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Why I Pursued a Career in Recruiting as a Software EngineerFeatured

People often ask me why I switched from software engineering to recruiting. The truth is, I didn’t feel passionate about programming anymore. It wasn’t a simple realization and it definitely was not a simple decision to make to switch careers; it abstracts all the times I cried to my family and friends, when I felt like a total failure and experienced chronic headaches and exhaustion.

During that time, I had lost myself in pursuit of something I thought I wanted and when I chose to pay closer attention to my mental health and listen to my body, I knew I needed to stop holding on and let myself be free.

I completed a six month coding bootcamp and immediately started an internship at a startup. It was great exposure to working in an existing codebase, being mentored by senior engineers and improving on my skills. From there, I moved on to becoming a frontend engineer at a digital marketing agency, working with clients on their user interface. During my free time, I would build applications for projects I was interested in and learn new technologies. I was fully immersed in flow state and thought I had finally found what I was meant to do.

My debilitating mental state didn’t come out of the blue. You could see it in how much (or how little) I ate, how much more sleep I needed and how little I wanted to interact with people. I wasn’t fully aware of the change in my well-being and didn’t know the cause, assuming it was seasonal affective disorder (I had moved from Los Angeles to the foggy part of San Francisco) or other causes out of my control. It wasn’t until I broke down in tears screaming into my hands for being unable to solve a simple coding challenge that it clicked. It wasn’t an overreaction, it was what I was holding inside all this time. Finally, I had to let my guard down and find the courage and strength to confront myself and admit that what was once something that put me in flow state has now put my mental health at risk.

It took a few days for the idea that maybe engineering wasn’t for me to settle in. Not only was I no longer passionate, but also maybe I needed to be proactive in my well-being and change instead of stubbornly holding onto an idea. That’s when I reflected on my past roles and listed responsibilities that I enjoyed having: chatting and getting to know people, planning and organizing and networking. Admittedly, it was easy to put the pieces together and find that my skills and interests matched qualities of a technical recruiter.

Now that I’ve fully transitioned into a technical recruiter role at a startup, I feel like I’m making an impact and providing value that is aligned with who I am. I’ll still spin up VS Code from time to time and consider going back to engineering. Maybe the timing or my mindset wasn’t right in the beginning, or maybe I wasn’t in a conducive learning environment. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I am where I am now and I encourage everyone reading this post to reflect on their own values and interests, and ask themselves the hard questions: Am I fulfilled? Am I standing in my own way? What am I afraid of?

Thanks for sharing! It can be really difficult to veer from your existing path. If you're open to sharing, I'd love to hear more about what attracted you to recruiting in particular, rather than just what encouraged you to leave engineering. In other words: what were you running toward, not just running from?
andreamilian's profile thumbnail
This is so brave of you! I had the same experience with my career, but when I quit my job and had a break I realized it was not the profession but the environment I was developing my career. Now I'm in a better place and have also learned to have a work-life balance.
maryjantsch's profile thumbnail
Thanks for sharing your experience @katnguyen! I thought this piece was especially brave to share: "I had to let my guard down and find the courage and strength to confront myself and admit that what was once something that put me in flow state has now put my mental health at risk."I'm curious how you might describe how this personal experience informs your interactions as a technical recruiter. Do you think it has helped give you extra strengths when speaking and connecting with technical candidates?
graceturner's profile thumbnail
awesome story! Welcome to the recruiting space!
dianaavelis's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing your journey! Recruiting is something I placed on my long-term growth plan at my current company this year, as I can tell that I won't be interested in coding forever. I've realized since entering the technical world how important team building is from the VERY beginning, starting with the recruitment and interview process. It's a relief that technical-to-recruitment isn't so far fetched a career move, thanks again!
rendani's profile thumbnail
@katnguyen thank you for sharing this. I am in the same process of transitioning from Frontend developer to Technical writer/ Dev advocate. I was holding stubbornly to the idea and how much I have invested in transitioning to frontend developer as a self-taught developer which made it hard to let go.