The (curious) case of the thirty-something graduate

When Alexandra Haret heard the ‘call of the code’, she left behind a ten year marketing career to retrain as a software engineer. Along the way she realised that her story is not as uncommon as she thought — and that not all grad schemes are created equal.

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Students attend a graduation ceremony at Walla Walla University in Washington, USA

In June I (re)joined Skyscanner as a thirty-plus year-old graduate software engineer. How did this come about? The answer to this question has two parts…

Part one — my not-so-uncommon story of career change

I remember being anxious at first about how awkward and difficult it would be to explain to others how and why I made this change. Yet to my very pleasant surprise, the more I spoke about it, the more I understood how common this story is becoming nowadays. Our professional careers are now more fluid and flexible than even before — and it’s no wonder: we live in a day and age where high quality learning resources are very accessible — and either free, or very inexpensive. Changing career is no longer such an uncommon story, and it’s becoming a choice bravely made by more and more people.

Part two — joining Skyscanner

But am I really a grad?

While it’s true that I did graduate from something (an MA in International Marketing) at a certain point in my life (about 5 years ago), was I still ‘a grad’? I was joining Skyscanner as a self-trained software engineer, with a couple of years of domain work experience (and almost a decade more in a different business sector).

I will admit, right here, that I had some mixed feelings about wearing the grad label, both during the recruitment process and after joining the company:

  • I was coming from a previous role where I considered myself an entry/mid-level engineer, so applying for a graduate position initially felt like taking a step backwards. I would discover after joining that this was not the case at all: I quickly found myself immersed in projects of varying complexity, with infrastructures, processes and tools that were much above the level of those I’d worked with in my previous roles. The sky — and ones appetite for learning — really is the limit here!
  • I worried that I would be the oldest graduate (by a large margin!) in my group interview session. To my surprise — again! — I wasn’t. But even if I had been, the interview was challenging and engaging and I didn’t feel like any attention was paid to aspects other than my technical knowledge and soft skills
  • After joining, I was introduced as a graduate a couple of times and, while it was technically accurate, it still did not feel like it was the right descriptor for me. But I soon discovered a silver-lining: it allowed me to feel more comfortable with asking questions and helped me tackle my impostor syndrome

So that’s the story of how I came to join Skyscanner as a thirty-something grad. And just as advertised, I felt welcomed and empowered from day one — I was immediately added to projects and relevant meetings, and made to feel like an active and respected member of my team straight away. That’s impressive — and honestly, not something many companies can actually offer.

The best part? I’m not alone!

In my first month after joining, I took part in a three-day induction session at Skyscanner’s Edinburgh office, which gave me the chance to meet people from different offices, backgrounds and roles. It was then that I started to hear similar stories from current and former grads who had also joined Skyscanner after having already had a few years of relevant work experience (some of them, like me, had also switched careers before joining).

It is uplifting to realize that, as an organisation, we believe there is value in onboarding individuals from diverse backgrounds and giving them the support they need to thrive.

I also believe this can be an amazing opportunity to narrow the gender gap in tech: 45% of the women interviewed for this study expressed a willingness to retrain in a technical job — meanwhile, Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey reports year after year (after year) that the majority of the women who do work in tech today have only three years of coding experience or less. This suggests there might be a pool of entry(-ish) level but maybe not graduate-age, software engineeresses (apparently that’s a word) out there that could be my/our next colleagues!

And hey, if all or some of this is resonating with you, then please do check out Skyscanner’s job postings — including the grads section — and apply to join us!

Our engineers move people

Just as our customers trust our service, so we trust our Engineers. If you build it, you run it. And right now, we’re creating the next generation of apps, products, systems and services that will define the future of travel.

Together and cross-functionally, our Engineering teams strive to deliver an unmatched traveller experience. Want to discover more? Check out our jobs site.

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About the author: Alexandra Haret

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Alexandra Haret, Skyscanner

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We are the engineers at Skyscanner, the company changing how the world travels. Visit skyscanner.net to see how we walk the talk!

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