Coding Conversations: Transforming My Career

Transformation. Is there a right time to transform your career? Is there a cheat sheet that helps us transition from role A to role B? How do we figure out what role we are passionate about? How do we figure out the right time to transform?

Transforming my career from a Test Engineer role to a Frontend Engineer role was challenging and interesting.

Two and half years ago, I was a Test Engineer with the LinkedIn Bangalore team. I had a chance to interview and apply for a Test Engineer position at LinkedIn Sunnyvale. I always dreamed of visiting Silicon Valley at least once in my life because I fell in love with computers and user interfaces when I saw an ATM machine for the first time as a teenager.

I would have wanted to apply and interview for the position if I weren’t eight months pregnant. Applying for the job would require me to spend time studying algorithms instead of spending my time on the new baby or what to expect. Everything in my personal and professional life would change around me if I did get the job. I would need to move to US with a small baby.

I applied to the job after my husband’s and my mentor’s encouragement. My husband said I could lean on him and he would support me in every possible way. After interviewing, I ended up getting the job and moved to the US with my four-month old son after my maternity break.

As my husband and I both had to go to work, we needed to leave my son with a nanny or daycare. It was not easy to leave him in another person’s care and go to work during the day. It was tough but at the same time, it made me look at things differently. It pushed me to think about my passion, my interests. It also made me question my dream. I had to remind myself what it felt like when I first fell in love with computers and coding. I decided that the time away from my son would be spent doing something I love.

Looking back, my transformation from the Test Engineer role to a Software Engineer role involved the following six phases:

1. Figure out one thing that excites me the most

I made a list of the responsibilities in my job at the time. As a Test Engineer, I was involved in the following activities:

  • Communicate with product managers and engineering teams
  • Write test plans based on product/functional specs
  • Write test code using various test frameworks and languages
  • Setup and improve the product’s continuous integration pipeline

I then ranked what I liked about the Test Engineer role from best to worst.

  • Write test code
  • Communicate with product managers and engineering teams
  • Setup improve the product’s continuous integration pipeline
  • Write test plans based on product/functional specs

I also thought about what would excite me the most beyond my current role. I knew I loved the intricacies of user interfaces. I thought, “What if I can find a job that lets me code for user interfaces?” Based on that passion and what I enjoyed working on as a Test Engineer, I talked to a few UI Engineers on the development team and realized that Frontend Engineering would be my dream role, where I got to code a lot and work with user interfaces.

2. Try out the new role

Every quarter, LinkedIn conducts Hackdays. These days give employees time to get together with a group of people to work on a cool, new idea. Hackdays were a great way for me to try out the Frontend Engineer role. For example, I participated in two Hackdays where I worked with other brilliant developers and built Chrome extensions for the hack. I loved working with JavaScript. I loved how the code came to life in the browser. From those experiences, I knew for sure that Frontend Engineering was the role I wanted to transition into.

3. Identify skills needed for the new role

I looked at a ton of job descriptions as a way to identify the skills and demands of the role. I went through a few job postings on LinkedIn for Frontend Engineer roles and cross-verified that the skills mentioned in the “necessary skills” section of the job description matched my other research.

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