A young woman wearing a denim jacket sitting in a bright common area in an office. She is Philippa Maleney of Yahoo.
Philippa Maleney. Image: Zuoyun Jin

From teaching to tech: What it’s like making a career change

17 Jul 2023

Yahoo’s Philippa Maleney talks about her decision to relocate from the UK to Ireland permanently and start a whole new career.

Philippa Maleney is the site assistant for Yahoo in Dublin and executive assistant to Edel Murphy, managing director of Yahoo Ireland. In this role, she provides administrative support for site leadership, coordinates meeting agendas, office events, site visits and manages site communication.

The role is perfect for her because it plays to her strengths of planning, organising and engaging with people. “I have an analytical mind and love developing systems and processes to improve efficiency,” she told SiliconRepublic.com.

But while her strong skills are clearly made for a role like that, it’s not where Maleney started out. Before working in Ireland, she was a primary school teacher for 16 years and a school principal for 10 of those years in the UK.

‘I experienced many moments of vulnerability, stepping away from my only known career’

Following her undergraduate degree in educational research and psychology, she decided to complete teacher training as she was interested in learning processes, how people learn and the growth mindset.

“This became the driving force behind my school vision. Working closely with stakeholders, we built an ethos and exciting curriculum around developing skills, attitudes and learning habits needed for success in an ever-changing world,” she said.

“Our learning approach resulted in independent, highly effective learners from a very young age, with teachers from around the UK and as far as Australia visiting us to learn about our approach. It is always something I’ll be extremely proud of.”

Time for a change

However, while it wasn’t an easy decision, a need for more work-life balance and less commuting prompted her decision to change careers.

“Teaching and school leadership is more than just a job. Every decision comes with an incredible amount of responsibility. I was highly committed, often working 60-hour weeks (including weekends and holidays, contrary to popular belief). I didn’t resent it because I cared so much about the school community, but once I had my own family, work-life balance became important and, in many ways, I have the pandemic to thank for reminding me of that,” she said.

“For me, a big part of that decision was taken out of my hands; I’d been traveling between the UK and Ireland for eight years and my daughter was born in Dublin. Following my maternity leave, I returned to the UK to work for another two years, commuting between the UK and Ireland every couple of weeks with a toddler in tow.  It was always the plan that Ireland would be our permanent base and in 2019 that time arrived.”

Maleney recalls how daunting and emotional the decision felt, particularly because of how much her teaching career had meant to her.

“In many ways I felt defined by my career – I’d achieved a lot by a relatively young age and there was still a lot I wanted to achieve for the school. I experienced many moments of vulnerability, stepping away from my only known career, something I had lived and breathed for 16 years.”

Even though Dublin wasn’t a brand-new city for her, it still felt like taking a leap into the unknown. While relocating and changing career in one go seems like a lot to do at once, Maleney hadn’t ruled out working in education when she got to Dublin.

A new challenge

But when a short career break for some family time turned into a three-year break thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was time to re-evaluate things.

“I remember having a strong sense that I wanted a new challenge and change of direction, but no real idea of what this might look like. Like most working parents, I wanted to find a way to balance my working life with being there for my daughter growing up – childhood passes in the blink of an eye, and the pandemic was a timely reminder of the importance of family and connection.”

Maleney spent a lot of time reflecting on her key strengths and motivations and opted for further study as the next step.

“I accessed some fantastic local services, engaging with a Careers in Mind programme with Northside Partnership, Dublin. I received invaluable support with CV preparation, job search and interview skills. This also led to engagement with WorkEqual and regular one-to-one coaching sessions with an experienced mentor. This process helped me to visualise my ‘ideal’ role and set goals.”

‘I rediscovered my love of learning and found my “lost” self again’

She then enrolled on a level-nine postgraduate course in DCU in management of operations, allowing her to apply her interests in change management and strategic planning across a wide spectrum of industries.

“Through the challenges, I rediscovered my love of learning and found my ‘lost’ self again. It was my final (and most challenging) assignment on business intelligence and analysis that really opened my eyes to the possibility of working within the tech sector,” she said.

“I battled my way through system development, user interface design, ERPs, data-warehouse infrastructure and feelings of self-doubt, which was only truly put to rest when I received notification of a Dean’s Honours List Award from DCU Business School.”

Now settled in the tech industry working for Yahoo, Maleney said she’s enjoying every minute, particularly at what she believes is a pivotal time for the sector.

“The possibilities of innovation in the tech industry appeal to me, much like I enjoyed working within an action-research culture in my previous role. Reflecting back on my studies, I remember thinking that educational and corporate sectors could learn a great deal from each other and regardless of the differences, the common thread that will always run through is communication, relationships and people.”

Advice for those considering a career change

Maleney said one of the greatest pieces of advice she was given at the beginning of her career pivot journey was to say yes to everything.

“I did exactly that and looking back I can trace how everything I got involved with (often beyond my usual comfort-zone) has contributed to where I am now,” she said.

“I would also advise, allow yourself time to question and explore your strengths and motivations. Invest in yourself and prioritise self-belief and building social capital.

“Research external support services and learning opportunities available in your location – there are so many amazing, free resources and learning opportunities in Ireland.”

She added that getting feedback on your CV or LinkedIn profile is an important step and urged people to be open to constructive criticism. When looking at your skills and experience, focus on transferrable skills and remember that every job and life stage has something of value.

“Finally, just take the leap! If you feel this is what you want to do, just do it! I would never have imagined the life I have now 10 years ago. Change is scary but you will always have your old career to fall back on if things don’t work out.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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