by Jagoda Dworniczak
Why I left my medical career for the tech world
When I got my first job in IT a few years ago, my tech knowledge was limited to knowing that a server was a big computer.
It was almost two years ago when, just by coincidence, I heard about a job offer that was supposed to be about “writing technical articles in plain English”.
Without too much faith and with even fewer technical skills, I decided to apply. So, while I was still a pharmacy student, I was given a chance to become a Technical Writer for a dynamically developing web app called Voucherify.
This article presents my first steps into the IT World as a Technical Writer, steps which led me into advanced digital marketing and the beginnings of coding.
What am I doing here?
That was my best summary of my first few months at Voucherify. Early weeks were quite a shock. I had to get used to more than five tabs being open in my browser, and learn the way my new team (consisting of developers) worked. In pharmacy, no one had heard about Slack, Trello, or Stand-ups. It was also “hard” to get used to the truly outstanding, loft-style office with Razor Crazy Cart, bouldering wall, ping pong, and free food.
Finally, I switched from a very female-centric profession to the tech industry which is dominated by men. My company currently employs three women including me. In contrast, the pharmacy I worked for employed one man.
I’ve seen the warnings, the stories revealing discrimination against women in the tech world. But so far, I’m so grateful to say that I’ve experienced nothing like that. And I know I’m lucky. I’ve had lots of fun being a part of both female and male-dominated teams. However, because of the bonds of sisterhood, I won’t tell you which style of work I like more.
My first months of this experiment in the tech world required me to learn an enormous amount of digital marketing and e-commerce stuff. But I (slowly) started to feel more comfortable as a part of the team.
My job was mainly focused on writing technical tutorials and building SEO positions with blog content for our app. It was also a time when Voucherify was developing very quickly, and I could witness how the app started to gather more and more customers.
Finally, we came to the first 100 paying customers. Around that time, I had to face a choice between continuing with Voucherify or embracing Pharmacy full time. This was the first time I’d have to make a career decision.
Because of my pharmacy internship (obligatory after pharmacy studies to get the right to practice), I could either quit and give up IT or try to reconcile the internship with Voucherify — which, at that time, meant working more than 230 hours per month.
I decided to stay with Voucherify, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.
What makes IT worth it?
The first thing I learned about working in IT is that there are no ready solutions you can use when you meet an obstacle.
In medicine, you have a general knowledge base which draws on studies and research from all over the world. Thanks to that, you know where to look to find new data or backup for your science work.
IT is different. When a developer meets an obstacle, they need to figure it out for themselves or search the Internet for the answer. Likewise, online marketing is based on regular tests and keeping up with the dynamically changing global technologies.
Our app supports companies all over the world, which means our marketing strategy needs to align with many diversified markets. That makes this work challenging and exciting at the same time. After all — we don’t grow when things are easy.
The other exciting thing is the team and the project. The Voucherify team has let me participate in creating a product which brings measurable value to our customers. It’s a great feeling building something real. And this is what I like about IT and what, in fact, persuaded me to start to learn to code.
Digging deeper into the world of developers
A year working with developers allowed me to familiarize myself with the way they work. What’s great about programming is that it forces you to constantly develop and sharpen up your skills.
From my point of view, this is the reason you can be here for years and still not get bored. It also means your hard work can grant you access to the IT world without the obligatory long years of studies, as is the case in the medical field.
Trying to wrap my first impressions about coding into words, I would say that it requires a level of thinking that pains and frustrates. I and my coding skills are still at this point, with the same feelings. But the moment those few lines of still poor code start to do what they should, it is priceless.
So, summing up for everyone who’s about to begin: take your time, be around people ready to support you, have a lot of patience and the determination to think a lot, and primarily, don’t worry that nothing works.
Studies vs. Jump into the deep water
I started working in an area completely unrelated to the profession I had spent years studying, because it could teach me new things and push me out of my comfort zone. You never know what will be needed in the future, and even the simplest ability could turn out to be useful over time.
For example, a couple of years ago, thanks to my part-time holiday job, I learned to put cucumbers in jars at a very quick pace (it was a piece work). After a month of this work, I could produce one thousand jars daily. And now, my mum and grandmas have a trained assistant (me) when we re-supply our family pantry with cucumber preserves.
Of course, working in digital marketing (or any other field of IT) would be much more comfortable if I had related proven abilities.
However, it would’ve also been a little bit harder for me without any experience in Pharmacy. Soft skills can be very hard to learn while studying coding or design. But I had learned those skills through my work in the medical field. So when I started to support our customers through live chat, I could do it without fear of talking to strangers.
As a pharmacist, I had to face patients standing in front of me for real, expecting professional advice without allowing me the time to think or search the Internet. However, thanks to a year in IT, I was able to Google some problematic answers very fast. 😄
Looking at it from the other side, time spent with computer technologies can only bring you benefits in the future, in any job. Similar to medical companies, all businesses need an IT department, and possessing some tech knowledge gives you an advantage.
I can’t say how much studying digital marketing or computer science would affect my current work, but I think that in the case of IT projects, it’s always good to give it a go and jump in, even without a diploma.
From the perspective of my pharmacy colleagues, I took a step back. I refused to work in a field in which I could be a well-paid professional in order to become a newbie with a long way to go to get to the same point.
For me, leaving my comfort zone was too tempting to refuse. Moreover, because I also met a great team, this “step back” directed many of my steps forward in the future.
Medicine still gives me lots of satisfaction when I occasionally work as a lecturer, and it also allows me to take care of my family in a way I couldn’t without that knowledge. What IT and Voucherify give me though, is a feeling that spending almost 70% of the day working is finally okay.