Switching careers after 9+ years: is my background an advantage or hindrance?

I am probably not the only one: after 9+ years on a successful career, I am trying to switch to tech.

In my case, from architecture. My last position was design director for a prestigious firm. But then I decided I like to build things online more than in real life.

I am now 39, again looking for entry-level full-stack/frontend jobs. I’ve been coding since forever (there can be a lot of Python in architecture!) and I have 4+ years of self-taught web development history, with many side projects to show for it.

On top of that, I think I bring a lot to the table from my previous career. I know how to get things done, I know how to work both in teams and managing diverse and complex teams. Architecture is, in some ways, very similar to software, in which you have complex projects that need the coordination of a variety of professionals in different roles.

But I wonder if age + too much previous baggage might actually hurt me and if I should try to refrain from selling it when applying for jobs.

What do you think? Anyone here in the same boat?

Hi Daniel, welcome to the community!

This is a pretty common question in tech these days, and I was in a similar boat to you. I spent 6 years in marketing before I made the switch to software engineering.

My experience is that your previous work won’t hurt you, but it won’t help much either. I suggest you condense all of your 9 years of architecture experience to 1 or 2 lines at the bottom of your resume and highlight just a couple things from the architecture job that apply to as software engineering as well (managing projects, detail oriented ect). Use most of your resume to describe and explain any and all coding projects that you have done.

And then because you have a-typical experience, its all the more important that these projects that you highlight show that you are writing clean code in line with common best-practices. If you have clean code in your side projects, you’ll do great. But if you don’t, it will be a red-flag. Also, projects with good clean code are more important than the functionality of the project itself (it could basically do nothing as long as its written well).

Hope that helps!

Hey Dylan, thanks for the reply.

Yeah, this is pretty much what I am doing. I display my education and architecture career on my CV but under “additional experience.” In the interviews and cover letters I highlight the important points that I bring from architecture to software engineering. And I am going through all my projects again and refactoring the old ones where necessary, making great READMEs, adding important unit tests and integration tests… also, writing an article about each project for my dev website, to guide people through the thought process behind them.

I’m less than a month into the job search, we’ll see how it all pays off :slight_smile: