Leaving my first tech job

December 17th 2020

I left my first tech job this week.

As it was my first proper “professional” role since graduating from University in 2018, I was undoubtedly anxious to make the jump. After all, the company that I had worked for (BT) was all I knew these past two years. It had well and truly become my comfort zone. In the midst of a global pandemic as well, a part of me was telling myself not to even think about exploring other roles mostly for job security reasons. Alas, my curiosity clearly won as it almost always does!

London, 2018 – during my induction week

When I joined the BT Graduate Scheme in September 2018, I was grateful that a company had even given me a chance especially after experiencing rejections throughout my search post-university. Getting into an industry I was so curious about without a degree in Computer Science was tough. I knew that I had the drive to learn and enthusiasm of technologies but not every company saw that as enough to progress me. So when the call came through from BT that I passed my assessment centre, I was absolutely thrilled – literally shaking with happiness.

I still remember the day I got the call — in the summer of 2018, where I was working as a summer intern at a MedTech company helping out with their internal communications. This was the only company that gave me a shot after University, I took it hoping that it could progress from something temporary to hopefully a full-time job where I could then transfer to their tech/engineering team. Clearly, “destiny” or “fate” or whatever you like to call it had other plans for me. I enthusiastically accepted the graduate position and the rest is history!

My time at BT proved that anything is possible once given the chance.

After every rotation that I completed in the past two years of the scheme, I wrote a blog post. I wanted to capture what I had learned, mostly for myself but also to help others navigating their way through the tech space too. As I look back and read these posts, I’m so proud of how far I have come in the short time I was there.

As with anything, there were ups and downs throughout because hey — that’s life!

Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy my first rotation as much as I thought I would but that’s fine — that is what the graduate scheme is all about: trying things out and seeing what works! There was also an adjustment period at the beginning that I struggled with. I went from being a university student to a small-medium sized company as an intern to an established Enterprise as a graduate… Very shocked and overwhelmed probably doesn’t describe it well enough. I quickly accepted that I still had a lot to learn and adapt to in the working world but I was lucky in that I wasn’t alone with my graduate community going through exactly the same thing.

There were moments where my imposter syndrome got the better of me and it almost became suffocating. At around the end of 2019, I remember that there were days I quietened down from my usual self wondering if this was even the right place for me.

A trait that I believed runs down my family is that we never ever give up. The amount of persistence my parents “passed on”/taught me was enough to wake me up when I had felt like this. They didn’t raise a quitter.

There were close calls where I wanted to quit… but I’m glad that I didn’t — I had another year or so full of learnings and where I got to know the people that played a massive part in building me back up. My future managers and teams encouraged me when I needed it the most. I doubted a lot of my abilities and experienced a blow to my confidence but they helped me pick up the pieces and start over. I’ll be grateful for that forever 🥰

When I moved onto my second rotation, I realised that I enjoyed being part of a technical, more hands-on team. I had a rush whenever I picked up a challenging ticket or when my code was merged to the main branch. After my second rotation where I was primarily working on UI development, I was pretty convinced that I wanted to “graduate” from the scheme as a UI Engineer. For my third (Platform Services) and fourth rotation (Site Reliability Engineering), I threw myself into the exciting world of DevOps/Infrastructure! Although my initial weeks in Platform Services was a challenge, the support from my rotation manager and team kept me going. By the end of the scheme, I had two interviews – one to become an SRE and the other a Software Engineer. After getting two offers and spending way too long overthinking my decision, I became an SRE 🥳

A photoshoot in the office!

My time as an “official” SRE was technically short, but I did spend my final rotation in the SRE team which equipped me with the skills and knowledge to adapt in a DevOps/Infrastructure world. Who knew that I would end up here? I certainly didn’t. 😂 I don’t think my love for Software Development will ever die away (hello, personal projects!) and I’m a multi-hyphenate at my core but I know that infrastructure is something I want to continue to “focus” on.

BT has given me foundations to work with. I know that I might start sounding like a broken record here, but I’m honestly so thankful that I was given the chance to not only learn but also really excel.

As I reflect on the first two years of the working world, two key learnings really stuck out to me. I shared my full thoughts on Instagram if you want to read that, but they are…

  1. Success and achievements that I’ve made all look like individual effort and although I know that I have worked incredibly hard, I couldn’t have done all the things I set out to do without the support and belief from my managers, mentors, colleagues and fellow graduates. Jessica in the comments of my post had said, “It takes a village.” This is so true.
  2. Tech is exciting and being a part of teams that build cool things with cool tech is awesome. But it isn’t always about the technology. It’s also about the people. The people that you work with and the relationships that you have. It’s about connections, being human, looking out for each other and caring for one another.

These are lessons that I value a lot and deeply care about. I’m grateful that my first job in the industry taught me these things which I hope to hold close in my future adventures 💜

Making the decision to leave my first tech role that gave me a world of opportunities was…tough. It’s no surprise that I’ve been struggling to come to terms with it since I handed my notice in three months ago but I know that long-term this is the best thing I will do for myself. I didn’t want anxiety of the unknown and imposter syndrome to hold me back!!

Another photoshoot I ended up being a part of 😂

It actually reminds me of when I decided to move out of my family’s house to chase after this job at BT… At the time, I knew it was the jump that I needed to do for my professional and personal growth. But once I had moved out, I struggled with homesickness for the first few months and almost considered moving back because I felt like it was impossible to cope.

Fast forward to today, I’ve moved around different apartments in Leeds, made some great friends, found my communities, survived being an independent adult and overall just feeling super proud of myself for standing on my own two feet.

Similar to that experience, I know that down the line, I’m going to be thankful for investing in myself even though right now it feels like the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’m definitely way out of my comfort zone now, but I have absolutely no regrets and I know that I just gotta keep moving. I’m hungry to build myself technically, get up to speed with industry standards, explore how other tech teams do their thing and to see what value I can provide to my future team and wider company.

My main goal after rolling off the scheme was to become a better Engineer and to continue opening doors for others as I explore ahead.

I believe that this jump will continue to help me achieve this. My next challenge scares me no doubt, but change and growth never happens in my comfort zone. Sometimes in order to truly stretch yourself, you need to take the leap with your eyes closed.

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2 comments

  1. Modupesays

    Hi Pauline! This was an amazing post! And I can relate with it a lot as I moved out of London to Birmingham for my first professional graduate job. It has allowed me to learn so much more about myself; what I like and don’t like. This was a great read and very motivating! I just have a question, now that you have left your tech role, what are your future plans? Are you taking a career break or are you actively applying for other roles at different companies?

    [December 17th 2020 at 11:15 PM]
    1. Paulinesays

      Hey Modupe! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. 😊 Big life changes are scary, but are vital for growth – I’m sure that you’re a better version of yourself now after the move. I’m actually moving on to another company this January, I’m really looking forward to it!

      [December 19th 2020 at 11:40 AM]