From Economics to Engineering: A Journey of Creation

What initially drove me to consider pursuing a career in engineering was my desire to create and build. Coming from an educational background in economics and management, my bachelor’s degree exposed me to courses like microeconomics and macroeconomics, providing me with a broad understanding of how society functions in terms of the economy. During my master’s degree, I took management courses that helped me comprehend the business operations of companies to bring about successful products. These courses, with their macro perspective, greatly appealed to me, allowing me to understand the process of how great things are created and improving my business acumen.

However, the more I learned, the more I became curious about the actual process of creation itself, and the stronger the desire grew within me to actively participate in the creation of products that could be beneficial and useful to a wide range of people, much like an engineer constructing a bridge or designing a car.

In 2017, during my second year as a master’s student in management, I reached out to the engineering department of a university in Singapore through an inquiry email. I wanted to explore the possibility of transferring as a student with a bachelor’s degree in economics and an ongoing master’s degree in management. It came as no surprise that the admissions officer expressed surprise in response to my request. She suggested that I carefully think about it, because business and engineering are different subjects, and changing the routes would have a lot of impact on my future career path. I kept her advice, and in the last month of 2017, I found that I was still thinking about a job that could allow me to actually participate in creation and building of great things. I decided to do something. Longing to improve my eligibility for an engineering job, I searched online for continued education degrees, finding that software development was the most common engineering subject offered by schools. I then bought books on software development to see if I would be interested. And that is my first mark in the whole career switch journey.

Busy with internship and examinations, I studied Python basics in the last year of my master’s degree, but I knew that I was not prepared for a professional job as an engineer. After graduating with the master’s degree, I continued with the bank where I interned at. Luckily, I was assigned to a team that was responsible for loan data analysis, and I found that I loved the moment when I worked hard to solve the problem and arrived at the result. While I enjoyed my work, writing functions in Excel and programming in VBA made me think of the days when I coded in Python. I realised that data analysts and developers share many similarities: they are both missioned to solve a problem, they both rely heavily on logical thinking, and they both need to employ a form of language to translate logical thinking into practical results. But what is even better with being a developer is that you can, in the end, create something, like a web application, a game, or almost anything! The idea of becoming an engineer surfaced again and again in my head.

With this in mind, I decided to gain practical experience in software development. I started to learn various technologies from Udacity, Udemy, and Youtube, enrolled in coding bootcamp, gained certificates, and built applications. And the story afterwards, you can tell from my website and portfolio.

Coding is an extremely rewarding activity, especially when you see that the apps you are building grow in shape little by little with your crafts and efforts. In the process of building applications, I found that I am especially fond of front-end development, as it is more visually approachable, and functionally interesting to think about. For example, in the development of my recent project, Kitchen Hero, a recipe app, I drew inspiration from the popular companies HelloFresh and Gousto which offer convenient meal kits to eliminate the need for decision-making. In the end, I incorporated a section on the home page that displays random recipes, aiming to offer cooking inspiration for busy individuals who prefer not to spend time deciding on what to cook. For the development of the game Tetris, I paid particular attention to the user interface design, and how the background music integrates with the style and feeling of the background image and Tetris blocks, aligning the audio and visual aspects. For my next project, I got the idea after a trip to the National History Museum and plan to use the Museum API to show great natural treasures.

I am currently in the process of searching for a job as a developer. In economic conditions these days, it is hard not to admit that the competition is high enough for 600 people to compete for one position. But it is a relief for me when I start to think that I can still, and always, build and create.

CareersSoftware DevelopmentCareer ChangeWeb Development
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Written by Jiawen Chen


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