Time for a career change? Queen’s alumna Louise May explains how she made the big leap into the tech industry in her 30s.
It’s common to think about a career change in your 30s and 40s, but what does it take to turn your daydreams into a reality? Queen’s alum Louise May was facing a career crossroads after 17 years as an optometrist. “For quite a few years I had felt dissatisfied in my job. A lack of career progression within the industry I was in, coupled with a feeling that I was not working to my full potential made me feel frustrated and want a complete change of career,” says Louise.
Louise was aware that the job landscape had changed since she first graduated in 2002, and that the tech industry, in particular, was a versatile and dynamic hotbed of exciting roles, many of which didn’t exist when she was at school. However, she was unsure if she had the skills or experience to successfully pivot into a digital role.
“A career in the tech industry was not something I had considered previously,” she says. “I did not feel I was the most ‘techie’ person. As my first degree was so specialised it did not allow any opportunity to easily change direction.”
It was only when a cousin of her husband told her about the MSc in Software Development at Queen’s, that she began to think of it as a serious option. “I thought back to what I had been good at in school; it was STEM subjects, especially maths and physics, which made me think it was an area I should explore further. Discovering I could do a conversion course in one year and knowing it is an industry that is in huge demand really appealed,” she says.
After applying online and successfully completing an aptitude test, Louise was accepted onto the course and she hasn’t looked back.
“My experience at Queen’s was an extremely positive one. It allowed me the opportunity to challenge myself and learn about a subject I knew very little about,” says Louise, who is now working full-time as a digital engineer for PA Consulting.
“I was offered the job within weeks of finishing the Master’s. I now feel much more fulfilled in my job and have a huge sense of pride and accomplishment in what I have achieved since starting the course.”
As well as progressing within PA Consulting, Louise is keen to utilise the skills she picked up as an optometrist as she advances in her tech career. “My background in the healthcare profession gives me a different perspective in developing software for the health sector, so I would be keen to explore opportunities in that area.”
Louise admits that she experienced moments of self-doubt along the way. “I had plenty of fears and anxieties about starting the course and changing career. I was worried I wouldn’t be good at it or enjoy it. I was concerned about how I would manage to continue to work part-time, look after my two children and study for a full time Master’s, but I knew I would regret not taking this opportunity to do something new, and thankfully had the full support of my husband and parents.”
Returning to higher education after such a long break away was also a worry, she adds, but one she needn't have been concerned about. “After such a long break from formal education, it was daunting to return, but I loved it! I feel I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity the first time, as I was young and more interested in the student social scene, so I made sure to make the most of the educational experience this time.
She adds, “The MSc in Software Development is really well-taught and industry-focussed, so most of the skills I was taught I am using in my job now. There is an emphasis in the course on group projects, which was really good experience for working in projects in teams now.”
Far from being the only 30-somethig on the course, Louise says her classmates were from all walks of life.
“The people I met at Queen’s came from so many different backgrounds and were at varying stages of their lives. It was interesting to hear about all the different ways we came about doing the same course.
“I’ll never forget the people I met, especially the team I worked with in my group projects. It was such an intense year and they really helped at the times when I was feeling overwhelmed.
“I would recommend Queen’s as it has such a good reputation and the Software Development course is really well-taught. I enjoyed the year and would recommend anyone considering returning to education to go for it!”
Interesting in changing careers into the tech industry? Check out our postgraduate courses:
Queen's University Belfast is committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
For more information please read our Equality and Diversity Policy.
Queen's University Belfast is registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC101788
VAT registration number: GB 254 7995 11