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.
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
A few years ago, I decided to pivot from an almost ten-year career in marketing and address a question that was echoing more and more loudly in my head: would I enjoy working as a software engineer more? So I decided to woman-up, quit my job, and spend a couple of months on full-time home learning — and sooner than I ever dreamed possible, I got my first job as a web developer.
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
Skyscanner also has a very well put together graduate programme. And this programme turns out to be ideal for the increasing number of people, like me, who are switching careers after a number of years in a different field. It’s a chance to join a mature, innovative organisation with a strong reputation and a commitment to supporting both professional growth and career advancement. Following my career change, I decided it was precisely the type of environment I could thrive in — especially given what I knew about Skyscanner and its culture already (having done a marketing internship at the company a while back).
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!
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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.
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About the author: Alexandra Haret
I’m Alexandra Haret, a Software Engineer working in the Accommodations tribe in Barcelona. Originally from Romania, I’ve lived in Denmark and Scotland before moving to Spain, so that nowadays travel is more than a passion to explore new horizons - it’s also going home and reuniting with friends and family. I am proud to be part of a team that makes all this a little better, one iteration at a time.