“It was a sense of wasting my life spending time on something that wasn’t truly aligned.”

Image of Juan Navarro
From Software Consulting to Product Manager

Juan Navarro was dissatisfied in his role, but felt overwhelmed by all the options he could pursue instead. Here, he shares how people were the catalyst for his shift, and how he found career fulfilment closer to home.

What work were you doing previously?    

I was a software consultant (at the time the name of the role was Solutions Architect), for a company that creates, sells, markets and implements technology for B2B organisations.  

Once someone buys the software, there are teams of consultants who implement and ‘plug it in’ for the company who bought it. I was part of that team. Sometimes it's a three month project to do this, or it could be a two year project. 

What are you doing now?    

I'm in product management and design at the same company. 

The work we do is way before the process of implementing. It's the team that figures out what needs to be built and why, before it gets made and sold.

So it's part of the same cycle, but at the beginning rather than the end.

How did you feel in your work before you decided to make the change?    

I was a bit stuck.

I'd been there for five years doing the same thing, pretty much.

Honestly, it wasn't horrible. I wasn't dreading work every day.

But it came in waves. There'd be months where I felt relatively happy and content, and then there'd be times where I felt like it was the worst. ‘What am I doing? This is so far removed from anything I want to be spending time in’.

It was a sense of wasting my life spending time on something that wasn’t truly aligned.

That's how five years happened. It wasn't always horrible, otherwise I wouldn’t have lasted more than a month!

And in terms of what to do instead, I was stuck on options. There are so many things you can do, possible dreams and aspirations. I just needed a bit of focus.

Are you happy with the change?    

I’m way happier than I was before.

I’ve been here for six months now and so far I'm excited because I'm learning more, and it's a lot more aligned with the things I'm interested in and the things I'm good at.

To be fair I normally get quite excited in the first six months / year of something new so let's see where we are in a couple of years from now!

Design is a big interest of mine, and I’ve gone from doing something completely non-design to doing design within software. I feel like this might be a step shift for me, and in the future I might make another shift out of design in the software sector to design in a different sector.

How did you go about making the shift?    

I had a friend who’d taken part in the Career Change Launch Pad and recommended it to me. 

I think it gave me a burst of motivation for my shift. I'd signed up to the course, I put my money where my mouth is, I joined a group of people in the same boat and we all pushed forward together.

I dove into the course activities, including talking to people. What changed things in my shift was being vocal about wanting to do something different, with friends, family, the people at work. 

I said to my boss one day “I want to do something else, and I want to start looking around at what else I could do in the company”. 

Having those conversations helped me see I was way less stuck than I thought I was. It was confirmation that the people around me and my company really valued me. 

My boss didn't want me to go of course, but they would rather have me stay in the company than go altogether. They were very open and proactive in helping me connect with other people.

I never thought they would be judgemental but I felt like I’d invested in this department, I'd actually been given a raise six months before with new responsibility, and it was keeping me back a little bit.

But I realised that while some people might wish your decision was different, they can also take it as an opportunity to help you move where you want to go.

So this triggered a snowball effect of me interviewing people in all departments of my company, which is a lot! I probably overbooked myself with interviews at times, and would have to take breaks, but I was inspired and wanted to do them.

In these informational interviews I was very transparent about what I was doing and wanted to do.

I also did a bunch of informational interviews outside my organisation too but it felt overwhelming. The world outside my company felt like a world of infinite possibilities that I felt I didn't yet have the skills or value to provide.

I spoke with a guy who was a consultant for hotels, helping them design and build the operations behind them. I thought I'd love to do that but I don't think I'm ready or have the experience or skills to be paid to do that yet. 

So I focused on my search being closer to home. 

Eventually I ended up discovering the team that I'm part of now, and when I found them it all made sense to me. 

When I interviewed for the product department there were no openings. However this is a team that only does internal hires as it requires a deep knowledge of the technology and the processes.

So it's not uncommon that when they find a person that they like, they create the opening. And that’s what happened. 

The process took a few months. Once I finished my interviews, my former team asked me to please stay at least three additional months (we had some big projects that needed my support). Then eventually the finance team approved my mobility later that year.

The first month was a transition one, where I was doing 50-50 work for each department until I took full responsibilities.

How did you develop (or transfer) the skills you needed for your new role?    

I didn't receive any particular training because the position I moved to is seen as one of those roles where you learn by doing. 

They only hire people internally who have a lot of experience, and then within the department you learn from everyone and by doing the projects.

There are skills that I need to work on more and develop, and my company is very willing to help me get there. I also ask people about how to do things.

More generally I think that everything that you've learned in previous roles is always useful, in one way or another.

How did you handle your finances to make your shift possible?    

I transferred into a position of the same level, so there were no financial changes in that regard.

From the beginning I explained how maintaining this situation was a priority for me, so it was all agreed upfront.

What was the most difficult thing about changing?

I'm comfortable when I'm in ‘discovery mode’, exploring options and having informational interviews with people in other roles. 

When I start to get uncomfortable is when decision time comes, because I have an enormous fear of making the wrong choice. Perfectionism can be a real blocker that stops you from doing things that have to be done, because you want them to be done perfectly.

So having to make the decision of which option to choose brought all of that to the surface – getting paralysed by thinking I have to make the perfect choice.

I was at a point where I had some job options and to help me decide, I thought about what's more interesting, what's better aligned. The job I’m in now as an option felt better than the role I was in back then.

I also thought ‘what's the worst that can happen  –  I go and do it, and find out I'm terrible at it. But that's not the end of the world.’

In my situation it was a shift within the same company that I knew well, and I could go back to what I was doing before if it really didn’t work out, which took off a little bit of the pressure for me.

What help did you get?        

On the practical side of things, for the position I ended up getting, I organised all on my own as I knew all the people in the business myself.

But I had multiple friends facilitating other tangent conversations that also helped me understand that this was the right move for me at the time. 

At an emotional level, I had many conversations with my family, wife and therapist. They were all important in the process.

What have you learnt in the process?    

When something itches, you should scratch it!

What would you advise others to do in the same situation? 

Take action, even if it's just one minute a day. 

It'll create a snowball, which can take a month, three months, a year until you’ve shifted, but it will happen.

When you're feeling motivated and have the energy, take the action right then, don't postpone it. And on the days when you're not feeling it, don't force it too much.

Get organised with your time. I'd put blocks of time in my calendar for working on my shift, for example blocking out two hours to draft and send out emails related to my shift.

Juan took part in our Career Change Launch Pad. If you're ready to join a group of bright, motivated career changers on a structured programme to help you find more fulfilling work, you can find out more here.

What lessons could you take from Juan's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.

Plus, if you know someone who's made a successful shift into work they love, we'd love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected]. and you could win a £25 / $35 voucher in our monthly draw.