Updated: Jan 6, 2021
By guest writer: Cynthia Halatyn
“You can change country or you can change career, but you can’t do both.”
I don’t blame my business school advisers for making this recommendation to myself or other students. Many international MBA students are hoping for a change in their lives when enrolling and programme advisors are there to temper those expectations and help form a winning strategy for successfully launching the next phase of ones career. For me, I knew I was taking a risk leaving behind a successful career in the legal industry. Friends and colleagues encouraged me to start my own consulting practice helping attorneys build new law firms. At the end of the day, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. The legal industry was a career I fell into without intent. I felt pulled more and more towards tech. I considered myself a bit of a geek. I was a secret gamer who dabbled in programming and eagerly followed the latest startup news. With a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, I knew it would be an uphill battle getting there, but I thought if I studied hard and could get a foot (or even a toe) in the door, I could be successful.
Call it an early mid-life crisis (I sincerely hope I have more), but I also wanted a big move.
I’d always wanted to live abroad. I grew up listening to my grandfather tell stories about travelling the world after lying about his age to enlist in the Navy and later working in Saudi Arabia as an air traffic controller. The opportunities to network with students from all over the world, study in a foreign country, and knock my degree out in one year instead of two sounded almost too good to be true. Strathclyde Business School, like many others, has very dedicated careers advisers who work with students to clarify our professional goals, build personal brands, and look for appropriate roles. I was clear in stating that I wanted both the career change into tech and to stay in the UK, but I was encouraged to stick with what I know in order to make the move, then look for ways to transition later. I understood the rationale. In tech, I was an unknown quantity with no experience, but I’ve never liked limiting myself.
Growing up poor in Texas to two high school dropouts didn’t exactly set me up for success in life, but I learned over the years to keep pushing, grab hold of every opportunity, and trust my instincts.
After several meetings with my adviser and having prepared a very professional looking CV, I started applying for Change Management roles at law firms. I networked with people in the industry, but months went by and I never generated much interest, nor received a single call back or interview.
During my MBA, I made it a point to generate marketing content and hone other skills.
I’d always loved writing and found myself in high demand during group projects. I frequently paired up with other students who had great technical skills, but didn’t feel comfortable writing. I started a blog, documenting and sharing my thoughts on the course and all the changes in my personal life, learning more about WordPress and SEO in the process. I promoted the blog through social media marketing and was then invited to host an Instagram Takeover and contribute to Strathclyde’s MBA blog. I felt I had a knack for marketing. I’d worked on political campaigns early in my career and created strategic marketing plans in my latest pre-MBA role. So one weekend, I created a second CV touting those experiences.
I made this CV an interactive PDF, hyperlinked to my articles and other samples of work. I highlighted my dissertation work with a Swiss tech startup. This CV was everything that the other CV wasn’t.
This one had personality, passion, and a dash of neon green. It was me on a page.
I stared applying to any tech marketing role I could find in the UK. London, Glasgow, Manchester, Belfast. I quickly received calls; “I love your CV, it’s so fun,” one recruiter told me. Once I started getting interviews, I made it a point never to mention my visa status, until the interviewer did. I was always nervous when it came up, but I portrayed a calm exterior, speaking about it as though it were no big deal. “Well, my current visa expires in January, so I would need to switch to a Tier 2 before then.” That approach worked. Before graduation I had a job offer that I was in love with. A small, but growing e-learning company in Glasgow, Junction-18, was in need of a marketing manager. I signed on and spent a year developing their marketing strategy from scratch. It was the kind of role I relish.
In truth, the visa process was not easy.
My company had never sponsored anyone before and had extra hoops to jump through. I had to move back to Texas for a while during COVID and work remotely on a contract, but as of two weeks ago, I’m back in the UK and in a new role! I’m now an e-learning delivery manager. I work with large corporate customers’ learning and development teams to assess training needs and business outcomes, develop pitches and proposals, and then our team of developers, animators and motion designers create the digital learning tools. I get to work with and learn from incredibly talented and tech savvy people every day. And because we’re a small team, I get the opportunity to work on projects as well.
The journey may not have been smooth sailing, but in the end, I achieved what I intended.
I took 10 years of legal experience and leveraged it into a new career in tech. Was it easy? Absolutely not. But, is it possible? Absolutely.
Cynthia Halatyn is an E-learning Delivery Manager at Junction-18 in Glasgow, UK. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2008 from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, she spent 10 years working in legal and politics before graduating with distinction from Strathclyde Business School in 2019. In her spare time she maintains a blog, Lone Star Lass, about her MBA and move overseas. In addition to writing, Cynthia also enjoys photography and exploring the Scottish Highlands with her partner. You can reach her on LinkedIn or via her website