Life Isn’t Linear, but Trust the Process

I rejected my medical program acceptances and pivoted my way into the tech industry. Fast forward, I am now a product designer at an IoT startup and I get to design meaningful products.

Shela Duong

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shela and as I currently write this, I am living my best life working as a Product Designer at an IoT startup. What more could I ask for? I have a good job, great team, and I get to work from home! Well... it wasn’t always like this. Myself and others have had to work really hard in order to chase our dreams. You might be reading this as you are finishing up college or preparing for a career switch. Although life might feel scary or tough right now; I am here to tell you that life isn’t linear, and to trust the process and you’ll get there. 

Let’s Go Back a Bit

While in high school, I suffered through a car accident that had fractured my humerus bone in half. Without getting into too much detail, I basically had to undergo a lot of therapy in order to recover. Spending time with my therapist inspired me to become a positive impact on society. At the time, the only way I thought I could make an impact was to go into the medical field. I would spend the next 5 years of my undergrad studying sciences, volunteering at multiple clinics and really trying to do whatever I could to get accepted into a medical program. 

Towards the end of my undergrad, I became mentally exhausted. The countless hours of studying and volunteering was tough. I started to realize that medicine wasn’t necessarily a passion for me. I dreaded the idea of studying science, but I still wanted to make an impact. I had to ask myself: 

  • Do I actually have the passion to go through more years of doing this?
  • Was I comfortable with all the debt that was going to be accumulated?
  • Was I ok with the dedicated time required to be successful?
  • Was this truly what I wanted in life?

As I walked past the modern technology and business buildings, I started to think of how nice it would have been to be in tech. Unfortunately, I had to bring myself back to reality. I was too deep into my medical studies and thought I wasn’t smart enough to code. There was no way this dream could be realized. So I left it and finished the rest of my time in school pursuing this medical path.

After College

The summer after graduating, I moved back home to the Bay Area so that I could take a gap year and apply to medical programs. While searching for jobs, through a series of events, I was able to network with a recruiter that was searching for roles to fill at a big tech company and offered me an interview. At this moment, I felt shocked and excited. Here I was, thinking tech was only for engineers, and was coming face to face with an actual opportunity to work in tech. At the same time, I started hearing back from my medical programs. I received a few offer letters! I was now at a crossroad. Do I give up everything I worked hard for in the past 5 years to try out this new and unknown tech journey or do I continue down my medical path?

After a long debate with myself, I rejected my medical acceptances and chose the path of tech. I wasn’t sure what was waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. I wasn’t even sure if I could do it. However, I trusted my gut that was telling me to take a chance on something that I felt might make me even more happy. 

Starting My First Big Girl Job 

At the big tech company, I worked in various positions throughout the 2.5 years there. Unfortunately, I came to a point where I didn’t feel like I was making a strong enough impact. The work started to feel dull and there was never any opportunity to grow. 

Towards the end of 2019, I decided that I wanted a change. After working in the real world for a few years, I figured out what I was looking for in my next role. Some things that I found important were:

  • Opportunity for growth both through promotions but also guidance to build new skills
  • Produce meaningful work
  • Motivational team and management
  • Good work-life balance

After spending some time researching different career paths and talking to people, I found that I was really attracted to the field of product design. The opportunity to design products without code, the ability to really be challenged by real world issues, and the fact that whatever you design and put out into the world will have an impact on someone’s everyday life. I loved that there was both a creative and critical thinking aspect to this career. I enrolled into a product design boot camp and from 2020 till 2021, I worked during the day and I studied at night. Throughout this journey, I ended up meeting really inspirational new friends who also had the same passions as me. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. At the end of this boot camp, I was able to land my first product designer role at Leverege. 

Life at Leverege

Joining Leverege has been such an exciting feeling. Leverege gives you the opportunity to work on high impact work. It feels really nice that your work is valued and actually pushed into the real world; without going through so many layers of workers compared to being at a bigger company. Everything you value and say is taken into consideration and has an impact on the company. I’m also able to work on really exciting IoT products and have the ability to take the lead on different tasks and projects. 

So far my experience here has been great. I love how supportive the design team is. Each designer on the team has their strengths which becomes our inspiration for each other. I’ve learned a lot about the design process and about myself through being here. Looking back at what I wanted in my new job, Leverege provides me the opportunity to grow both in promotions and the guidance I need to one day move from product designer to senior product designer. I’ve been able to design high impact work that gets pushed into the real world, I work with a great team and management, and I ultimately have a good work life balance. I feel happy and blessed being able to work with an exciting company.  

Fast Forward to Today 

I am now months into my product designer job. I’ve learned so many valuable skills and I get to work with an amazing and talented team. Thinking back, there are some points I’d like to mention. 

Did I regret my decision about dropping my medical program to transition into tech?

No. The fact that I was able to avoid being in debt was a huge plus for me. The time and energy it would’ve taken me to go through a medical program without working sounded horrible. Finding my place in the tech industry allowed me to work on innovative products while learning so many new skills is incomparable.

Did I think I would be doing this after high school?

Absolutely not. The trust I put into myself and what my gut was telling me led me to where I am today. Instead of regret, view all your life decisions as stepping stones. Everything was necessary so that I could get to this point.

I’d like to close out my thoughts to anyone reading this. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Give things that you are interested in a chance. If you don’t like one thing, it’s ok to move around. You are not stuck in one place. Get the job that makes you happy, because life isn’t linear, trust the process and you’ll get there.

Shela Duong

Product Designer II

Shela has a passion for public transportation and loves working on products that push for a more sustainable living environment. Outside of work, she enjoys playing League of Legends and staying up to date with the latest tech news.

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