Parents Pivoting Careers During a Pandemic

By Emily Peck February 4, 2021

The stories of managing a work-life balance during a pandemic are plentiful and profound. The challenge of balancing ever-changing priorities is only magnified in the lives of parents raising young children. We wanted to take a moment to recognize the amazing parents pivoting their careers during a pandemic and graduated from a BrainStation Online Bootcamp; a feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

They’ve continued to go above and beyond and have shared their experiences, with advice for fellow parents who are thinking about learning new skills and changing their careers. 

Why Start a New Challenge? 

There are many reasons why parents may decide to take on a bootcamp. For some, losing a job during a pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to tackle something new and earn a new career. Others saw their growing family as the spark they needed to make a career transition. 

Web Development graduate Jessica Kwok started the bootcamp with a background in Kinesiology and saw maternity leave as the perfect time to jump into a new career. She shared that finding remote learning was a big factor. “As a new mom, being able to do the bootcamp remotely was a major priority for me,” she said. 

“I ultimately chose BrainStation because they were well versed in delivering content online (even before Covid!) and had an impressive growing alumni network.” 

Elyse Renouf has a background in business consulting and recently graduated from our Data Science Bootcamp. She shared that Covid-19 layoffs, daycare closures, and a desire for a more technical role that could be remote was the perfect storm to spur the need for a change and take on a course. 

Tight and Tricky Schedules

So what does studying while being a parent look like? Think packed schedules, lots of help from friends and family, and getting creative with distracting little ones. 

Angus Ryer, a Web Development Graduate with a history in construction, shared his schedule:

  • Wake up to my nine-month old crying
  • Go wake up my three-year old
  • Get breakfast ready, eat together, take the boys out for a walk while my wife works out
  • Make coffee number two
  • Hop online for class at 10:30 am
  • Listen intently and work on projects until 1 pm
  • Help my older boy get settled into a nap
  • Power through classes from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm 
  • Spend some time with my kids, eat dinner (made with love by my wife), and then settle my older one into bed
  • “Relax” on the couch with my wife, half-distracted by MasterChef Australia or InkMasters while I continued to study work in the concepts I had learned
  • Rinse and repeat!

Other parents shared similar busy schedules, commenting that despite the lack of personal time, it was all worth it to have a brand new bootcamp credentials in only three months. 

“It’s scary. That’s natural. The biggest rewards usually come from the biggest risks,” said Armando Pastorin, a UX Design Bootcamp Graduate.  

“This process is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting for everyone,” Renouf admits. With the mix of parenting and household responsibilities while studying, it can be tempting to doubt your decision or want to quit. Luckily, her son helped provide the motivation she needed. 

“I did this course and am making this career change so I can get to see him more so despite how overwhelming it was at the time, I truly believe it was all worth it.”

Advice for Parents Going Back to School 

Each parent was keen to share advice for other parents looking to learn remotely. Here are some of our favorite tips:

“Surround yourself with people who can encourage and support you along the way. As much as we’d all like to be the “super-mom” or “super-dad” who single handedly got through a bootcamp while watching your child full time, having people who can help you out and root for you is extremely valuable to your success.” – Jessica Kwok

“Take help where needed from your family, friends or whoever you like to get some quiet time to finish your work. During my Coffee and Conversation sessions, I came across a lot of parents from different cohorts, with whom I would exchange ideas on time management and so much more which helped me a lot. ” – Bonney Halani

“Set a schedule leading up to the program and help your kids get into that routine, so that they expect you to be focused at specific times. Kids (and grown-ups) tend to go crazy if they don’t get enough attention, so by committing to giving them the right amount of time, it’s easier to give yourself periods of focus without the kids tugging at your pant legs.” – Angus Ryer

“We didn’t have any sitters, no family, and at first, no daycare, and it was madness. If you can, identify where you can make your life a little smoother by either meal prepping, freezing leftovers, or ordering take out to save time. Keep snacks on your desk and relax your screen time rules (a good tablet/headphones really are your best friend in survival mode.” – Elyse Renouf

“Block off dedicated family time and actually stick to it.” – Jessica Kwok

Photo Credit: Sammie Chan (@sammiechn)

Take Care of Yourself

For parents deciding to use their extra time to upskill, taking some ‘me time’ is all the more important. Pastorin did this by dedicating one evening of the week to himself. “Every Tuesday evening was my time to go out and refresh the brain with something completely unrelated to work.”

Kwok started a workout group, initiated a Zoom workout group with a few friends to keep each other accountable for a 30-minute workout, three times a week.

Whatever shape your ‘me time’ takes, don’t put it on the back burner! Even super parents need a break.

What Comes Next

Ultimately, the specific needs of a person’s demanding day-to-day are different for everyone. But these incredible parents are proof that if you are determined, committed, and perhaps a little crafty, you can achieve your goals with your family and future in mind.

Want more information?
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