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Have you ever thought about a career change, then talked yourself out of it because it didn’t seem possible given your other commitments? It’s easy to do when you’re managing so many other demands—families to care for, bills to pay, personal challenges to overcome. But these demands don’t have to stop you! Mike Farrelly’s story will show you that you career change IS possible, as long as you have a solid plan and you’re prepared to work to find your ideal role.
Mike is a graduate of Udacity’s Full-Stack Web Developer, Android Basics, and Android Developer Nanodegree programs. He now has an amazing life in Tokyo, where he lives with his wife and young daughter. And he has recently started an exciting new role as a software engineer. But this wasn’t always the case. When Mike first came to Japan, he felt stuck in a job he didn’t like. So he transformed his career through grit and an incredible work ethic, and he now loves what he does.
Mike moved to Japan from Hawaii to live with his wife. He began teaching English to schoolchildren in Tokyo. Mike had never envisaged himself teaching. But he needed to find a job—any job—to start his life in his new country. He worked hard, built on Japanese language skills he’d gained in college, and taught for the next four and a half years.
During this time, Mike and his wife had a daughter. His responsibilities grew, but his passion for teaching didn’t.
“I started thinking to myself that I really don’t want to keep teaching for the rest of my life. I’d tried a little coding in C++ once before, enjoyed it, and thought learning to program could be a way to change careers to something more interesting.”
Mike knew that learning new programming skills would take time, but time was something he had very little of. He had a heavy work schedule, a lengthy commute, and he had his responsibilities as a parent. So Mike decided to start a strict routine where he would get up very early—at around 3am—every single day. Then he would study for a few hours, before his young daughter woke up at 6am.
To help practice what he was studying, Mike built his own projects. He created a time management web application to help plan his own schedule, and put it on his GitHub account to showcase his skills to potential recruiters. These strategies paid off—he applied to one developer role, and was invited to interview!
“I think when I interviewed with them, the recruiters knew that my skills weren’t necessarily up to par, but they really liked how I presented myself. I had a portfolio of my projects that I could talk to them about right in the interview room. They could see I was motivated to learn more.”
Mike learned a valuable lesson about the importance of project-based learning, and about the benefits of an optimized professional brand. He’d impressed his recruiters, and the startup offered him the job. He worked on Android development, React, web development, and iOS development, all within his first months. He loved the opportunity to expand his skills, but quickly realized his employer didn’t have the resources to provide guidance on what he was learning. Mike was left to study alone and he started to feel overwhelmed. That’s when he returned to Udacity.
He signed up for the Full-Stack Web Developer Nanodegree program because it combined the programming skills he wanted to learn with the mentoring support he needed. His experience in the program was so positive that, when he graduated, he enrolled in the Android Basics and Android Developer Nanodegree programs in quick succession.
By the end of his first year at the startup, and with three Nanodegree programs under his belt, Mike felt ready to land a full-time Android developer job. He applied to a number of roles and landed some interviews.
“Two things essentially got me my current role: the portfolio of completed projects I had built, and the fact that I had been so disciplined about studying. The hiring manager essentially said, ‘this guy clearly wants to learn more than other candidates,’ so they chose to hire me.”
Mike now works as a software engineer, working mainly on Android. He has stuck to his early morning routine, and has additionally started mentoring other Udacity students through their programs.
“I asked so so many questions of my own classroom mentor when I was studying. They clearly went above and beyond to give me the support I needed. So I try to do the same with the feedback and support I give. I like that I can give back.”
Mike’s career is now on a dramatically different track to where it was two years ago. He recognized he needed a different role. Then he made a solid plan that allowed him to learn new job-ready skills, while maintaining his current employment. He found a learning approach that fit this plan, and he worked hard to put his strategy into action.
“I feel like I actually have a career now, with real growth potential. With teaching, I felt like I’d reached a level I would stay at until the end of my career. With what I’m doing now, I feel like there’s so much more I can do, and more that I can learn. There’s definitely room to grow.”
That is so good to hear! Congratulations to you, Mike! Your new role sounds amazing and we can’t wait to hear about all the amazing things you’re going to work on!