My big job change: "This is what it's supposed to feel like"

Jakob rediscovered his enthusiasm for work after a period of reflection, Anne-Dorthe and Amire went back to school, and Marianne became self-employed. Four STEM professionals talk about their big decision to change careers.

Imagine quitting your job today.

How does it make you feel? Can you see freedom on the horizon, new possibilities coming into view? Or do you feel a crushing insecurity that not only your working life but also your everyday life will soon be turned upside down?

Quitting one's job is never easy, but for many it is refreshing to start something new. And at the moment, quite a few IDA members are doing just that. In fact, one in five of IDA's privately employed members changed jobs in 2021.

Read also: Expert advice: 8 bad reasons to quit your job

We spoke to four STEM professionals who have recently changed career paths and quit their jobs after asking themselves the tough question: what really makes you happy in your work life?

Anne-Dorthe Norlyk, 33 years, from midwife to graduate student ( — Product Design

Anne-Dorthe Norlyk has been a midwife since she graduated in 2012. After 8 years at Kolding Hospital, she decided last summer to apply for the Master's programme in IT Product Design at SDU Kolding.

"It was not an easy decision. It took me a very long time to hand in my notice after I was told I had been accepted. It meant having to say goodbye to the comfort and everything you know. I've been at the same workplace for over 8 years, so it's become my second home.

"Earlier, I might have been afraid of getting stuck. I have always had a desire to develop, both professionally and personally."

Anne-Dorthe Norlyk,
Student, IT Product Design

One thing is going back to depending financially on student grants when you have two kids. But there's a lot more to leaving a job and family life that's running at its usual rhythms and replacing your whole everyday life with something else. Fortunately, I've had nothing but positive feedback. People find it very exciting.

The decision did not come out of nowhere. I know many colleagues who have gone back to school to get a graduate degree of various kinds. But I haven't applied with a specific end goal, and that's actually very nice.

I'm not sure I want to go back to midwifery because there's so much else in my training. I could easily see myself as a teacher in the health sector. I've always liked that. Or perhaps becoming involved in some project work in the hospital system.

I have already had the opportunity to express myself more creatively at my new study. You get to come up with ideas and just try things out. It's a side I've wanted to explore for a long time. Earlier, I might have been afraid of getting stuck. I have always had a desire to develop, both professionally and personally.I need some new challenges in my life, especially in my working life, now that I'm going to be there for so long."

Jakob Klein Petersen, 35 years, from software developer in Terma to solution architect in Element Logic

Jakob Klein Petersen graduated from SDU as a bachelor of Engineering in 2011 and has been working as a software developer ever since. First at the Logodan/Acies trade organisation and then at Terma until he was dismissed in a round of redundancies. The dismissal was an opportunity to rethink his working life.

"It has been a turning point for me both professionally and personally.
After being given notice, I had four months of leave and time to consider my position. In the first few weeks of my job search, I was very determined to continue doing software development. After all, that was what I worked with and liked to do.

"Well, I'll be damned, I thought. Now I've been walking around here for 8 years thinking I was going to be a software developer."

Jakob Klein Petersen,
Solution Architect, Element Logic

But after I'd been been to three job interviews, it was as if the world had moved on while I'd been at Terma. The technology and the technical level expected of a developer had changed. It was a bit of a gut punch.

For me, working in my field was primarily a professional thing, but when I compared myself to my old classmates, they were writing their own frameworks and geeking out at a much higher technical level. They used to say, 'oh it really gives a kick when you sit down and write some good code'. I never had that feeling when I worked in software development.

When my outplacement coach asked me 'Jacob, what are you really passionate about', I came to the conclusion that it was about working with people and projects. I took some project management courses and discovered that this is exactly what I have a flair for. Well, I'll be damned, I thought. Now I've been walking around here for 8 years thinking I was going to be a software developer.

Then I scrapped my job application and wrote a new one from scratch, changing the focus completely. And bang, I had a job almost immediately and thought from day one, 'wow, this is what it's supposed to feel like'.

The fact that I have a flair for technology with me from the past and at the same time can implement, teach and manage, it's a perfect combination for me. Reading a book on project management in my spare time, that's not something I have to force myself to do anymore."

Marianne Andersen, 57 years, from business developer in Analogic Inc to independent business developer

Marianne Andersen graduated as an electronics engineer from Copenhagen Technical College in 1989. For the past 25 years, she has worked for various large companies in the medtech industry, such as Brüel & Kjær, Dantec and Medtronic. Today she is a business developer in 3 startups and has her own NGO.

"It came with the void after the kids left home and the trend that now we all have to be entrepreneurs. So I thought, I'm going to try that too. I wanted some more freedom. When you get to where I was with 25 years of experience, it's annoying when management in the US says you have to do this and that, even though it makes more sense to do it differently in Europe.

I was offered a job as director of a spinout from Aalborg University, Nocitech, where I was to commercialise a technology developed for pain research. I got a small salary and a job two days a week, so I could quit my job and move on. Since then, I've made my way in the entrepreneurial world of robotics and medtech, mostly doing business development for startups.

It has boosted my quality of life. I It can be hard to leave the corporate world because you feel secure in your job, get to take expensive courses, attend great events and have a high salary. But it's important sometimes to think, 'what makes you happy?' For me, there was a lot of wasted time with travel and lots of meetings — and I don't feel good about the big offices that were popular. I like things to move, and they do in smaller companies. We decide one thing today and do it tomorrow.

I have also taken an executive MBA. It was insanely exciting and I would recommend it to anyone. It's important throughout life to learn something new. Nowadays, when you graduate as an engineer, you shouldn't think that's it."

Amire Selimi, 31 years, From lab assistant in Novo Nordisk to data consultant in NNIT

Amire Selimi graduated as a laboratory technician from the University College Copenhagen in 2012 and immediately joined Novo Nordisk, where she worked in molecular biology and robotics. One day it became too monotonous and she decided to apply for a bachelor's degree in chemistry and biotechnology, followed by a master's in data science.

"I had a dream of going back to university, but when you're in a good place like Novo, you don't feel like quitting. But at some point it got too monotonous for me. There weren't enough challenges. It was very much the same trials, and that made me make a decision to continue studying.

"When something gets too monotonous for me, I start to get bored. If I hadn't quit my job, I probably wouldn't be where I am now."

Amire Selimi,
Data Consultant, NNIT

My two previous degrees were not very technical, so it was really challenging to suddenly embark on a master's in data science and have to learn four programming languages in six months. I told myself that it was ok to drop out after the first semester if it wasn't for me anyway. But then I continued and graduated in June 2021 and immediately got a job as a data consultant at NNIT.

First I threw myself into cloud computing. I learned Amazon and am now in the process of Microsoft Azure. I've also been doing some machine learning in the form of some natural language processing and playing with IoT devices.

It is challenging on a daily basis and I learn a lot. It's great, even if I'm a bit slower than my older colleagues, but that's how it is with all beginnings.

When something gets too monotonous for me, I start to get bored. If I hadn't quit my job, I probably wouldn't be where I am now."