Meet Luci, Software Engineer with Annalise.ai. Like many of us, Luci’s career didn’t take a traditional path. In this article she answers she questions about:
- Why she decided to make the transition into her role as a Software Engineer
- The key challenges faced and how she overcame them
- How to choose a company that aligns with your values
What drew you to pursue a career change to Software Engineering/Web Development?
When I was younger I pursued what I enjoyed and had talent in, however I lacked awareness of the tech industry as an option. I started out in the creative industries, which are full of talented, hard-working, passion-driven people; however, there’s a shortage of opportunities, and consequentially, there’s a high risk of failure, it’s often un-family-friendly, competitive, insecure, and plagued by industry and workplace culture issues.
Whenever a younger person was trying to work out what career they wanted to pursue, I encouraged them to go a different way and learn to code; I said that I wished I’d learned it when I was younger and that’s what I’d do if I was their age. Eventually, it caught up to me that I was a being a hypocrite, and if I really thought this was good advice then I should take it myself.
Software engineering ticked a lot of boxes for me. The tech industry pairs with every other industry – ed-tech, med-tech, green-tech – and many startups are actively trying to solve the world’s problems, so there’s opportunity to work on something meaningful. It is possible to work remotely and negotiate hours, and, amongst my friends, women who had technical roles often fared best when renegotiating work around caring for children. The tech skills shortage has created lots of opportunities for those with the skills, and the pay is good. It’s a massive industry, and the whole spectrum is covered – from toxic workplaces to avoid, to those leading the way in creating the best workplace cultures possible (guess which type I work at?).
What were some of the key barriers you faced and how did you overcome them?
A couple key challenges when making the switch:
We’ve been raised to consider our path in life to be a ladder, where each step builds on the last. To be willing to start from the ‘bottom’ in a completely new domain requires a certain amount of ego death. Self-identity is partly shaped by what we take pride in being ‘good’ at – to walk away from existing skills and talents (and that sense of self) to be a newbie at something that I didn’t at that point have skill in, meant redefining who I thought I was and where my motivation came from.
How I handled this: a lot of self-reflection! Partly I adopted a “you’re not dead yet” attitude – even if I was starting in my 40s, there’s still decades of career in front of me (and plenty that can be achieved in that time). I leaned into my love of learning and accepted that sucking at something new is just the first part of the process. Perhaps that became part of my new self identity: to let go of pride, be adaptable, focus on the learning rather than worrying about how I measure up, to be highly intentional in my choices and use that as a key motivating force.
To make any big life change, you need a very clear understanding of your motivation – why you’re doing it, why it’s important to you – and use this as your wayfinder when things get difficult. I committed to this new path, and made it feel inevitable.
b. Learning the technical skills around other life responsibilities.
I started this path when my time and focus was taken up caring for a child with health issues, with little capacity for me to prioritise my own needs or desires. Sounds simple, but I had to give myself permission to pursue my own interests, and work out a way to do it without conflict.
When working out the ‘how’ to learn the technical skills: options for formal education, such as going back to university, were too inaccessible and inflexible around my other responsibilities. I started out self-learning, using online resources. This is a challenging way to learn, as there is little to no support when you get stuck or have questions (which will be often!) – however it does provide flexibility and autonomy around ‘life’.
2. Why did you decide to join Annalise.ai?
The first thing I looked for was values and culture alignment – both in the publicly stated company mission and the internal offering to employees. What we do, and how we do it.
I didn’t at the time fully understand everything Annalise was doing, however I could see that the product solved a real problem, was helping to improve medical outcomes and save lives, and Annalise’s goal was to provide this solution not just to wealthier nations but also raise the bar in developing nations (close the gap).
The employee offering included flexible hours, wellbeing leave, generous parental support, an option to work remotely, and other stuff that signaled that Annalise is a progressive company that values diversity and is committed to a workplace culture that would be a pretty good fit for me. I also checked out the parent company, Harrison AI, and noted it was backed by Blackbird Ventures – all seemed to have similar values alignment.
I found the recruitment process relatively quick, efficient, and stress free. The recruiter and interviewers were friendly and put me at ease, I didn’t feel ‘judged’, so I didn’t get too nervous.
Outside of the recruitment process, I had candid chats with a couple people who already worked at Annalise (a team member, and a female employee in another department) to suss out what it was really like working there.
I felt like these people would be good to work with, and this built my confidence that Annalise was a good match for me.
3. What do you enjoy most about working at Annalise.ai?
Pretty much the whole package: values alignment, good humanistic workplace culture and policies so we’re able to bring our authentic selves to work (or take time off work for other life responsibilities!), working collaboratively with good people who care about what we’re doing and don’t create unnecessary workplace politics or bs, the ability to speak one’s mind and disagree respectfully, a lot of transparency and reflection with the desire to learn from mistakes and improve, opportunities for career development and internal promotion, knowing that what we’re doing is helping save lives….
In this industry, a very common piece of advice given to new software engineers is that the only way to get promoted or a pay rise is to job hop (tech companies are typically terrible at internal promotion). That hasn’t been true at Annalise: at around the 6 month mark I got a payrise, and close to the one year mark I was promoted. I work alongside people who have been promoted internally, and those who have been supported to make internal career changes to new roles. This is a company that provides opportunities for career development, so people don’t have to job hop.
In the spirit of transparency, it’s important to acknowledge that not everything is perfect. In terms of body count, there is a significant gender gap at Annalise (typical for the industry). It’s a quickly growing company, things change fast, and we don’t have everything worked out yet in the way a more established company might. There are always going to be some problems, the question is how we handle that (or if it is swept under the rug). At Annalise we can raise issues and discuss them openly.