From Coding in Aerospace to Waiting Tables: My Journey to Becoming a Tech Leader and a Finalist for 2023 Women in Digital Awards

From Coding in Aerospace to Waiting Tables: My Journey to Becoming a Tech Leader and a Finalist for 2023 Women in Digital Awards

Nov 3, 2023ยท

7 min read

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The mind is everything. What you think you become. - Buddha

Every year, approximately 400,000 overseas students are granted subclass 500 visas to study in Australia. In 2012, I was one among them. If you have viewed my LinkedIn profile, my career path has been gradual and smooth. Behind the lines, there is a story and one that will resonate with immigrant students. If you are contemplating moving to Australia for higher studies, this is for you. Through this blog, I will narrate the untold story at the same time, share the lessons I learnt through the journey.

The Untold Story

Prologue

Setting: 2010, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India.

woman wearing academic cap and dress selective focus photography

I graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering. Good News! I already received a job offer letter while in my last term for a Software Engineer position at IGATE Global Solutions Ltd (acquired by Capgemini in 2015). Bad News! I rejected the offer and pursued my dream of studying Masters in the USA. I received I-20s from multiple universities. Everything is set, but as they say, plans never go as expected. Due to personal reasons, I could no longer continue that path. That was my first dose of reality. It didn't deter me. I applied to various companies and attended multiple interviews. Finally, I cracked one of the most gruelling interviews at that time. I got offered a Software Engineer role at Honeywell Technology Solutions.

After rigorous training in 3 different cities where some of my colleagues got eliminated at five levels (It's worse than Master Chef eliminations!), I got placed in Hyderabad. Good news! I got to work on Airbus A350 Cabin Pressure Control Systems. The learnings, the job, the canteen food, simulation training on Boeing 747 - it's simply epic! Bad news! I resigned from the job to finally pursue Masters in Australia. My seniors and mentors advised against it, they had some pretty harsh words calling it stupid to give up everything and start again fresh in a new country.

Inciting Incident

Setting: 2012, Gold Coast, Australia

aerial view of city buildings near sea during daytime

Before moving to Australia, I prepared for it all. The new wardrobe, subjects I want to pick, College map, accommodation and so the list goes. But what I didn't prepare for is the accent. It took me a while to get used to it and adjust mine so my college presentations made sense. Good News! I loved my new classes, the library, the clean air (no dust allergy every season), the easy commute and the beautiful Gold Coast weather. Bad News! Bills are expensive. I managed a part-time job as wait staff at an Indian takeaway shop. I was persistent in checking the career cell and approaching professors for part-time opportunities. One of the professors asked me if I had been offered an unpaid job, would I accept it? I responded positively because I learned by then it is crucial to gain local experience (my previous work at Honeywell didn't count for anything), even if it is for free.

Rising Action

Brown's Bar-B-Q storefront

I was working long hours, attending classes in the morning, working part-time in the evenings and doing assignments late into the night. I guess all that hard work paid off, I received the dean's and vice chancellor's awards for academic excellence. Good News! I received a paid internship to work as a Software Engineer at Business Class Transfers. I ended up being the only IT person to support their digital transformation project of moving all their legacy systems and manual processes to Salesforce - it worked in my favour I learned heaps. Bad News! My last term approached and I realised there were very few IT companies in Gold Coast at that time and all the big companies outside of Gold Coast required permanent residency or citizenship as hiring eligibility. I wrote emails to the human resources to be turned down.

The Plot Thickens

white printed paper

The rules for permanent residency changed and new requirements were added for a 1 year professional year. That permanent residency looked very far away for some time. Good News! My paid internship at Business Class Transfers matched its requirements and didn't have to wait long. Bad News! My last term professional internship subject. I was hoping to do it at IBM. Unfortunately, that didn't happen to due unforeseen reasons like that's the last year of IT school. I learnt by then that plans never go as expected. So, I ended up doing an internship at RightCrowd. I remember my professor explaining to me that it meets my requirements - they have a global presence, they have growth opportunities and they are building interesting products.

Climax

Setting: 2014, Gold Coast, Australia

woman standing in brown field while looking sideways

I was juggling university assignments, paperwork for permanent residency, preparing for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the last term professional internship at RightCrowd. Good News! I got offered a full-time role at Business Class Transfers and also at RightCrowd. Bad News! They offered me a technical business analyst role contrary to the developer-oriented roles I was shooting for. I did my internship with the professional services team and that is where the company saw I would add value. It's a big shift to my mindset and plans - almost felt like changing career paths. If there is one lesson I learnt with all the curve balls life threw my way - never waste an opportunity and make the best of it. I chose RightCrowd and helped solve complex physical security problems for the next 7 years.

Falling Action

I graduated with distinction, and I already had a job offer so it was a straight switch from college to real-world! My husband and I received our permanent residency two and a half months past my graduation date.

Epilogue

Women In Digital

Currently, I am working as a Tech Arch Delivery Manager at Accenture. A recognised expert in leading multiple high-risk projects starting from requirements elicitation to the deployment process. I reached here not because I was lucky to find an IT job in Gold Coast straight after university. No, it worked for me because I delivered tasks as if it were my last job and I tried meeting every deadline to my best. Today, I am a finalist for two categories: Digital Transformation Leader of the Year and Technical Leader of the Year at the Women in Digital 2023 Awards. It's a long way here and some important lessons I picked along the way:

  • Be Flexible - Plans never go as planned so stay strong and work with what you got.

  • Be Proactive - Have regular catch-ups with your supervisor, get feedback, ask questions even if you think they may be dumb, identify expectations and mainly do not make any assumptions.

  • Communicate - If you are looking for new work, communicate ahead with your supervisor. If you promised to get a job done, make it or break it communicate and set the expectations.

  • Trust your Mentor - It is very important to make some allies in your workplace whether it is people senior to you or at the same level. Schedule regular catch-ups, build trust and trust their advice. If you don't trust your current mentor or you don't think their advice is helping then it is time to find a new one.

  • Balance the Art of Saying No and Yes - It is very hard to say No but you will learn the hard way. If you say yes to every task, you will be overloaded and may be burnt out. Ask yourself, is this part of my job description, if not is it going to help in my career growth? At the same time, it is important to be confident and say yes when the best opportunities knock on your door.

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