Choosing a career is one of the major decisions one must make in one lifetime. Planning, schooling, time, networking, and working to build a successful career. Your chosen career path will be what you’ll do daily for years to come. It’s not uncommon for people to want a different path looking for a better salary, flexibility, satisfaction, culture, etc. And it’s pretty easy to get accustomed to it or grow unsatisfied.
Your first career choice doesn’t always mean it’s forever, and deciding to shift careers shouldn’t be as scary as it sounds. Shifting careers is not a new idea, and if you’re considering shifting into a tech career, take inspiration from seven successful people in tech who deviated from their initial career choices and shifted to tech development.
Larry Ellison is the former CEO of Oracle, the third-largest software company in the world by revenue and market capitalization. He still serves as the executive chairman and chief technology officer currently. Ellison has no actual tech-related degree, nor did he ever take a single computer science course in his life. He had two years as a pre-med student at the University of Illinois and then another two years as a physics and mathematics student at the University of Chicago, where he first encountered programming.
According to Ellison, he was “largely self-taught” when he got a job as a programmer. He began working as a computer programmer for companies like Ampex, Precision Instruments (later Omex), etc. Ellison joined his former colleagues from Ampex, Miner, and Oates to found Software Development Laboratories (now called Oracle Corporation) in 1977, specializing in contractual programming for other companies.
They were commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency to develop a database and released Oracle in 1979. Oracle was the earliest commercial relational database program to use Structured Query Language or SQL and became popular quickly as a versatile database program. They renamed the company Oracle Systems Corporation (now Oracle Corporation) after its flagship product. The company became the largest database management company in 1987. Through Ellison’s leadership, Oracle is now the world’s third-largest software company.
Perhaps the most famous on our list is Elon Musk. Before he became famous as Tesla and SpaceX’s CEO and the wealthiest person in the world, Elon Musk was a Physics and Economics degree holder. He spent just two days at Stanford University for his graduate studies because he felt the Internet had more potential to change society than working in physics.
Musk is known to be a “serial tech entrepreneur” but is no stranger to tech development. When he was 12 years old, his first-ever tech-related venture was Blastar — a video game similar to Space Invaders. He sold the BASIC code for the game for $500. He founded and co-founded many notable companies like Zip2, a web software company that would help newspapers develop online city guides; X.com, a financial technology company; The Boring Company, Neuralink, and OpenAI.
He is the founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer at SpaceX; he is the angel investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.
When Mina Markham worked as a software engineer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, she designed a UI pattern library named Pantsuit. The library allows all the fundraising tech teams to implement the campaign’s design vocabulary consistently and responsively. The Pantsuit was so robust, powerful, and revolutionary that she wrote about it on Medium, which blew up on social media, hence her title Pansuit Seamstress.
She is actively involved in the tech community, mentoring for Black Girls Code and founding the Dallas chapter of Girl Develop It and DFW Sass.
Anders Hejlsberg studied electrical engineering at the Technical University of Denmark and began writing programs for the Nascom microcomputer during his freshman year. Before moving to Microsoft in 1996, he worked for Borland Company for 13 years as the chief engineer. He’s currently the Chief Architect at Microsoft.
Did you know Brian Kernighan created the “Hello, world!” program? He first referenced Hello World in his book A Tutorial Introduction to the Programming Language B and co-authored one of the most widely read programming books, The C Programming Language, with C’s creator Dennis Ritchie.
Brian Kernighan is a computer scientist without a computer science degree. Between 1960 and 1964, he studied at the University of Toronto, receiving his bachelor’s engineering physics degree. Kernighan earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1969. According to him, he started to learn programming during grad school. He spent a summer at Project MAC at MIT and was convinced that it was something he wanted to keep doing.
Although Kernighan had no part in the design of the C language, he authored and co-authored many Unix programs and programming languages, including Dimitroff, AWK, and AMPL programming languages.
Chris DeWolfe was famous as the social media pioneer who popularized social networking and revolutionized the music industry when he served as co-founder and CEO of MySpace. He created his first social networking platform as part of his project in college, which he called Sitegeist. DeWolfe has a finance degree, and in his MBA program’s final year, he conceived the idea for MySpace. MySpace became the most visited site in 2006, with 90 million members.
From MySpace, Christ DeWolfe began a new venture confounding Jam City in 2010, formerly known as Social Gaming Network. DeWolfe’s love of entertainment helped him see the potential of mobile gaming and tapping into the female casual game players market.
Jam City has grown to over 825 personnel and nine studios under DeWolfe’s leadership as of May 2021. His company developed games, including Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Cookie Jam, Panda Pop, Disney Emoji Blitz, and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. Collectively, these apps have been downloaded 1.3 billion times.
Michael Choi founded Coding Dojo, one of the US’s leading and most successful coding schools, with over thirty onsite, online, and international campuses across the globe. Coding Dojo has over 8000 alumni, many of which work in various Fortune 100 companies. Through Coding Dojo’s 14 weeks of rigorous training, students can become full-stack developers who can hit the ground running wherever they choose to work.
Michael developed a passion for coding at the age of 12 when he and his friends would build computer games together. He learned Quick Basics, C++, and Assembly with a friend’s help and by reading books. He continued programming until high school but pursued a different career path. Michael has an undergraduate and master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from BYU and Caltech, respectively, and pursued a master’s degree in Management from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
After failing two of his startup businesses, Michael joined Zurple as a founding team member, eventually serving as the Director of Traffic Acquisition and Operations. His failures and success did not mar his passion for computer science and education. When he felt it was time, he left Zurple to venture on his own to found Village 88, which incubated Coding Dojo. He developed a curriculum that trained two young men from the Philippines to become full-stack developers in three months. Together, they iterated and tweaked the curriculum, and they were able to teach people within nine weeks.
Village 88 was in a pickle in 2013 when Michael decided to post a job ad on Craigslist looking for people who would like to enroll in a 9-week coding training program to learn the LAMP stacks and Ruby on Rails. To his pleasant surprise, there were 10–15 people who applied to join the first batch of Coding Dojo the next day.
As they say, the rest is history. Michael’s journey to where Village 88 and Coding Dojo are now is not all sweet and sunny, but his goal to bring a positive impact to the world will continue to push him toward greater heights.
Your Career, Your Choice
The modern workplace is tremendously flexible, and the tech industry is no exception. No decision has to be made permanent unless you decide it to be, and there’s no need to stick to one profession all your career life.
If you’re unsure whether it’s time to shift to tech, our article 5 Obvious Signs That It’s the Perfect Time For a Career Shift to Tech might help you decide. And if you’ve already decided to shift your career into tech, you’re welcome to join the ranks.
You can join Village 88’s Training. We offer free training for fresh CS/IT graduates and non-CS/IT graduates with coding backgrounds. The training includes over thirty industry-relevant technologies that are currently in demand. This training is free, without hidden charges or future salary deductions when you land a job. No cost, no fee, just free.
We’d love to hear from you! You can check out our website to register or learn more about us. You can also contact us on our FB page for other inquiries. Together, we can achieve your programming goals! We’d love for you to join us.