My Career Transition to Software Engineer

August 16, 2021

In 2014, I received life-changing news: my work visa application for Australia had been rejected. After spending a year there on a working holiday visa and landing an extended job offer as a marketing manager in Brisbane, my hopes were shattered. The authorities denied my application because I lacked a solid background in marketing and a relevant degree. As a result, I had to leave the country, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues, never to see them again.

2021 08 16

I returned to Hong Kong jobless. Many companies did not value my experience as an Assistant Marketing Manager. I didn't want to revert to my former career in a laboratory. After sending out numerous resumes without any responses, I realized that the most terrifying aspect of unemployment was not the lack of money but the loss of social status. It became difficult to face my friends in Hong Kong.

Determined to change my path, I invested my savings in an expensive coding bootcamp. It promised three months of intensive training and a high likelihood of securing a programming job, which seemed ideal for someone like me with a passion for digital marketing. However, the experience was disheartening. The ROI was minimal due to my lackadaisical instructor and affluent classmates who didn't share my sense of urgency. The majority of my learning happened in the late hours, on my own. Worse still, I ended up with an unpaid internship instead of a full-time job.

After the bootcamp, I faced another crossroads. I could either return to Australia for a master's degree in marketing or enroll in another bootcamp in the U.S. I chose the latter and got accepted into the country's top coding school. But, once again, my visa was denied. Resilient, I decided to complete the course online from Hong Kong, studying through the night and sleeping during the day. My mental health deteriorated, but my mother supported me financially, for which I felt both grateful and guilty.

This time, however, my efforts paid off. After mastering challenging concepts like recursion, I received nine job offers out of ten applications. Even though the salary was lower compared to U.S. counterparts, I accepted a position as a full-time software engineer with an Australian consulting firm in Hong Kong. The job allowed me to work on high-profile projects, but it also taught me hard lessons about the volatile nature of client-based work.

Later, I was assigned to work on an app for a startup, which turned out to be an uninspiring experience due to the difficult personality of the product owner. I eventually left for a large international software company where I worked on a project for Hong Kong's best airline. However, the work environment was toxic due to poor management and the challenges associated with offshore development. Still, I made great friends and found satisfaction in the work we accomplished together.

Recently, a headhunter approached me for a position at a prestigious consulting firm. I didn't hesitate to accept the offer, which also resulted in a salary hike. Currently, I am working in-house at HSBC bank on a fintech project, marking another exciting chapter in my life.

And that, in a nutshell, is my journey from a rejected visa applicant to a software engineer, a path filled with ups and downs but always moving forward.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn