Shifting Careers: My Story

Posted: November 29, 2011
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Shifting careers to chase your dreams is not always easy. Here is my career change story, from IT professional to becoming a writer. 

By Anne John

I was living the Indian Software Engineer dream. Selected early on by a reputed IT MNC during campus recruitment even before I finished my graduation, offered a hefty salary, with promises of a friendly and open work culture and exciting opportunities for travelling abroad – it seemed like I had it all. I had every reason to be happy. But strangely, I always felt that something was missing.

Shifting careers: Knowing what I wanted

Today, people ask me, “When did you get interested in Journalism?” My interest goes a long way back. When I read Lavanya’s interview, it felt like she was echoing my sentiments! Although I too was a good student, I never excelled at anything; until that fateful day, in 8th grade, when my English teacher singled me out and praised my work. That is when I began to actually believe, that maybe I was capable of shining at something. But I had still not made up my mind completely, by the time we were supposed to choose our streams in the 11th grade and so I chose what seemed to be the most popular one – science. As the months rolled by, it became clear to me that this was not for me. It’s not that I found it extremely difficult – rather, I was extremely bored.

Once I finished school, a bitter battle raged at home, when I joined a prominent Arts college to pursue English Literature instead of Engineering. There was such a hue and cry that I finally gave in, dropped out and joined Engineering instead.

I worked for four years in the IT industry in a wonderful company. I learnt a lot, did my work sincerely, made a few great friends, travelled to a handful of countries and grew as a person. But there was not a single day that I got out of bed looking forward to go to work. There was not one instance where I felt that I should contribute more than what was expected of me. After a while, it dawned on me that the main thing I liked about my job was the month end pay slip. When I had a choice to move to another country with my husband, I took it and did not feel the least bit of remorse that I was quitting a lucrative career. In fact, all I felt was freedom!

A career change towards my dreams

Once we had moved and settled down into married life, my husband encouraged me to follow my dreams. But the once-earning-and-standing-on-my-own-feet part of me could not bear to make him pay for my studies. So I pooled in all the settlement money from my previous company and joined a long-distance journalism course. I was not sure if I possessed the discipline and dedication to study from home, but I found myself waiting eagerly for the lessons and plunged into the assignments with gusto.

As my course was nearing completion, I started hunting for writing opportunities. Of course, I would have loved to land a position with some “famous” publication – but I did not harbour any illusions. Realistically, I knew that I would face stiff competition from other journalists my age who would have hands-on experience as well as exposure. Being in a country whose language was alien to me did not help my cause either.

I was not sure if I possessed the discipline and dedication to study from home, but I found myself waiting eagerly for the lessons and plunged into the assignments with gusto.

During the course of my browsing, I came across Women’s Web, quite accidentally (Providence?!) and liking what I saw, soon became a regular reader. It was then that I noticed that Women’s Web, welcomed book  reviews from contributors. Grabbing at every possible straw, I took a shot and sent in a few reviews to the Editor. Imagine my delight, when they were published!

As fate would have it, Women’s Web was on the lookout for an intern. I applied and got it.  This opportunity soon grew into a full-time position, allowing me to start my career in my chosen field.

Shifting careers does mean compromises

I was fortunate enough to not have any pressing financial responsibilities to fulfil; therefore I could afford to take the risk of a career switch. Still, the transition has not been easy. Being a beginner in this field, understandably, my bank account is considerably lighter than it would have been had I stuck on in IT. My parents have yet to come to terms with the fact that their daughter chose to ditch a handsome career for a relatively lower-paying job.

The fact that I work from home in my pyjamas only adds fuel to the fire! It can be highly distracting when people assume that I am simply whiling away time and stop by for chats. I realized that to begin with, I needed to give due importance to my work. Then I started explaining to people, firmly but politely that I had work to be done. Initially I was rewarded with surprised looks but slowly the seriousness of ‘work’ has started sinking in. Also, for many years, I had worked in a team environment, whereas now, it is just I, me and myself! Although it suits my temperament, sometimes it does tend to get a little isolated. But technology has shrunk the world, and when I get lonely, it is easy for me to pick up the phone and call up a friend.

When working from home, demarcating work and personal time is quite a challenge, especially when my profession and personal hobbies like reading and writing overlap! It is essential to consciously carve out some time to do things unrelated to work in order to feel refreshed and open up your mind for new ideas.

When working from home, demarcating work and personal time is quite a challenge, especially when my profession and personal hobbies like reading and writing overlap.

To be frank, when I see my friends climb the corporate ladder with fancy designations, buying posh houses, racing in fast cars, eating at upscale restaurants regularly and vacationing at exotic destinations, I sometimes do wonder if perhaps, I made a mistake.

When I see my husband slogging away at work to meet a major part of our joint expenses, and coming home exhausted because of working overtime, I feel guilty for making him pay the price of me following my dreams. I am at a loss to explain what passion is, to some people who say, “You are doing this simply for time-pass right?”

At peace with my career change

Every night I go to bed looking forward to my tasks for the next day eagerly. Every day I log on to work with the same excitement that I felt the very first day. Now I work because I want to, not because I have to. Of course, I have my off days too, when I don’t feel like working, but they don’t last long and when I get published, I feel so satisfied. When I read the comments that come in and see the number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, when I realize that I can strike a chord with others with my words , that I can bring about some change however small it might be, I feel elated.  And I feel assured that I will never regret my decision.

Pic credit: qisur (Used under a Creative Commons Attributions license)

Anne John plays with words for a living and would probably do the same even

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42 Comments


  1. I can understand what you went through…but believe me you come as an inspiration…every morning I get up and just one thing comes up to my mind..”I wish there was no office today”. i wish one day I could just leave my job and pursue something i love.

  2. CP

    Lovely piece and could identify with you as a recent career-changer myself! I think the old trend of one job, one life is changing very fast. In India people are slowly coming into terms that many professions can be held in one life. Life changes with time and so does the priorities and wants, then why not the profession. I see a lots of learning from last career is helping me out in my new one. I am sure your software engineer past will bring extra dimension to your new career. Best of luck and keep going!

  3. @Philo: I so know the feeling! Hope your wish comes true soon 🙂

    @Chandrima: Truly said. Thanks a lot for your kind words!

  4. It’s just one life. It’s my life. Of course, I am not living my life alone. There are my kids, my husband, my parents and others too. So one part of me always told me that I have to be prudent when I have to make a choice. Hence almost five years back, when I couldn’t see my son suffering in many ways because I would be away at work and daycare and relatives just didn’t work out even OK for him, I lost interest in my software job and finally quit. I got a few gifts as a consequence. A peaceful second pregnancy, re-connection with my son who had almost become a stranger to me and a chance to express myself through words (my website-www.apubose.blogspot.com). When I got published in WomensWeb and ParentEdge and HooplaClub and Saturday issue of The New Indian Express, to name the famous ones, it’s like cream on the cake for me.Yes, Anne, as you said, I began to get that feeling of vacuum once I knew software wasn’t my cup of tea though my marksheets and my initial love for money (read self-dependence that comes from money) delayed my second birth. I do miss those great salaries, but, given a chance again, I still wouldn’t go back to that life as long as my husband’s salary and my savings allow me to keep discovering myself through articles and stories and poetry – some for adults and some for children. You got a good break, Anne, I’m still waiting – let’s see!

  5. Hi Anne
    How nice to see someone go through exactly what I have undergone. Being almost 6 years in this field and safe zone of HR MBA.I floundered abit after losing my job to the recession. And then I thought , my Grandma and cousin Savita had always encouraged me to write so I should take up the challenge. And I have been writing for almost 2 years ..Yes like you mentioned I do get envious when I see my other friends dining in style and with all kinds of luxuries but its a small price to pay when I think of the Freedom to work and write…So liberating isnt it? Loved your article..its inspiring me to go on.God bless you and keep the flame burning!

  6. I am caught in the midst of being a research student and writer, and to follow both, the second being my undying passion I am giving up on my sleep.! 🙁 You got a wonderful break at just the right time.! WW is a wonderful portal to exhibit your thoughtfulness in words.!

  7. Hi Anne,

    Nice article!! I completed BE IT from a popular college and ended up as a software developer for a top tier IT firm. Coding gave me nightmares and as luck would have it, I jumped on an opportunity to become a Technical Writer for a product IT firm. I love my job now. So for those like me who detest development, testing but love writing, Technical Writing is another career path in an IT industry that they can consider.

    regards,
    G

  8. Great write-up. And so inspiring. A career shift is exactly what i am trying to do and i dont get motivation from others; every one only condemns leaving a stable Corporate job. Only I know how much I hate it. Hope I can make a shift soon!

  9. Anne, Thanks for sharing your story, it boosts and inspires many of us who have risked their stable jobs for the road less travelled, the alternate but the right path. Trade offs are written quite factually, and your story empowers one to make the right choice….personally this article is under career and not relationships…but brought tears to my eyes….for the truth is beautiful.

  10. Varsh Maher

    Hi Anne, great write up. You echo the sentiments of many of us. I can really understand what you must have gone through by not looking forward to going to office each new day, as I’ve been through it myself hell number of times. It is really wonderful to see you achieve what you set out for. It’s really an inspiration for people like us who are still not able to cross that threshold. I hope to be on the other (satisfied) side of life someday soon and be able to encourage others as well to follow their dreams..good wishes to you for your future.

  11. Thanks Varsh! Your comment makes me feel humbled.

  12. Meera

    This is so close to home… My husband is extremely suportive & encouraging of my writing. With a baby this seemed like a convenient career but slowly it has fueled my passion. Like you said my software job never once gave me the satisfaction nor kindled my fire like writing. My parents had a hard time coming to terms with this strange shift but sticking my guts out has finally convinced them… Thanks Anne for writing about your story… I feels great to know that there are more of us out there 🙂

  13. Hi Annie…great write up !! Considering that I am in the same cross roads life the way you were..having left a lucrative IT job after a decade, I can relate to all you went through..Fortunately for you, you were clear on your interests..while I am just letting the course of life guide me while I explore all my passions and live life to the fullest each day !

  14. I quit my near perfect IT job after 4 years and now I am looking for a transition into journalism too. Its like reading my own story 🙂

  15. Rekha

    I am too at the crux of a change in career paths..hope I remain motivated and not bow down to pressures of money and life. Good to know u did it Anne. Good luck.

  16. Anne: loved the article…from working out of home to exploring it, been there and done that – was able to relate to it 100%. Though my passion lies in interior design and jewelry design, am still trying to find the way to work it out…but a question to you- how did you deal with the financial side- didn’t the fact that you would not have money month on month scare you? how difficult was it for you to be financially dependent on your hubby-as in emotionally? how did you deal with it…pls do throw light on this if you can . thanks -Sade

    • Thanks Sade. I wasn’t particularly scared about not having a monthly salary – I did have some savings and I knew that in case of emergencies my family would always pitch in. I was quite fortunate in that. Depending on my husband for money – well, I think that marriage or any relationship for that matter, works on a give-and-take basis. The way I see it, my husband too depends on me for certain things and I depend on him for certain things. I don’t see anything wrong in that. Also credit goes to my husband for never making me feel that I was at his mercy for money.

  17. Dear Anne. Your story inspires. I can completely relate to it. Though am currently in the throes of taking up writing as a career. It is so important that we wake up each day looking forward to something that is our passion. Hope to reach there soon.. Thanks and good luck to you.
    Sharanya

  18. Sunanda Polavarapu -

    Hi Anne, that was a great inspiring story. I quit my job 3 yrs back and my passion lies in interior design and decoration and also get involved in a good NGO and help under previledged people. I am also still trying to find the way to work it out financially like sadewish. You had your husband to support you both financially and emotionally. I am single and 46yrs old and i do have some little savings which i can’t take risk as i need to get along with my expenses and retirement. how did you deal with it…pls give some inputs so that it can show me a way.

  19. hi Anne,
    really I moved by your story. I am a lateral entry BE student and I had worked after my diploma. but immediately after my engineering I got married and got conceived earlier. so i found no time to look in to my career till this time. but now I m feeling lonely, left out alone in this fast growing world. your article gave me lot of confidence. my husband encourages me in my writing. even I m interested in that. what is the first step I need to do. is there any need of completing a basic course on writing. because I feel I need to improve my language. kindly help me in this. everyday I end up with frustration in searching my interest and not achieving it. I want to make my days interesting and to earn money just for a moral support. I m waiting for your reply…..

    • Hi Vigna,

      Thank you for your comment. I did a diploma course of Feature Writing And Freelance Journalism from the London School of Journalism. It did serve as a good introduction to a writing career. Similarly, you could also check out some other courses to hone your writing skills. Apart from that, I would suggest to read a lot and to start a blog so that you could polish your writing skills. If interested, Women’s Web is also conducting an event this weekend for aspiring freelance writers. More details: http://em.explara.com/event/cracking-the-freelance-writing-market

  20. The piece has so much warmth Anne! I am in two minds – to choose my passion or the corporate ladder. Hope the Almighty makes me choose the best.
    Keep writing!

  21. lavanyad

    I cannot believe how similar our stories are! I wish you the very best of luck in your new job, Anne! And hope we can still read your odd pieces here in WW 🙂

    • Thanks Lavanya! I am enjoying my new job – and yes of course I will continue to write for WW as well 🙂

  22. Thanks for penning my thought process Anne. May you feel fulfilled and happy in your career.

    If I want to send in some articles to Women’s Web, what is the best route to do so?

  23. Sonal Jamuar

    Wow! It was so refreshing to read it! When I decided not to join an IT firm after my engineering,I was treated as if I have done a criminal offence 😛 but Reading this article,I could actually feel that sheer contentment you feel when you do what you have always wanted to do the most!

  24. Thank you Anne and all the other readers here. I also got the harsh treatment and was labelled lazy when I said I did not want to work full-time. I am so glad to hear there are so many of us in the same boat.

  25. Japleen Pasricha

    I might do this soon, very soon.

  26. Oh yes! I can relate myself to this article. I did Electronics engineering then chose a different path, journalism. I studied journalism full time and started working with Ahmedabad mirror from a month back. I do feel same sometimes and ask questions to my self if i did a mistake, but then when I see my stories next morning, I feel satisfied.

  27. Very Nice Article. I can relate to how it feels. I have also put my papers after being in IT industry for quite a long time, serving notice period. Everyday go thru this dilemma of whether I did it right.Really have no clue of where my path will take. Don’t know if being just a all round mum would be very appeasing to my child or me 🙂

  28. Nice write up Anne, very inspiring too. Thank you so much for posting this. I am trying to find the women’s web editor id to send some of stuffs too.

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