Meet Catherine: A former nurse turned engineer

Changing careers like a boss

Catherine Marion

Former nurse Catherine Marion discovered a whole new world of creativity when she became a software engineer at Zendesk. It turns out developing software is more people-oriented and creative than many think.

“Everyone thinks it's all logic and hackers in hoodies sitting behind screens and running code,” laughs Catherine. “It’s actually a really creative field. Because you’re problem-solving, you've got to come up with creative solutions.

“In mathematics, there’s a correct answer, but in software engineering, you might have five solutions to get to the same end – you just have to find which one is best.”

Catherine’s previous nursing career equipped her with the necessary skills for life as a software engineer.

“Nursing is mostly about time management, managing people, and dealing with situations that change very, very quickly. I can manage incidents like a boss!”

For example, solving tricky software problems isn’t done on your own.

“I only spend half my day actually coding,” Catherine says. “The bulk of my job is communicating and helping others come up with solutions and approaches to software problems.”

Catherine entered nursing eight years ago, but recently realised it was not right for her. Unsure where to go next, she made a list of what she wanted in a job.

“I wanted to work with good people, but not all the time. I wanted to be able to travel and work, and I wanted a job with continual learning so I wouldn’t get bored.”

An ‘aha!’ moment came while listening to a podcast with the inventor of WordPress as he discussed learning digital skills through intensive courses.

“He said there wasn’t much difference between coding bootcamp graduates and university graduates. And I went – wait, you can do bootcamps in this?” She soon signed up for a six-month coding course.

“Throughout bootcamp, I went to technology meet-ups, getting to know people in the industry and sussing out which companies I’d like to work for.”

Catherine maintained her meet-up networks and kept tabs on upcoming internships and job openings. After graduation, she landed a 12-month internship and never looked back.

Her efforts have been rewarded through engaging work, continued learning, better pay and no more night shifts.

There have still been challenges and moments of discomfort. “I went from a field where I had absolute mastery to a role where it took a few months to feel settled.

“It’s just a period in your life. It means you're learning and growing as a human and that's more important than anything else. If you're growing into digital skills, you need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable, because you need to learn.”

Catherine also discovered a passion for supporting women in the industry. At Zendesk, she is the global lead for women in engineering.

Catherine recently interviewed women at different stages of their digital career and found many came from outside software, including musicians, a doctor and a woman with a Bachelor of Mathematics, showing that digital jobs need people from a variety of backgrounds, with many different skills.

“If you like problem solving and you like working with people, then you can be a software engineer.”

Page last updated: 12 August 2021