Based in Zurich, Mandy Nijssen is a full-stack engineer in the Partner Tech team. Before joining GetYourGuide as an associate engineer, she was working in healthcare when a ‘quarter-life crisis’ inspired a trip around the world and career overhaul.
The last time I found myself job searching, I knew I didn’t want just any tech job. Rather, I wanted to work in a field that sparked personal joy. After receiving an offer from GetYourGuide for the role of associate full-stack engineer, I had no doubts that this was precisely what I had found. Not only had I landed a job in tech, but I also got to work on a travel product. How cool is that!
The job offer involved relocating to Switzerland, where I joined the Partner Tech team in January 2021. As a team, we’re responsible for helping our partners grow their businesses by enabling them to provide high-value, tailored experiences to their audiences. Our partner base ranges from major airlines to independent content creators. I enjoy the challenge, opportunities to grow, and chance to work on a variety of different projects.
However, were it not for a chance encounter with a handful of inspiring digital nomads on a trip of a lifetime a few years before, things might look very different. Here’s how travel was a catalyst for not just a career change, but also retraining in a whole different field.
As a teenager, I dreamt of becoming a professional singer. When it was time to go to university the rational side took over and I chose to study a Master's degree in Speech Therapy and Audiology. With this qualification, I envisioned a future as a vocal coach, combining my love of singing with helping people. However, after an internship abroad at a cochlear implant clinic, I ended up working in a hearing center in Belgium for several years.
As interesting as it was, the experience took its toll: it was hard to support patients who because of ongoing taboos around being a hearing aid user, didn't want to be helped. At the same time, after five years of university study, I also was not thrilled at the prospect of going back to qualify as a vocal coach. I was facing a little quarter-life crisis, and asked myself, ‘Is this what life is all about, sitting in this office every day?'
I left for my travels with few expectations about what would happen after my return: my energy and focus were on the year ahead and discovery. I’d originally taken a year's unpaid leave, but after a few months, it was clear that I was not going back to my old job. Not only did I want to find something more challenging, the idea of being tied to a nine-to-five no longer appealed. At the same time, the Covid pandemic had by this point made a career in healthcare additionally stressful. As my one-year trip quickly turned into a three-year adventure, I needed to find a path that would give me more flexibility and would continue to challenge me.
On my travels, I was inspired by digital nomads: people working on their own time, in a place they wanted, just with a laptop. In Brazil, I met a young entrepreneur who, just like me, had no affinity with computers. She nevertheless signed up for an intensive course in coding and in just a matter of months, had made a full career change, leaving her office job for a career in IT. Keeping her assessment of ‘It is really not that hard’ front of mind, I started taking online courses and finally signed up for an intensive on-site software development course. For me, this was an ideal alternative to enrolling in yet another multi-year university course.
The courses were a fantastic springboard for a career change and led directly to being offered the associate full-stack engineer role here at GetYourGuide in Zurich. I feel very fortunate that I joined a team of senior engineers: they took the time to do a lot of pair programming with me and were willing to answer my many questions.
I also had a manager that gave me the time to learn and grow, all the while pushing me outside of my comfort zone. In our engineering organization, growth is non-negotiable, especially for entry-level positions. Together with my manager, I was able to set clear goals and come up with an action plan to achieve them. This has taken my career forward at an accelerated pace.
The support of my peers, combined with consistently taking on tasks with a wider scope has brought me to where I am today in my career as a mid-level engineer. Even though it can be scary sometimes and I still have to fight ‘imposter syndrome,’ I love that my new role requires me to step up more and take on more responsibilities.
Since joining GetYourGuide in early 2021 the composition of my team has completely changed. We are even more of a mixed bunch when it comes to experience levels, and we also shifted to a fifty percent female team, including a female engineering manager. It is great to see that GetYourGuide invests in more diversity in engineering and leadership.
My advice for anyone considering a career change is to take a step back and first think about why exactly you want to make this change. What problems are you facing in your current job and what do you want to get out of this new career? If this new career looks like it would solve the problems and challenges you’re currently facing, I would encourage everyone to jump in and go for it. The worst case scenario is that you invest in yourself and learn a new skill that you potentially may not use. That still means personal growth and valuable knowledge to carry with you in your current career — or even into something completely different!
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