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Career changers find success in Newfoundland and Labrador tech industry | CBC News


Andrew Reynolds takes the stairs to his basement, where he shares an office with his four-year-old daughter. She paints while Reynolds works as a software developer.

It’s a much different scene from the job Reynolds worked less than a year ago — prison guard at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s.

“I never thought I would say I love my job,” Reynolds tells CBC News.

He does, though, and it took him a lot of work to get. 

He doesn’t have a computer science degree or any childhood background as a computer wizard.

But the job at HMP required long hours, the days poured into the weekend, and there was enough stress to make him feel like he was “not the same person anymore.”

A man sits in front of a computer, typing code.
After switching careers, Reynolds works as a software designer in his home. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

“We bought a house, we had a kid, and another one on the way. The thought of leaving a stable job was scary. So I stuck it out,” he says.

Ultimately, though, desperate for a chance, Reynolds became one of the people who switched careers to join Newfoundland and Labrador’s booming tech industry — which TechNL, an industry association, says could create up to 5,000 jobs in the province over the next few years. 

It wasn’t a smooth ride.

“I was always interested in tech but I couldn’t go back and start a new degree at MUN. Not with my current life situation,” he says.

Reynolds searched “coding in Newfoundland” online and came across a CBC News article about a programming bootcamp called Get Coding.

He started learning to code in February 2022. 

The following months were hectic. He practised his coding skills after work and into the night. At the prison, in the small hours of the night when it was quiet, he would turn on his laptop and code.

He dedicated himself fully with one goal in mind — find a tech job before Christmas so he could spend the holiday with his family after so many years of missing it because of work.

A woman with tattoos sits at a desk in front of three computer monitors.
Jackie Berry leveraged her educational background along with the new tech skills she learned to changing careers, from education to the tech industry. (Zach Goudie/CBC)

Different background an asset

Jackie Berry made a similar leap.

In her former career, she was a teacher who decided after the COVID-19 pandemic began that she wanted out.

“There is a lot of stress in the education field, especially dealing with COVID,” she says. “And I was burnt out.”

Berry says she craved, above all, a job that would bend to her needs.

“I wanted that hybrid work environment that gave me flexibility to work from anywhere — from the office to Ottawa where my parents live,” she says.

So, like Reynolds, she started honing her coding skills through the Get Coding program and eventually landed a job in the sector.

The new role, though, didn’t just require the new tech skills — she also needed the experience from the job she was leaving behind.

“I came across a job posting at Virtual Marine that was looking for someone with a curriculum-building background and also basic tech knowledge, so I was able to leverage my background and get the job,” she says.

Berry creates simulated scenarios at Virtual Marine’s main building in Paradise for training marines in risky weather or events, such as snow and fire, that are too dangerous for real-life training.

“I’m so happy about my job and the support I have. If I want to work from home, it’s a phone call away, and I can still be productive.”

Get Coding

Get Coding co-founder Jan Mertlik says Reynolds and Berry are the kind of people the program was made for.

“It’s for people that want to switch their careers, not only in tech in general, but in the local sector. Our coaches are developers from different local companies, and they make those connections as they learn the skills to get the job,” he says.

Mertlik counts on his fingers as he lists some of the different backgrounds of his former students.

“Prison guards, teachers, construction workers, heavy operation workers, people from hospitality, chefs, nurses,” he said. “Really, anyone can learn these skills. And what’s great about the tech industry is that you can take your past experience and skills, like Jackie, and transfer them into tech.”

Although Reynolds didn’t use his experience as a prison guard directly, he drew on his dedication and his family support as he focused on his goal.

“God love my wife,” Reynolds says with a big smile, “I couldn’t have done it without her and all the support she gave me. I could dedicate my free time to coding.”

The late coding hours and networking events he did paid off, and just a month shy of Christmas, he landed his job as a software developer at NetBenefit Software.

“It was extremely hard, but I can’t emphasize enough just how happy I am. There is no traffic going down the stairs, and I get to spend more time with my wife and girls and help them at home. For me, it was all worth it.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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