Pivoting careers is often a daunting prospect. But if your heart is set on making the change, it can be a hugely rewarding experience, says Fidelity Investment’s Elaine Healy.
Elaine Healy was already working as a teacher when she realised that software development was her true calling.
Here, she tells us how she pivoted her career path and what the most rewarding aspects – and the biggest challenges – have been so far.
‘I was a few years into my teaching career when I discovered software development’
– ELAINE HEALY
What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?
I had friends who were software engineers and they showed me the type of work they did about seven years ago. I was immediately hooked.
Knowing it was a growing industry also piqued my interest as I knew there would be jobs even if it took me years to qualify as an engineer.
What experiences led you to the role you now have?
When I was in school, I loved maths but actually pursued a teaching career at secondary level, as I thought that’s what I wanted to do for work after my Leaving Cert.
I was a few years into my teaching career, feeling less than fulfilled, when I discovered the world of software development. I took the task of researching what my options were to graduate as a software engineer. I saved every cent I was earning and went back to college, undertaking a full-time graduate diploma at DCU.
After my final exams, I applied for jobs all day every day. I came across the job posting for a Salesforce developer position in Fidelity Investments and ended up speaking directly with my now-manager of five years, which is when I knew it was the job and career I wanted for so many years.
What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?
The biggest surprise for me was definitely the level of interaction you have with your team on a daily basis. I had heard that software development was just sitting at your desk all day writing code, so I never expected how much collaboration was involved.
It was a pleasant surprise which only made me love my job even more because I get on so well with my like-minded team of 16 – I love being part of a big team.
My biggest challenge was something I still struggle with. Because I started my engineering career later than others, I’m always pushing myself to be as good as those my age. Being ambitious and determined are good qualities to have, but sometimes taking a step back and recognising how far I’ve come in the last few years is enough to keep me happy with where I am.
Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?
There are two names in Fidelity that immediately come to mind, and I find it hard to determine who was more influential in my career: Kris Mullaney or Louise Crosbie. Kris is my squad lead in America and Louise was my mentor based in Ireland.
Both women encouraged me to go for projects and speak at events I wouldn’t normally, due to fear and self-doubt, but with their encouragement and guidance I felt supported in taking those steps outside of my comfort zone and they’ve done my career the world of good as a result.
Not only are both women immensely successful and accomplished in their careers, they are two of the kindest people I have ever met.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love figuring things out and seeing the results on the screen in front of me. There is no waiting around to see if it was successful or not – it either works or it doesn’t.
I also love the level of collaboration that’s involved daily. If you get stuck on something that won’t work, there is no such thing as being left alone to figure it out for days on end. There is always help and support there when you need it.
What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?
Software engineering attracts all types of personalities, but I think my people skills and good communication skills are what make me best suited to this job.
Our team works closely with the business so there are daily meetings where we discuss current and future work, prioritise the most valuable work and problem solve the best solution to deliver such work.
There is a constant flow of dialogue back and forth, so being a good team player is vital.
How did Fidelity support you on your career path?
Every few weeks, since I started in Fidelity five years ago, I sit down with my manager and talk about my career, what I want to achieve and what my next steps are in reaching my goals.
I have shown interest in different areas in the company and was given time to explore these, to determine if they were the paths I wanted to follow. I have asked for and received training to upskill in areas that would help my day-to-day work.
There is no shortage of support from Fidelity as a business or the people in Fidelity on my career path.
What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?
Go for it! There is no shortage of work and it is a hugely rewarding job. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward for things – allow yourself to be successful.
It is not the old cliché where people think you sit at a desk all day every day writing code and not talking to anyone.
It is hugely collaborative – a lot of time is spent with your team figuring things out and every day is different. It is not a job you get bored in and you don’t have to be Einstein to do the job well.