I gave up life as a Pilot to become a Web Developer

Pilot to web developer

I gave up life as a pilot to become a web developer –

The airline industry is brutal. The convenience society we live in today requires people to perform really, really hard – and because profit margins are extremely narrow in the ultra-low-cost airline model, heads have no commercially viable option than to push us to the limit.

We can work up to 14 hours with zero breaks, we’re dealing with changing time zones, we’re sitting inside a pressurized aircraft for long periods of time. It takes a massive toll on our bodies and mental health and has a huge impact on our lives.

It’s not easy for the airlines, either. While safeguarding their profits, they have to deal with a whole range of regulations that make the industry safe for staff and passengers alike. We’re monitored very carefully to make sure that we’re in good health and that we’re equipped to do our job properly.

Lock-down options

Like many people in many industries, lock-down gave me time to consider my options. I found that, despite being on essentially 65 percent of my normal salary, I had more money in the bank than I ever did when I was working – added to which I had so much more energy. Waking, well-rested, at a regular time; going for an evening run with my wife – this quality of life was alien to me.

I’d been tinkering with web development for a while, just playing around and creating iOS apps, so at the beginning of lock-down, I bought a small course online and studied every day: I didn’t want to waste my time just lounging around watching television!

Buoyed up by the success of that, I’ve now embarked on a 16-week coding boot camp with Bristol-based outfit DevelopMe. All of the classes have been moved online for now, but I’m still interacting with instructors and getting assignments. It’s quite a shift for me, working a structured 9 am-5 pm daily, but I’m loving it so far and learning things that I didn’t even know needed learning.

What does the future hold? I honestly don’t know – and I’m incredibly excited but also incredibly anxious. Realistically, when I graduate, I’ll be applying for jobs as a junior developer – and initially, my salary is likely to be less than half as much as I was making as First Officer.

It took me about a month and a half – and several sleepless nights! – to make the decision: to leave an industry that I’m very passionate about to go into a brand-new one in the middle of a pandemic, the middle of a recession, and with the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on the horizon. It sounds crazy when you say it like that, doesn’t it? But one of the reasons why I gravitated towards tech is because it’s one of the industries that tend to be least affected by the recession and economic hardship – well, far less so than aviation at least.

Tech is still actively recruiting whereas aviation … I know of airline job postings getting tens of thousands of applications within hours because pilots have been made redundant all around the world and they have nowhere to go – and they are desperate. And that’s something I don’t ever want to be.

Tarik Merrylees was speaking to Sarah Rodrigues

Have you made a career pivot during Covid? Share your experience in the comments section below

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