of any job that you go into before you’re really in it. And I think particularly with medicine, there’s a lot of like stuff that you might see on TV that mean that you form like preconceived notions about it maybe, and there’s only so much you can gain from work experience because even then you’re not really the one making decisions. I knew it was going to be hard work and I knew that it would take a lot of studying and the shift work would be challenging. But I think being in the profession itself maybe is probably just sheds light on things that you wouldn’t have appreciated until you’re actually in the field.
[00:04:55] SY: And you stuck with it for 10 years. How were those 10 years for you? Were they mostly fun and interesting? Were you kind of hanging on? How did that decade go for you?
[00:05:06] SC: I’d say it was a mix of emotions. I probably did start out very enthusiastic. I had a lot of energy. I was younger then as well. I didn’t have a family. I was able to pour a lot more of my time and energy into the job. And I think as I got older, maybe there were other things going on in my life that also needed a lot of my energy. And I began to feel maybe the shifts started taking their toll a little bit. And the things that I enjoy about the job and still are the things that I enjoy now are like working with amazing people, people who are very dedicated, motivated and talking to patients and having the privilege of being there for someone in a time where they feel vulnerable. Those are the amazing bits of medicine. I think the parts that I struggled with were the shift work and also maybe working in a system that’s a little bit broken and under resourced and the frustrations that go along with that.
[00:06:08] SY: So when did you start thinking to yourself, “Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore”?
[00:06:13] SC: I knew that I wasn’t totally happy in my job, probably maybe three or four years ago, was probably the first time I kind of felt like, “Oh, am I really going to be doing this? Is this how I’m going to be feeling forever?” And then after I discovered coding and I realized that it sort of ignited a spark or joy in me that I hadn’t felt in a while and it reminded me that, “Oh hold on, this is how I could feel about my work.” And it did. Sadly, it’s not anymore. Yeah, so I think that was probably two years ago, I guess, when I started thinking like, “Maybe I need to look more into this and see if it can take me somewhere outside of medicine and allow me to have this kind of joy for my work again.” [00:07:04] SY: What was that spark that you felt?
[00:07:06] SC: So I started learning to code again on my own because I was trying to solve a problem that I had at work. I was working in children’s anesthesia at the time and a lot of the job involves calculating doses for children and it’s all weight based and age based. But at the time, we were writing things down before each case, the dose of each drug, and it’s all very manual, and it wasn’t just slow, but it was also error prone because it relies on a human to do these things. And so I thought, “Oh, surely there’s a way of automating this, making it quicker, but also less error prone.” And I couldn’t really find a solution to my problem. So I decided to try and learn how to code and maybe build the solution. And so I think that’s what started my journey of coding. And after I learned enough to sort of build the first simple iteration of it, that’s when I felt that spark when I thought, “Oh, this feels so empowering to be able to solve a problem using technology,” and initially it was just for myself but then the department that I was working in actually adopted it as well. And I thought, “Oh, this is great that other people can benefit from it as well and find it useful.” I think that was kind of the turning point for me where I’d previously felt quite disempowered. And I think coding as a skill and building something out of nothing was this creative, but yet logical pursuit that I just hadn’t maybe ever felt before.
[00:08:46] SY: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It’s so cool that you took that initiative that you saw a problem at work and said, “Let me see if I can figure it out.” Where do you think that came from? Because in a way, you almost have to believe that you can solve it. You have to have that optimism that says, “I know I can figure this out. I just need a little bit of time and trying different things and experimenting, but I can figure this out.” Where do you think that came from? Was that from your Neopet days?
[00:10:30] SY: So when you were figuring out this problem at work and you created a solution for yourself, at what point did you think, “Huh, maybe this could be my career?” [00:10:43] SC: I think it was probably when one of the bosses that I worked with said, “Oh, this is really useful. I think we could use it in the department.” I think that’s when I thought, “Oh, maybe this isn’t just a fun project. Maybe this isn’t just a hobby. Maybe this could go somewhere or maybe I should at least explore this a little more.” And I think that’s what made me decide to take it a bit further and do a bootcamp. And the bootcamp itself, I guess, I said to myself that that would be my way of testing whether or not I really wanted to pursue it.
[00:11:19] SY: Right. So you did that bootcamp as a way of kind of testing things out. So when you did that bootcamp, did you take a leave of absence at work? Did you quit? Did you do it on the side? How did that work with your medical career?
[00:11:31] SC: Yeah. I was actually on maternity leave when I did the bootcamp.
[00:11:35] SY: Oh, okay. That worked out great.
[00:11:38] SC: Yeah. I was lucky because after I built that app, I then went off for maternity leave to have my second kid. I grew up in Singapore. So I was actually back in Singapore for the year, for my maternity leave. And I was really lucky in that I was living with my parents out in Singapore and they were able to help me with childcare so that I could go and attend this bootcamp full time, because there’s no way I would have been able to do it if I was in the UK without parental support in terms of looking after the kids. So I’m really fortunate that those opportunities were available to me. And that’s why I thought, “This is the time to do it. If I’m going to do it, I need to do the bootcamp now and decide.” [00:12:22] SY: That’s awesome. Okay, so you did this full-time bootcamp. Was it in person? You were going into a physical place to learn or how did that work?
[00:12:29] SC: Yeah, it was in person. It was nine weeks long.
[00:12:32] SY: Okay, got you. So you did this bootcamp. At the end of the program, what did you think? What did you make of your experiment?
[00:12:38] SC: Yeah, I think I loved it. I mean, I think during the bootcamp I could already tell that this was something that I wanted to pursue. Probably about halfway through I’d already decided that, yeah, it was something that I just wanted to explore and try to make a switch. So after the bootcamp, I think I gave myself about a week to get my LinkedIn profile done and get my CV because my CV was very medical, but nobody cares on that in tech. So I was trying to change it so that it would be suitable. And then also I started doing my portfolio, like website. And then after that, I started to apply for jobs as a software engineer.
[00:13:20] SY: So one thing that is really impressive about your journey is how quickly, and it sounds like easily you made the decision to leave your medical career. And I would argue that of all the careers to leave, I would assume that medicine will be one of the hardest ones because you spent so much of your life training and learning and leveling up and getting into med school, getting into residency, doing your rotations, passing the board. It just feels like such a commitment that I can see a lot of people saying like the sunk-cost fallacy. They’re going to say, “I don’t want to throw away all these years of training and all these years of work for a new career and they hang on to that career even when they’re unhappy, even when they know it’s not what they want to do. But it feels like you were able to let go of that career really easily. Is that true? Was it easy for you to let things go or how did you deal with that?
[00:14:14] SC: Yeah. I mean, I think it wasn’t simple, but I think that I knew deep within me that I needed to make a change and that sometimes you know what the decision is already, but you’re just afraid because of the fear that maybe it won’t work out or maybe it’ll be a stupid decision and you’ll regret it. Those are all the fears that come with a decision like this. But I think ultimately, if I was honest with myself, I knew that the job was draining my energy and I didn’t have that joy anymore. And I probably wasn’t doing as good of a job as I could be doing as a doctor if I had that joy and I didn’t like that either that I might not be doing my job to the best that I could be. But to address specifically the sunk-cost fallacy thing, it’s very true. And when I look back at all the hours that I put in and the studying, the sacrifices, whatever, it is a huge amount, but then I think I’ve already reaped a lot of the benefits or the fruits of my labor in that. I had an amazing career for 10 years and I met amazing people. I worked with amazing people. I got to be a part of many great moments of people’s lives, and that’s all stuff that will never be taken away from me, even though I’ve changed field. And then the other side of it is also thinking about there’s a cost of not making a change as well. So the cost of not making a change would be just being sad or miserable at my work. If I’m going to be working till I’m 70, it’s still a long time, still more than half my life and I didn’t want that. And yes, I think that’s kind of how I’ve got my head around it.
[00:16:07] SY: So I want to address kind of the circumstances that enabled you to make such a big life decision, the fact that you were already on maternity leave, so you didn’t have to make the decision to quit your job right away, you kind of had the opportunity to experiment and try new things, the fact that you were living with your parents and the fact that they were offering essentially free childcare and helping to support you while you made this decision. How do you think things would have been had those two variables not been the case? If you weren’t having your second kid and didn’t have that maternity leave and had to make that decision in the middle of just a regular year as a doctor, how do you think you would have navigated it?
[00:16:48] SC: I think it would have been harder, no doubt, because I would have had to make a jump. I’d have to say that I was taking time off work, and I’d have to find some way of navigating the childcare. So I probably would have, maybe, tried to do like a part-time bootcamp instead of a full time one. I don’t really know, honestly, how I would have juggled working full time with childcare and doing part-time bootcamp. I’m not sure if that would have been possible, but I guess that would be an option. The other option is my work allow us to go part time. So I could have maybe explored that option of maybe doing less than full-time medicine and then using the rest of the time to learn how to code.
[00:17:56] SY: I want to talk a little bit about your decision to go into bootcamp because I know a lot of people are trying to decide that now and trying to figure out, “Is bootcamp the right decision? Should I do self-taught? Should I go back to school and get a degree? What should I do?” How did you decide that a bootcamp was the right decision for you?
[00:18:15] SC: I think it really depends on the kind of learner that you are and also obviously your circumstances. But for me, I chose a bootcamp and I wanted a full-time bootcamp because I learn best in person and I think I learn quite well if it’s in a short space of time with a structured curriculum. Because I think whilst I enjoyed learning on my own, I felt like I was spending a lot of time trying to figure out what I needed to learn as well as trying to learn it, if that makes sense, rather than at a bootcamp where you have a structured curriculum, someone’s literally telling you, “Okay, today that we’re going to do this.” It takes that effort away and you’re really just focusing then on absorbing the information. Because there’s so much content out there, which is a great thing, but also can be really overwhelming, especially when you’re first starting out and trying to navigate what the best language to learn is or what frameworks I should be learning. All that stuff can actually take quite a lot of energy and time. So for me, I just wanted someone to tell me what to do and I just learn it. The other thing about a bootcamp that I was after was like being in an environment where I had easy access to a teacher to ask if I came across a problem.
[00:19:36] SY: Yes, a hundred percent.
[00:19:37] SC: Yeah.
[00:19:38] SY: That’s huge.
[00:19:39] SC: It’s huge. And also having other people to learn alongside, that also really helps me in terms of just bouncing ideas of other people or just providing moral support for each other because it can get a bit demoralizing sometimes when you feel it doesn’t make sense or sometimes having other people along with journey also helps motivate you to learn better.
[00:20:04] SY: Absolutely. So you did the bootcamp. Tell me a little bit more about the job search process. You mentioned spending a week, updating your LinkedIn, your resume. How did you approach the process of getting your first job?
[00:20:17] SC: Initially, I don’t think I really had much of a plan. I just went on LinkedIn and cold applied. I guess, in medicine, you kind of get on the train and then once you get into residency or specialty training, then that’s kind of you, for a long time, you’re not applying for jobs or interviewing all the time. And so I’d say I didn’t really have the skills. I didn’t really know what to do or how to market myself or whatever. And I was just searching on LinkedIn for jobs and then cold applying. And I wasn’t really getting much success with that. You can see on LinkedIn how many people apply for a job and it’d be loads of people. I’m sure most of whom were like way more experienced than me. And so my conversion to interview rate wasn’t very high. And I think after maybe three months of just cold applications, I decided to maybe change my strategy a little bit. So I actually started to just find out if there were any health tech or med tech companies local to my area in Belfast. And then I just reached out to people who worked there. So I would email just like the CEO or the CTO and just kind of share my story and just see where that led.
[00:21:40] SY: What did you say in those emails? I know that one of the things that people advocate for and encourage is sending out those cold emails, introducing yourself, talking to hiring managers, leaving LinkedIn messages. When you were emailing those people and telling your story, what did you say? I just told them the truth. I told them about my background. I told them about the reasons why I like coding, why I started learning to code and that I’d done the bootcamp, and yeah, that I was looking to kind of combine my skill sets and I’d be very interested to speak to anyone who wanted to find out more about me or share ideas or whatever. And yeah, that’s kind of the approach that I took.
[00:22:25] SC: And how did that work out? Did people respond?
[00:22:27] SY: They did. Most people got back to me. And actually that is how I ended up getting the job that I now currently have. The company that I reached out to, they weren’t hiring at the time and I knew that they weren’t hiring and the founder of the company used to be a doctor himself as well. And so I actually just reached out to him because I wasn’t necessarily looking for a job, although obviously that’s worked out very well, but I genuinely just wanted to find out more about his story because up till that point, I don’t think I knew any other doctors turned software engineers. And to find one local in my area, I was like, “Well, I need to talk to him because it’d be great to share our stories.” And then kind of one thing led to another. He was like, “Oh, we’d love to have a chat.” And then that ended up leading to my current job. So that was a real pleasant surprise.
[00:23:24] SY: That must be such a great bonding moment for you to talk to a CEO who also used to be a doctor and you guys had that in common. I think that anytime we can find people whose backstories are similar to ours, went to the same school, live in the same neighborhood, whatever the thing is that we have in common, that’s a great opportunity to leverage that to make a connection. So good for you that you did that and that it worked out.
[00:23:46] SC: Yeah. I mean, I feel very lucky. Yeah, like you say there’s an instant bond because you relate to each other’s backgrounds and you kind of maybe understand why the other person left medicine and took on this new job. And I feel lucky and that there’s like a good alignment between what the company does and what I guess the problem that I was trying to solve at work. It’s like trying to make doctor’s lives easier. And so yeah, it just felt like a good fit.
[00:24:19] SY: Absolutely. Absolutely. So how long did it take you from graduation to finding that first job?
[00:24:25] SC: I graduated end of March and I think I got the job offer in August.
[00:24:31] SY: Not bad. Yeah.
[00:24:32] SC: So about four. Yeah, about four months.
[00:24:35] SY: How did you feel during those four months? Because I’m imagining, I don’t know if you were still on maternity leave or if you had quit by that point. But either way, you decided to leave medicine behind and you’re on to something else. And four months, in the grand scheme of things isn’t very long. But I can imagine in the moment, it probably felt like, “Oh, my goodness, yeah, another month. When is this going to be over? When am I going to start my career?” So how did you kind of navigate the feelings in those four months while you were trying to get a job?
[00:25:03] SC: Yeah. I mean, I think having listened to other people’s stories on CodeNewbie and like Scrimba Podcast, I think I had a realistic expectation that I had prepared myself that it would maybe take a little while. But you’re right. Even though that month to month or even week to week, the emotions can go up and down. You kind of cycle through like feeling hopeful and then maybe like, for example, doing an interview and then it not being successful, you kind of feel that rejection and you start questioning yourself and wondering whether this is really something that’s going to happen or is this a wise choice, can I actually do this, am I not skilled enough, all these thoughts. And it goes up and it goes down. Yeah, you just kind of got to hang in there. That’s what I told myself anyway. I was like, “No, I want to make this change. So I just need to be patient and wait,” but it’s easier said than done. At the time, I was wishing that it would come quicker.
[00:26:08] SY: Yeah, I think it really helps to hear other people’s stories and hear how long it takes them to get that first job and just having realistic expectations. You mentioned that there were times when your anxiety went up and times when it went down. What were the moments when it went down? What are the moments when you felt maybe a little bit calmer, a little bit more in control? Were there any situations or things that you did that helped kind of find those calm moments during that time?
[00:26:32] SC: Yeah, I think it was maybe just talking it through with people who knew me and who would encourage me. I think that did help. Close friends, family, they would just remind me that like, “No, it’s okay. You just need to persevere. You can do this. You will meet setbacks, but that’s normal.” And I think that was calming for me. And also, I guess, having people actually shortlisting me for interviews was a big encouragement to me because I thought, “Okay, they must have seen something in my application to shortlist me.” So those little bits of… [00:27:18] SY: Those little wins…
[00:27:18] SC: …glimmers of hope. Yeah, they kind of just like keep you going and give you hope.
[00:27:28] SY: Coming up, Shona and I discuss some of the skills that she’s brought over to tech from her medical background after this.
[00:27:48] SY: One of the things that we encourage people to do who are coming from a different career is to think about the transferable skills that they have and how that past career can be an asset to their new company. Obviously, being a doctor, being an anesthesiologist, and then going into coding are two very, very different careers, very different fields entirely. But I’m wondering, what were some of those transferable skills that you felt like made you an even better programmer because you were a doctor previously?
[00:28:21] SC: Yeah. So I think problem solving skills, probably, because I guess you could see every patient in medicine as a challenge, a puzzle that you need to solve. They’ve got a disease or a problem that you need to diagnose and find a solution. Coding is a bit like that, isn’t it? It’s like you have a problem, you need to find a solution. You might ask other people. You might do research online. You might think it through in your head step by step analytically. Those are, I guess, some of the parallels between medicine and software engineering. I think also the skills I mentioned earlier like grit and resilience and tenacity, they definitely do help you to, yeah, just approach maybe a problem from different perspectives if you’re not getting to a solution. So yeah, I’d say there are actually quite a few transferable skills.
[00:29:16] SY: And how did you use your past career to help you strategize what types of companies you worked at or you tried to apply for? Because right now you’re working at a medical company, which makes a lot of sense. You’re able to leverage that background of science into your new career. Did you focus mostly on health and science companies when you were looking for a job or how did you think about that?
[00:29:40] SC: Yeah. Initially, actually, I thought I didn’t want to do anything related to medicine, health, or science. I almost felt like I just wanted a clean break from medicine.
[00:29:52] SY: Yeah, I get that.
[00:29:52] SC: And to go into something, yeah, totally different. But then I think as time went on and I applied for more jobs, I realized that I need to care about the product that I’m building. And there were a few industries that, for example, I interviewed for that I found myself thinking I actually don’t really care that much about. For example, insurance. I’m not passionate about it. And I think it comes across when I talk about it in an interview, for example. It’s hard to show passion for something that you’re not interested in. And then I found myself gravitating back towards health, medicine, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized, “No, this does make sense. It’s a way for me to make use of what I’ve learned the past 10 years and use technology and combine the two skill sets and make something good of this.” So yeah, I think once I realized that, I was like, “Yes, actually, this makes much more sense.” And that’s when I just kind of focused on health tech and med tech.
[00:30:58] SY: That’s great. It’s great that you were able to get to that place because I assume you have a major advantage over a lot of your peers because you’ve worked in medicine and you were a doctor and you’ve worked with patients and all that background. So after you got your job, you’re working as a developer, all these months of hard work have paid off, you’ve secured your first job, what was it like? How did it go for you?
[00:31:21] SC: Yeah. I mean, I’m only about maybe a month and a half into the job, but I must say I really love it so far. It’s great to be learning something new. It’s a steep learning curve, but everyone’s been really lovely, understanding my company, they teach me a lot, and it’s allowing me to just use that side of my brain that I like using and I guess I haven’t really exercised that much either in the past 10 years. And yeah, no, I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s definitely different. It’s just, yeah, a different skill set that I’m getting to use. So I love it.
[00:31:59] SY: How does it compare to being a doctor? I can kind of imagine all the differences from the outside. But as someone who’s lived both lives, what are some of the biggest differences between the two?
[00:32:08] SC: I think the biggest difference probably is the flexibility. I feel like I have a lot more autonomy over my time. Obviously, in my medical specialty, you have to be in the hospital the whole time that you’re working, that you’re on call. You can’t even leave the hospital for lunch. That’s a very simple example, but it just is an example of how your time’s not really your own. And I think with two young kids, I really appreciate the flexibility that I have currently that as long as I get my work done, it’s up to me to like manage my time. And I like that because I like being productive and making a good use of my time. And so that really appeals to me that I have that choice.
[00:32:56] SY: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Do you regret having been a doctor or do you feel like it all kind of completes the story and it makes for a good tale of going from one career to another? Do you wish you’d been coding this whole time?
[00:33:10] SC: No, no, definitely not. I would never have wanted it to be any different. I think you make a decision that you make with the information you have at the time and it’s just how it is. And yeah, like I said, I’ve had an amazing career in the past 10 years. And this is like just sort of building on that and going a slightly different direction. But yeah, I don’t feel like I’ve lost anything. I think maybe when we’re young, or at least when I was young, I was kind of taught that you choose one job and that’s your job for the rest of your life. And I think my perspective has really changed as I’ve grown older that actually you’re allowed to change your mind. It’s okay for your needs to evolve and that’s fine to just go with it. It’s okay.
[00:34:01] SY: I want to ask what it’s been like to navigate and enter the tech scene in the midst of AI and in the midst of layoffs because you are relatively new to the tech industry. And it feels like since the pandemic, two things that have really scared people are number one, the rise of AI, and I’ve seen a lot of people say that, “Oh, no, AI is going to take our jobs. They’re going to make junior developers obsolete,” and et cetera, et cetera. And then I’ve also heard, of course, the layoffs that are happening primarily in the tech industry, mostly by big tech, have scared people into thinking that it’s going to be even harder than ever to get that first job, everyone’s looking for super senior people, or they’re not looking for people at all. How have those two affected your journey? Are those things that you worried about as you were breaking in over the last year?
[00:34:55] SC: I’d say I haven’t thought too much about those things because I think you can kind of get yourself into a situation where you talk yourself out of it. And I think I knew I wanted to make a change and I just surrounded myself with stories of people that made the change through podcasts and things like that and I tried not to listen too much to the what-ifs or maybe my job will be taken from me in five years’ time. But I think the things that I can control are just improving my skills, technical skills, and just trying to contribute something positive to a company. Those are the things that I kind of tried to focus on because you just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. And I like personally think there’s not too much point worrying too much about the future because yeah, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Really nobody knows. And specifically with AI, I think there’s actually loads of benefits for a junior developer because there’s a lot that you can learn from all these AI tools. ChatGPT, sometimes it hallucinates, but at other times it does explain things very well. If you ask it to give you an example of something, it can really illustrate something very well. And I think these tools can be used to a junior developer’s advantage. But yeah, I would say when I was applying for jobs, I did notice that there weren’t as many openings for junior developers as maybe there would have been two years ago or three years ago before all the layoffs. That is something that I did maybe notice. But yeah, I think I’ve just tried not to worry too much about what might happen.
[00:36:39] SY: I think that’s probably the smartest route to go down is just to block out the noise and focus on your goals and focus on what you want to pursue because you can get really caught up in, “Oh, the latest headline says junior jobs are down. Let’s you know abandon this.” And then a couple months later, everything is fine again. Especially with the economy being so cyclical, there’s times when layoffs happen, there’s times when there’s a big boom and people are hiring, like in the New Year, we’re expecting hiring to go back up again. So if you try and time it, you’re probably going to, like you said, talk yourself out of it when maybe it’ll end up being just fine either way. So yeah, I think that makes sense to me. So do you have any final words of wisdom, any advice for people who maybe are coming from a completely different, unrelated career and breaking into tech for the first time? Especially during these years of maybe a little bit more heightened anxiety, a little bit more nervousness around the economy, around the market, what advice do you have for people looking to make that transition?
[00:37:44] SC: Yeah. I think just go at your own pace and do a little bit every day. And yeah, if you feel this is something that you want to do, that you’re curious about, that you want to explore, then let yourself have an explore, see how you feel. And if it’s something you decide that you really want to pursue, then don’t let the noise put you off and just walk away at your goal. And yeah, slow and steady, you’ll get there, be patient, even though it’s not really that easy.
[00:38:19] SY: Yeah.
[00:38:20] SC: But yeah. I mean, it has been a great change for me. So I hope that other people will find the same sort of reward from it.
[00:38:29] SY: Absolutely. Now at the end of every episode, we ask our guests to fill in the blanks of some very important questions. Shona, are you ready to fill in the blanks?
[00:38:45] SC: Yep.
[00:38:46] SY: Number one, worst advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:38:50] SC: I think it was probably to continue with medicine because I spent such a long time doing it, so just do it forever and ever more. I don’t think that’s great advice.
[00:39:03] SY: That’s a good point, actually, because I’m sure that a lot of your friends and family, maybe your parents had their own opinions of what you should have done and what you should be doing. What was your support system? What was that like? Did people encourage you to go down coding? Or were they kind of like, “What is she doing? She’s been a doctor this whole time. How can she switch?” [00:39:25] SC: Actually, the funny thing is everyone in medicine that I’ve worked with or friends from the medical field, not a single one told me you should stay.
[00:39:36] SY: Really?
[00:39:37] SC: None of them.
[00:39:37] SY: Oh, that’s fascinating.
[00:39:38] SC: Yeah, and I hope that’s not because they don’t like me. I’m just kidding. I think the thing is that they get it. They get why you might not want to do this for the rest of your life. Kudos to them for staying and sticking it out because it is not easy, but I think they get it. They understand the sacrifices or the trade-offs that you make. So actually none of my medical friends and colleagues said, “Are you crazy? Why are you doing this?” More often people who are outside the medical field who can’t understand why you would give up a job like being a doctor. So I was nervous about telling my parents, I’m not going to lie, because I guess they were really proud when I got into medical school and I think they are really proud of the fact that I’m a doctor and there’s maybe some guilt wrapped up in that or, yeah, a sense that maybe I’m like disappointing them.
[00:40:32] SY: Yeah.
[00:40:32] SC: But I think at the end of the day, they do want to just see me thrive in my work environment and they are supportive and I think they’re glad that I’m happy at my job.
[00:40:43] SY: That’s great. That’s great. That’s beautiful. Number two, best advice I’ve ever received is?
[00:40:49] SC: So best advice I’ve ever received is from my friend Charlotte. She said to me, this is if you’re ever thinking about whether or not to do something and maybe you’re worried about the risk or you’re afraid that it might not work out, she said to me that if life is short, then you just need to do what you want to do or you’ll never get to do it. You might regret it. She said, “If life is long, then it’s okay to take a chance and do something different and then you can always find your way back to something else if it doesn’t work out.” So I just think that’s great advice.
[00:41:30] SY: I love that. That’s great. Number three, my first coding project was about?
[00:41:35] SC: My first coding project was about, yeah, solving that problem at work. So yeah, just an automated drug dose calculator. Yeah, just to make life a bit easier.
[00:41:48] SY: Yeah, what a great first project. I think that might be one of the best ones that we’ve heard on the show. So practical, so useful on the job, on your past career. That’s pretty cool. Yeah. Number four, one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is?
[00:42:02] SC: I guess I wish I knew that it would be okay in the end that I would find a job and that would have I guess removed a lot of the anxiety and the stress and what is, but that’s something you just can’t know. But yeah, I think everything else like the online community and the podcast and everything are so helpful to kind of knowing what to expect and what other people have been through.
[00:42:31] SY: Absolutely. Well, thank you again so much for joining us, Shona. Congrats on your journey and welcome to tech. I know it’s only been a month into your new job. Hopefully, you’re loving it and you’re excited about it and we’re excited to have you.
[00:42:44] SC: Thank you very much.
[00:42:51] SY: Want to be in the CodeNewbie Podcast? Know someone who I should interview next? Reach out on Twitter at Code Newbies or send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. And if you like the show, make sure to follow us and leave a review on your preferred platform so we can keep making the pod. Thanks for listening. See you next week.
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