July 16, 2023

Adrian Leung’s Success Story: Pivoting from Oil and Gas to Product Management in the Middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ever wonder what a career pivot looks like? Everybody's journey is different, but it is a life-changing experience for most people. Whether you are considering one or not, Adrian's blog shows the peaks, valleys, and learnings in his journey.

CITIzens Pivoting into Tech

Careers in Tech and Innovation (CITI) is a community of continuous learners, empathetic connectors, and courageous innovators. These posts are meant to recognize and celebrate the many CITIzens who have successfully pivoted or transitioned into technology and innovation roles. We’ll dive into self-discovery, networking, projects, and portfolios, sharing learning moments and insights from our diverse community members. 

Inspiration and Motivation for Change

Are you looking to make a career change but don't know where to start or what to expect? If so, you're not alone. Many people feel stuck or stagnant in their current jobs and are looking for a way to pivot into a new industry. 

One person who recently made this transition is Adrian Leung. As many of you know, Adrian is an active contributor, moderator, and advisor for CITI. We'll explore Adrian's journey and the steps he took to pivot into a tech career. 

Adrian’s pivot began after he was laid off from his role as an engineer in oil and gas. Before the layoff, Adrian admits he was feeling burnt out and had already considered quitting his job. The layoff made it that much easier to find something new rather than going back into the same line of work.

Self-discovery and Exploration

One of the first steps in a career change is taking the time to discover your interests and identify activities that motivate you. If you're not already sure what those things are for you, you can start by answering the following questions: 

  • What are your hobbies and interests? 
  • What problems do you enjoy solving?
  • What does success look like to you? 

Once you have a clearer sense of self, you can start exploring different disciplines or roles that align with your interests.

Adrian had always been interested in tech but, because of his work schedule, he hadn’t had the time for exploring options. Now with the time and energy to do so, he was able to explore what kinds of jobs were out there. He found the biggest challenge was figuring out which direction to go in and deciding between the different roles in data, product, and software. 

Getting Started and Diving In

Adrian started reading, talking to people, and doing his own research. This discovery phase also involved building new skills, another thing he felt he didn’t have the time or energy for while working full-time.

He found free or less expensive ways to learn new skills, including YouTube videos and taking Udemy courses. One of Adrian’s pro tips is that there are often flash sales on courses through online learning sites. 

Career Guidance and Personal Branding

Following the layoff, Adrian was contacted by Higher Landing, a career guidance service that had received his information because he’d applied for employment insurance. Through Higher Landing, he enrolled in a three-month bootcamp that focused on:

  • Identifying your values
  • Recognizing what you bring
  • Reframing the situation
  • Reshaping your personal brand

The common thread through his cohort in the program was that they were all oil and gas professionals who’d been laid off. They became his first networking group and, after a coffee chat with one of them, he started to come out of his shell. 

The Power of Networking

A self-described introvert, Adrian says the key to networking for him was to change his mindset. Instead of thinking of what he could take from the experience, he focused on what he could learn. This helped reduce the feeling of anxiety and allowed him to approach it as a way to make progress in his learning.

After his initial coffee chat, Adrian was introduced to Zac and started to get involved with CITI. He was first drawn to the community because it’s a group of mid-career professionals who have similar experiences. One of the reasons he continues to stay involved with CITI is that he wants to give back by sharing his story and inspiring others. Partly because of his engagement in CITI activities, he now describes himself as a “networking butterfly.” 

We also talked about how networking played a part in Adrian getting his current role, as a Product Operations Manager at ATB. Adrian had a friend who worked there who made a connection for him. He set up a half hour coffee chat to get more details about the job and to ask questions. From this, he had a better sense of what the hiring manager was looking for.

Projects and Portfolios Help You to Stand Out

Projects, portfolios, and assignments have become part of the screening and interview processes for many tech jobs. Once he landed an interview with ATB, Adrian was given a data analysis task to complete. He credits his previously acquired technical skills with helping him to complete the assignment. Aside from technical skills, Adrian says his top transferable skill is the ability to build relationships and trust with others.

Speaking of projects, Adrian had a part to play in the Phoenix Mars Lander mission that touched down on Mars in May of 2008. The goals of the mission were to study the Martian ice, soil, and atmosphere. When he was studying engineering, Adrian worked on the project with his professor. His role was to study computational fluid dynamics for the launch, and his name is on the lander!

Learning Moments

Adrian understands it can be stressful and anxiety-producing for people to make a major transition. He recalls sending out 200 applications in one month and finding the experience both mentally draining and demoralizing. He realized it wasn’t sustainable. 

Adrian was grateful that he didn’t have the pressure of having to find a new job right away. He also credits having a supportive partner as one of the reasons he was able to manage the stress of the transition. His advice for others who are pivoting is to enjoy the learning process and the opportunity to explore. 

So now you have some additional information for your future coffee chats with Adrian! As mentioned previously in Gurmol Singh's blog post, he’s also an e-sports and video game enthusiast and a competitive dragon boat racer. 

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