Part 4: Reflection on the last 10 months as a physical therapist turned software engineer.
Since 3 parts were not enough….here’s a 4th one…
It has almost been a year since I officially made the jump from a 10 year career as a physical therapist to a brand new world as a software engineer. What seemed terrifying and nearly impossible at first, has turned out to be welcoming, motivating, and exciting once my feet hit the ground on the other side (You can read Parts 1–3 which cover what I did and how I did it here on Medium). Ultimately, this decision has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made in my life so far.
The culture difference blew my mind!
From day one as an engineer, the first stark difference that I noticed was the culture. For the first time in my working life, I felt incredibly appreciated and valued. The level of investment that the company has had in my growth as an engineer was apparent right from the start. It was clear that I was seen as an asset to the company because of my health care background and the new engineering skillset that I had developed over the previous 1–2 years. People of all levels wanted to see me succeed, and it was expressed to me by various successful leaders and engineers in the company what it took to do so. I was immediately embraced by the team and was taught by those with the skills that I desired.
The optimism and positivity did not stop there. The people around me have been positive and excited about the future of the company and their careers. I have yet to encounter anyone who is complaining about the state of the industry, profession, and/or company, which is what I had grown accustomed to in the world of rehabilitation. The level of optimism is rampant and makes work such a positive environment to be a part of. Watching and being a part of a company that is growing and accomplishing such incredible things has been something to be proud of and something that I love.
Sooooooo many possibilities…
Another thing that has been very exciting is how I was given what is expected of me right away and a clear road map of how to progress my career. The various paths and opportunities that are available as an engineer in the start-up world are without boundaries and limits. Each step in any career trajectory you may choose is explained and reviewed frequently with you so that you are in the best position to accomplish what you want to accomplish. The possibilities are numerous and the way to get there is clear!
Growth mindset engaged.
What is also very clear is that I always know how I am doing at my job. 1:1s with your direct manager are held every other week to keep you on track in achieving mutual realistic goals, and to keep you interested in the work that you are doing. Focus is placed on how they can help you in your career, and not spent focusing on what you are doing wrong. There is no talk about numbers. There is no talk about reimbursement cuts. It’s all talk about opportunity, personal and professional reflection, constructive feedback, growth, and establishing what you want out of your career and what opportunities will get you closer to that. If I am having difficulty completing a task, the question is what are my barriers to doing so? Not…what is wrong with you? Not comparing me to other employees who are more productive. The focus is to give me the resources I need to get unblocked and to facilitate my learning and growth to tackle similar or more difficult tasks in the future. This also extends beyond meetings, as coworkers and management consistently celebrate success and are supportive in times of need. This approach is very consistent with the growth mindset that I was looking for in my career.
A big emphasis is placed on balance: how to accomplish and maintain it. There are no concrete productivity standards, no limitations on time off, no rigid schedule structure, and a remote work environment that allows you to make your schedule and take breaks the way you want and need to. Don’t get me wrong…your company and team stress that it is very important that you get your work done, but they also stress that it is very important to them that you do not burn out! I have actually been encouraged to take more time off, which I am NOT used to. There is also no more alternating schedules. No more late nights or weekend days at the clinic completing documentation. No more ALWAYS having “to be on” even when you do not feel like you can or want to. You are treated as the human you are and not the money you can pull in. Outside of work… a new life of consistent working out, eating, and sleeping schedules has become the norm. For the first time, I feel like I am in control of my life.
I hate the phrase… but imposter syndrome is real. HOWEVER, your perspective makes a big difference. I have had some very challenging tasks so far in my early career. Ones that I did not know if I would be able to accomplish. Ones that I needed to show humility and ask for help at times. Some of these include speaking and demoing features in front of my whole company (multiple times), leading a project, being responsible for new features and solving customer facing bugs, and having performed huge data exports and migrations for large hospital systems totaling more than hundreds of thousands of patients. I have had to learn multiple new languages, types of technologies, concepts I have never been exposed to, and numerous things that I just did not understand and that seemed impossible to do so. But seeing what challenge is in front of me as a learning opportunity, being gentle on myself, and knowing that it is okay to ask for help has made this a value rather than a hindrance. Recognizing that leadership is giving you these opportunities because they believe in you is an important realization to make. It took a lot of unlearning of the programming (no pun intended) from my previous career to battle the fears associated with feeling like a fraud. In doing so, these opportunities have not only caused me to grow and improve my skillset as an engineer, but also as a person.
The Big Surprise.
With that being said, what has been a very big surprise has been the overall positive effect that the career change has had on my entire life. The challenges of the work that I do plus the relatively low stress and highly supportive environment in which I work in has allowed me to access more of my cognitive abilities than ever before. I feel sharper and quicker inside and outside of work. I feel an improved ability to problem solve and handle situations in all aspects of my life. I feel more confident. My abilities to communicate with others and to make decisions has significantly improved. And most importantly, I am thinking more about others and less about myself. This has truly been one of the most incredible gifts of the nature of the job, my new career, and my amazing employer and coworkers.
At the age of 37, I am proud to say that I feel like I have found my calling. To say I love my job would be an understatement. I truly enjoy what I do. My days fly by. I reach flow state daily. I feel like I am building, creating, and solving problems all day long. The work can be really challenging, but that affords me the opportunity to learn so much about engineering AND myself EVERY day. Work feels like play at times. I feel the impact I make on the company’s vision, and as a result the healthcare world on such a large scale. I find myself wanting to work more, not because I HAVE to but because I enjoy doing so. Wanting to spend the extra time to complete assignments, and not feeling like it is work has been such a change to get used to. I feel like I am an essential part of a team and that I belong. Yes, there are always tougher days, but my worst days at work are better than my best days in the past. I look forward to going to work. There has not been a Monday yet that I have not been looking forward to, or a Friday that I have been crawling out of. I love what I do and can see myself doing this for a very long time.
Lastly but most importantly, I am truly grateful for all those who have helped make this possible. All the people that assisted me in this journey and those that continue to help me on my path. I am beyond fortunate to have the people in my life that I do. Because without those people, this change and the success that I am having would have never been possible. I am always here to help those that are in need, as others have helped me.
If any of this resonated with you, or if you just want to connect to share your journey/hear more of mine feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.