Careers

A millennial lands a job she loves, after a layoff and some career missteps

By: Maureen Genore on February 9, 2017

Sometimes finding a career you love means trying out a few you don’t.

For 30-year-old Erika Donovan, it took ten years — including a layoff — to discover her true passion.

For many young Canadians, a job is still just something you do to pay the bills. Maybe you’re stuck at an organization with no room for growth, but you stay because you’re comfortable — or can’t afford to leave. Or maybe, you have no clue what you even want to do, so you stay put until you can figure it out.

Erika certainly experienced some of that along the way to landing a job she truly loves.

Post-graduate optimism

Erika graduated in 2008 from Durham College in Oshawa, Ont., with a diploma in sports management, and managed to land a job soon after graduation as the office manager at a golf course design firm. It was a good fit. Erika says she enjoyed the work, the people, and the industry, all of which led to a six-year career at the firm.

During her time there, Erika’s interest in web development blossomed. Growing up, she was always drawn to computer science and how things were built on the internet. She had even taught herself some coding in high school.

When an opportunity arose for her to work at a tech startup in 2014, she took the leap and joined the new company as customer and team support manager.

And then reality hits

Jumping into a new industry was a great move for Erika: she was working with talented people in an industry she loved, and was lucky enough to have her company pay for her front-end web development course. She loved every second of it, and used her new skills not only in her role at work, but also to do freelance development on the side.

But then, in 2016, the company abruptly closed their Toronto office.

Her sudden unemployment was devastating. It also had Erika asking herself a lot of tough questions. What should she do next? Go back to school? Find a new job? What kind of role did she want? Should she pursue freelance work more aggressively?

Her sudden unemployment was devastating. It also had Erika asking herself a lot of tough questions

Erika eventually decided to start looking for a new job. The hard part, though, was figuring out what to look for next. She began applying everywhere: some similar to what she’d been doing, and some more related to project management.

The rebound and the revelation

Erika was lucky in that she didn’t remain unemployed for long. She landed a new job and began working at an agency as a project manager. The job — which she was ecstatic about — had her managing web projects and working closely with a team of developers.

It was a great rebound and a great fit, Erika says.

She was a key player on many challenging projects and loved working with a talented development team. But working with that team also led to a revelation. It made her think back to her fondness of teaching herself coding in high school.

I wanted to be one of the developers, not the project manager

And suddenly, she was questioning whether she was in the right role.

“I was working on cool projects with a bunch of developers, but I realized I wanted to be doing what they were doing,” she says. “I wanted to be one of the developers, not the project manager.”

And like that, she took a plunge. She told her company that she was leaving to become a full time developer.

A big risk pays off

It was September 2016 when Erika began a nine-week, immersive web development bootcamp with Toronto-based coding school HackerYou.

The program cost her $5,500 + tax (she got a discounted rate from the regular $7,500 + tax for having previously completed their part-time course). During the course, she used her savings to cover her living expenses.

Erika says she knew on day one that it was the right decision. She was surrounded by people from all walks of life, with an array of work history, but they were all there for the same reason: to follow their passion and learn something new.

I’m now working at a company that I’ve been wanting to work at for five years,” she says. “I finally have the skill set they were looking for

Nine short weeks later, Erika had all of the skills she needed to launch into a career as a developer. HackerYou promotes itself as a program that helps their grads find jobs, and it didn’t take long before Erika landed a coveted position as web and email producer at Kobo. As a book-lover, it’s a company she’d always dreamed of working for.

“I’m now working at a company that I’ve been wanting to work at for five years,” she says. “I finally have the skill set they were looking for.”

And not only does Erika’s new career suit her better than anything she’d done before, it pays her better than anything she’d done before.

In developer speak, that’s called a “clean” win.

Erika is currently taking on freelance projects — you can check out her site here.

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