Life after career switch (from accounting to tech)


Around the year 2016, I decided to take a leap of faith to do a career switch from accounting to tech. Ever since I made that decision, a lot of things have changed. There were ups and downs but I would definitely say it was an incredible journey. It has been a been while since I posted anything and I thought that I should give an update on my progress.

Securing my first job after the completion of my masters

After completing my master's in Singapore Management University, I was lucky to get a banking role that dealt heavily with data. It involves the extraction and transformation of data so that you are able to produce reports and perform data analytics projects. The main challenge I had was the lack of domain knowledge. It became quite a struggle for me because I had always been in the accounting line but the role entails credit risk which I had no prior experience and knowledge of.

Thus, it was a steep learning curve that I have to grapple with. Personally, I enjoyed learning the technical and business aspect of this role. However, I was not very happy with the culture within the department. My teammates were great but my superiors do not really know how to provide support to the subordinates. Many people in my team left the company because they shared the same sentiments. Feeling demoralized and handicapped by the situation, I also decided to leave to pursue another job that would help me in my growth in data analytics and technical skills.

Joining a fintech start-up

During my short stint in the bank, I did managed to complete a project with the help of my senior’s guidance. At the same time, I was able to perform ad hoc projects using R and Python. At that point in time, I was trying to solve the problem of converting pdf files to excel using Python and this project turned out to be a skillset that the start-up required. The start-up management believed that I can value add to the team and I joined the firm shortly after.

In this fin-tech start-up (I believe now it has pivoted slightly from its initial product), the product focuses on bringing in clients’ bank statements and transforming the data so that it could produce a single and aligned view for all of their assets. As most financial institutions do not share their information with each other, it was hard for clients to have an overall view of their financial health at a glance. Therefore, this product was meant to solve this problem.

How does the product work?

Unfortunately, I would say that the product does not have the technology to transform the data automatically. It relies a lot on human labor to enter data into the system. Though we have worked on using python to perform computer vision to retrieve information, the format was always never clean and a lot of manual entries are still required. On top of that, their process of data governance was to eye-ball and perform manual checks to ensure its quality. When more requests come in, it means we will be overloaded with all of these tasks. As such, I think it is more of a labor-intensive job scope rather than a technical one.

Opportunities appearing…and leaving the start-up

I am grateful that after I graduated with my master's and held a data job for less than 2 years, I was getting requests and calls from recruiters to move to another role. I decided to leave the start-up for a few reasons:

  1. It had a very toxic and micromanaging culture. My boss keeps track of my timing as we need to perform clock-in and clock-out for every task we performed. Sometimes, we have to spend more time answering why we took so long for some tasks rather than gaining more time to perform the tasks. Initially, the capturing of hours was to bill the hours to the clients which I can understand. However, it eventually became a tool to micromanage the employees.
  2. The management does not have a good understanding of the product or processes. They want to see tasks being done fast without considering the consequences of not performing adequate checks on the quality. As a result, it caused more re-work which eventually took a long time to complete the project.
  3. Lastly, I did feel cheated because the role does not require any technical skills or need to do any analysis. It felt more like a data entry role even though the title was a data analyst role. I am not growing as an individual because the work was not challenging from the technical or analytical perspective.

Hence, when I received a call from the recruiters, I decided to go ahead with the interviews. I was pretty lucky to go through the Google interview process at that time (which I can share about it next time) even though I failed at the very final interview due to my lack of experience. Eventually, I managed to get a role in another bank, sitting in the customer analytics department.

Back to the bank but with a refreshing perspective

I did enjoy my time in the bank as I had a chance to use SQL very often and utilize Python to build an automation workflow for my projects. I also got the chance to build a front-end dashboard for the data science team which showcase my skillset as a front-end developer.

I also got to use Power BI as a platform for my data visualization to the stakeholders. It was challenging but I did gain a lot of experience in building dashboards and managing stakeholders. The team culture was great as well and I get to bounce off a lot of ideas with my teammates. We also had a lot of fun as a team as we tend to hang out together pretty often, discussing work and personal life.

Stepping into the scene as an educator

I believe Linkedin is a really great platform for networking and opportunities. A manager from a coding school messaged me on Linkedin to try out as a data instructor. I had to prepare a sample to teach material for the manager to assess how I would teach the class. The manager did enjoy my sample teaching as my teaching style makes the coding topic more interesting. I did not get any assignment after that until a few months later and that led to the start of my teaching journey.

As this was my first time teaching, I was quite clueless about how to conduct classes and did receive some negative feedback. At that time, I also felt a little bit of imposter syndrome as I just joined the industry for a short period of time. However, I managed to bounce from that and performed better in the second half of the course. I did feel the satisfaction of being able to help students to gain technical skillsets that would help them in their careers.

Covid came…

This is no surprise and it was being dragged on for quite a long while. When the situation worsen, we had to adjust to working from home. As an avid learner, I would keep signing up for courses during that period to upskill myself. As I was attending an internal course organized by the company that spans over a year, I did not have any intention to pursue another role.

Halfway through my course, I received a call for a role in another bank. The pay increment was really attractive and I thought to myself that if I do not take this opportunity, I may not be able to get the same chance in the future again.

I decided to take the risk and accepted the offer.

A whole brand new scope

I found my journey a little fascinating because of the diversity of the work that I took upon. The new role that I took up was about data migration which I had no experience with at all. It was very technical and required a strong understanding of data structures and software infrastructure.

The role required me to study SQL logic and perform ETL for the new database system. This elevated my SQL and database knowledge to a whole new level till I am able to understand the work of a data engineer. However, the team dynamics were not very good and there was a high turnover due to its toxic nature. I managed to stick with this team for about a year before I had another opportunity. Nonetheless, this journey deepens my understanding of data engineering, agile framework, and database systems.

More teaching assignments

As the demand for tech talents rises, there are more schools that needed instructors to conduct bootcamps and courses to teach data analytics and coding. I was very fortunate to be scouted for more opportunities to teach and to co-create the course curricula.

Within a short period, I managed to take on a couple of batches and I must say that I am really happy to see that my students enjoyed and learned a lot from my lessons. Now, I am able to secure more assignments that can keep me busy for the rest of the year.

Moving on to the current role [started late 2021]

I am pretty fortunate that I have moved on to a role that has a mix of business and technical elements. I have always pictured myself to be in a hybrid role, being able to support both the technical and business teams. What I find most interesting is that I will be learning a whole new different domain which is in commercial real estate. I feel like I am a fresh grad all over again as I am learning something new. It is definitely a challenge but I am certainly enjoying my tasks in my current role.

Overall journey

It has been quite a number of ups and downs in the last few years since the career switch. When I reflected on my journey, I realized that I really have grown a lot, particularly in my skillsets as well as upward growth in my career. I have gained a lot of experience in teaching as well which I can consider as my second career. Whenever I am free, I would spend the time mentoring the next generation.

Thank you for reading my update after my career switch. I hope it helps to inspire more people to take up challenges and always be avid learners.

Recently, I have come up with an Instagram page @thetechstoryteller to provide byte size content about tech and data. Please help to support! Hope to see you again in my next post!

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