From salesman to programmer — how I managed to escape my comfort zone

Karl Valliste
Mar 15 · 4 min read

There is a saying that you should try new things because you never know what you might love. This sounds like something motivational people would say, but the world today has so much to offer that you owe it to yourself to try. Here’s how this idea ended up changing my career path.

In 2013 I was 26 year old with roughly seven years of experience in sales and client communication, working as a salesman in a local car dealership. I was not happy with my line of work. Although quite experienced in my field, I was dissatisfied with my professional career. As a way out to better things, I was studying business management part-time at a local college. This turned out to be more of the same, so I was planning to drop out. Before I did though, I decided to take an optional introductory course to programming, because I had no idea how any of our software works and how it is built.

The course was rudimental and meant for people with almost no previous interaction with a computer besides everyday use and web browsing. The course was based around the basics of C#, and the tempo was so slow that during the almost 40h course we barely covered loops. However, since the third lesson, something inside me clicked into place, and I wanted to know more about this world I was dipping my toes into.

Hardest decisions are the ones that matter the most

Making life-changing decisions is hard. On the one hand, I had a job that I had experience in. A job, that was paying me enough to live comfortably, and that could grow as I continue to build my sales techniques and client base. This was my comfort zone, even if I did not love doing it. The other option was to risk it all and quit my job to start school with people almost ten years younger than me and learn something new that I was truly interested in. Unable to make up my mind, I applied to the Computer Science program at my local university, almost for fun. I was accepted.

It was apparent to me that if I was going to do this, then I was not going to do this part-time. I had tried it before with my business management major, and I wanted to focus on the degree at hand. If I would have had to pay a tuition fee, I would have buried the thought then and there. Fortunately, our government takes care of the tuition. But money was still an issue since I had to leave my job. If I sold my car, I could live on the money for close to a year out of the three year period. By applying for a student loan, I could stretch it to a year and a half. I decided to take the risk and handed in my resignation letter. I sold my car and filled out the application for a student loan.

Taking up the school road once more

The age gap is a minor worry when going back to school in your mid-twenties. In a few months, you almost don’t feel the difference. But starting math again is a different matter. It is scary how hard higher maths can be after nearly a decade of using simple multiplication at best. In the end, everything is manageable. The question is how many late nights you have to put in.

Since the second semester I started receiving a small scholarship from the university, and in my second year, I started doing some freelance sales representative work on the side. Suddenly my income was almost on par with what I had made previously working full time.

Walking home from my final thesis defense

Fast forward to May 2017, and I was graduating with a diploma in Computer Engineering at age 30. After a two month break, I started working in Mobi Lab as a junior Android Software Engineer, and I have not looked back since. My job now is full of everyday challenges, always learning and improving my skills and understanding of the products I build. The difference is now I want to come to work and I love what I do.

From my personal experience, I can assure you that the world today is increasingly a learners’ world. This world rewards the bold and the brave who climb out of their comfort zone to throw themselves into the abyss of the unknown. There are all sorts of learning opportunities everywhere, and you could start learning new skills or take up incredible hobbies. But to do that, you need to defeat the one person that stands in your way. That person is you.

I am an avid player of tabletop games, enjoy playing disc golf and I generally can’t say no to a challenging puzzle.

I work as an Android Software Engineer at Mobi Lab. Mobi Lab is a product design and development company. We run our product development in-house but also work in joint teams with clients in Europe and the US. Mobi Lab is one of the few Google Certified Agencies for Android technology.

Mobi Lab

A team of designers and engineers sharing their passion for UX | http://lab.mobi

Karl Valliste

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Mobi Lab

Mobi Lab

A team of designers and engineers sharing their passion for UX | http://lab.mobi