June 10, 2015

Inspired by DroidCon - part 1 - Embrace Change!

A career doesn't have to follow a straight line

or To Change Careers. Inspiration from DroidCon

Flag with android robotRecently, when attending DroidCon in Berlin, I listened to a talk on accessibility -Accessibility in Action (see link) - by Kelly Shuster, available on the DroidCon Berlin YouTube feed.

Kelly Shuster is an excellent speaker and what she said really caught on;  I simply like a society where everybody can take part and be included. I'll talk more about accessibility in a separate post, but the important thing here is Kelly Shuster caught my attention, and when I came back to Düsseldorf I wanted to get her materials so I could go through it again. When looking for the said materials on Github* I came across not just the materials from the talks in Berlin but I also found the link to Kelly Shuster's website/blogspace.

And this is what THIS specific post is about. 

Kelly writes about how she participated in a panel event in Denver recently, and at this event the panel members had the chance to share some useful advice with the audience - advice they would have given their old selves if they could. The advice Kelly shared were the following:

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions
  • Don't be afraid to take a step down, to step sideways
  • Start saying Yes and follow through

The bullet point really hit home. Especially the second point, "Don't be afraid to take a step down, to step sideways". In a way I did just that myself - took a step down. I left a good company, where I worked with amazing people whom I learnt so much from, but it was time for a change - it was time to challenge myself.

Kelly says under her second point that "nobody ever talks about that fact that one day you might want to change your career trajectory, that it is okay, or how to go about it."

Ann-Katrin building lego
Building LEGO at a conference is a step UP!
So very true! Now, luckily, I was born in a country where it's perfectly normal to work for a few years, and then go back to studies and either change career completely or to chose another track within your field of expertise if you have had a change of hearts, or the conditions or your life change**. Even if no one talked about it, the system allows it, and even helps you to do it.  

In other parts of the world, not the least in Germany, it's barely heard of - very few change careers and many stay with their companies for many many years, sometimes throughout their whole career. Great for some, but definitely not for all. Don't continue doing what you always did just because that's what you know the best RIGHT NOW. If you want to change - CHANGE. If you aren't sure - well, start exploring, learn about new areas, and maybe you'll find out.

BE CURIOUS. That is my advice. 

Kelly Shuster changed paths herself, she tells us in her post - even though that was much earlier in life.

Give it a go, learn, study (there is plenty of other ways if you don't want to do what I did and go back to university) - and don't be afraid to try! Do what inspires you, challenge yourself, try new things. Take that step down, or the step back, if you need to. As long as it in the end leads to you a place you want to be and you can support yourself doing it - do it. It may require some work, especially if you never prepared for it in any way, but do it.  Start today. 

Ann-Katrin in front of the river in Berlin
Berlin always seem to inspire me
Getting HR people and employers in general to understand that yes, you really DO want to change careers and you really ARE taking that "step down to step sideways", as Kelly Shuster puts it - that may be challenging. Believing in yourself and knowing that you can do it. It is easy to get discouraged when you see the surprised looks and when you meet the HR people who only focuses on what you have done and not what you want to - but don't let that stop you. If you want to change - change. Life is too short not to.

And encourage those around you to keep learning, allow themselves to explore what options there are in the world. If they have other interests, however odd they may seem in relation to what they work with - tell them to continue exploring those - for me it's art, photography, food, sustainability, outside the IT area. Knowledge from other fields will make it much easier to take that "step down to step to the side". You can't keep up with everything that happens in the world but it easier to catch up if you have some basic knowledge.

Don't let anyone else decide the rules you play by.

And now I am going to get back to my geek tasks of the day. Got some design work to take care of and some accessibility notes to read through... And then there was some other little Android things I wanted to look into...


Further information

*GitHub - basically a system for storing and sharing source code as well as presentations etc belonging to it. Kind of a catalogue system, to explain it in a simple, non-geeky way. TechCrunch explains it well in in an article from 2012 - link here. 

**Also, I'd like to point out; University in Sweden is relatively different to universities in for example US. We don't have the general topics the way US does, but you really specialise. The general topics are a prerequisite to be accepted - and that means you really can just take the courses that are important for you to change your career, or to learn. It's also not uncommon to do a few courses while you are working, and that's also fully doable as you in many ways are in charge of and manage your own time. That all makes it a lot easier, university is really prepared to deal with your different

Link to Kelly Shuster's post on the talk in Denver (see link).

And on a side note: The other bullet points are equally important - it's just that number 2 was the one that stood out to me right now. I have never been afraid of asking questions, and I have never been afraid of taking on different tasks. And thats' also why you see me involved in so many different things. 

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