Software Engineer as a second career

Published on April 1, 2016 by Fay

Posted in Community

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It’s no secret that in today’s global society, being multi-skilled with a broad range of knowledge and experience, plus flexibility and a willingness to learn new things, can help sustain a longer career path. With so few ‘jobs for life’ these days, the trendy ‘portfolio’ approach often favoured by tech freelancers and the self-employed is a CV format increasingly accepted, sometimes desired, by employers.

But can you use your existing experience and apply it to an entirely new industry? Especially one as fast moving as software technology? If so how? Is it only a young persons game? For those who know the latest pioneering software developments and can implement them? Or is there more to it than that?

We have discovered that there is actually a huge shortage in the software engineer and developer skills pool. In the UK, we probably need at least twice as many of these folk than are currently available.

A key contributor to this lack of talent can often be down to burnout. Having undertaken long stints of intense work on deadline driven projects for extended periods, means some talented software engineers, both young and experienced, simply drop out and switch jobs when it all became a bit too much. It is both the responsibility of the individual and the employer to do their best to keep things fresh and change up work and projects relatively frequently, to prevent this. This is important at any age and all employees and employers should be mindful of this. For those considering software as a second career, you can come at such tech jobs with both experience and fresh eyes and enthusiasm. This can be an attractive proposition for an employer.

Closely related to retaining and attracting staff is company culture. Here at Red River, we recognise how important our approach, methodologies and professionalism are to ensuring a productive, happy environment and team. In 2015, we changed the entire structure of our workforce to make it more democratic, flexible and dynamic. We know if we look after people and offer both autonomy and opportunities, people genuinely buy into being part of the company and brand. If the company culture sucks, then no one will want to stay, whether graduates just out of university or someone coming to software later in life. A balance and mix of backgrounds, ages and experiences, also makes for a far more interesting work place and presents excellent chances for knowledge exchange and peer to peer learning.

We have always been an advocate for supporting young people and making them aware of the opportunities a career in technology can offer, but we also believe becoming a software engineer is a brilliant option for a second career. Some of the best software engineers and developers we know are self-taught superstars or came from a non-tech background, but have the skills, personality and right approach to software development. Creativity, a collaborative approach and an entrepreneurial spirit are as important as aptitude and official academic credentials.This is definitely what we look for and we’re always seeing good people. We’ve known engineers, analysts, business managers and teachers to become something in software. If you have vision, patience, some business acumen, are curious with attention to detail and enjoy working as part of a team, then it can be a fascinating (and lucrative) mid career or second career option.

We are currently investigating ways within the Gatwick Diamond region to address this shortage of talent via local training and support. We are aiming to raise awareness and understanding of software as a second career in this area. Watch this space for more and get in touch if you’d like to talk about working with us.