CAREER CHANGE FROM WRITER TO ENGINEER
Career Change Story - From Technical Writer to Design Engineer
This is the story of Nanditha Suresh who went from a role in technical documentation to landing a core design engineering role, something she always wanted to pursue since her graduation. She tells us how the lack of right skills was her biggest struggle while switching jobs, how she didn't let negative self talk pull her spirits down and what she did to get closer to her goal.
What inspired you to change your career?
From the beginning, I have always wanted to be in a core engineering role. In 2007, when I started off with my first job as a technical writer, I didn't have any information about the technical publications/documentation roles. It was a very new profile. So I accepted that role, and moved on. However I always aspired to being in a purely technical role. I drew inspiration from a dream I had during my undergraduate days as an Electronics Engineer. Back then, there was little known about semiconductor companies, and the EDA industry. When I learnt about the engineering roles in these companies, I realised that it would be more suitable if I pursue a masters degree which will then help the transition.
If you've got your heart set on switching careers, research your options first. Find out if it'll help if you study further or get professional training.
How did you know that this was the career choice for you?
I was always keen to pursue my masters in VLSI specialisation, from the time I graduated. This idea took firm rooting, when I attended seminars by EDA industry experts back in 2006. I was strongly convinced about the path I needed to take for the future. When I learnt about the job profiles in the semiconductor domain, I was particularly interested in the backend design role. Hence, my inclination and aspiration just came together, and made me realise that this is the career choice best suited for me.
Making a career decision is a process; understanding one's skills, getting feedback, having a series of conversations with people, getting mentored and so much more.
Changing careers can be long and daunting. How did you prepare yourself for this change?
I have been a risk-taker from my undergraduate days.I have never been a person who hesitates to try anything new. I have always relied on my conviction, and go with the flow. I am a very hard working person, and once I am convinced, I usually don't stop or look back. Yes, occasionally self doubt does creep in. But that has never held me back. Fortunately, I happened to switch within the company from the previous role to the current role, financial preparedness was not something I had to worry about.
T.S. Eliot said - "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go." If you want to create a change in your life, take a calculated risk.
What did you struggle with the most while switching?
Skill set was my biggest struggle. I knew my qualifications were suitable for the job. But,I had no experience. I knew I would be starting from scratch, I was also aware that graduates/interns would be more knowledgeable than me. My sole intention was to make sure I learn. This has been my mantra every single day.
What you learned 5-10 years ago is fast becoming obsolete. Upskill yourself if you want to be employable and thrive in your industry.
I used my networking skills to stay connected with people in my area and perseverance.
Could you name some transferable skills that helped in your career transition?
A great way to know your transferable skills is to check if your experience (this could be academic, personal or professional) aligns with the skills needed for the job.
Could you break down your career transition journey into a few steps that others could maybe follow?
It was a slow and steady movement towards the goal, spread over a course of many years. Time and place makes a whole lot of difference. So, I worked hard at pursuing my Masters degree, taking up a job in the relevant domain/industry and constantly engaging with the management team to understand if there is any potential for switching profiles in the future. I kept trying to find avenues where a partial assignment can be taken up to demonstrate - ABILITY. INTEREST, and WILLINGNESS. And lastly, it is always about talking to the right people who can support your aspirations.
We all know well that a career transition isn't a linear one and it certainly doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes it can feel a bit like a rollercoaster ride. Just remember to keep going, keep taking action and never lose sight of what your end goal is.
What help did you get while transitioning to your current job?
My management team has been super supportive and encouraging. Their help was the biggest stepping stone for me. Also my company itself is extremely flexible. They encourage employees to try different roles, to seek changes, and expand their skill sets.
It's great to work for a company that values and appreciates your work. If you feel you're stuck in the wrong company, talk to someone about it.
What are your top 3 tips for anyone who’d like to pursue a career in physical design job profile?
1. Get your will power in place, and test it over a period of time to ensure its unshaken.
2. Demonstrate your ability wherever possible.
3. Persevere and don't give up!