Swapping Books For Bytes: A librarian’s journey into tech

Swapping Books For Bytes: A librarian’s journey into tech

December 21, 2023

Jonathon Valentine began his career working in libraries, drawn to their capacity for supporting local communities.

When he began to think about moving into the tech industry he wasn’t totally sure how for-purpose and tech in the private sector would intersect which is fair enough—tech doesn’t exactly have the most ethical rep. Now happily working for Merkle Aotearoa, we caught up with Jonathon to hear about his journey, and his experience of tech so far.  

What were you doing before Mission Ready?

I’d worked for the National Library in Australia, then at a University Library, and when I moved to New Zealand I started full time at Wellington City Libraries, working with communities and all that sort of stuff.  

Why did you choose to study with Mission Ready?

I’d gotten my Salesforce admin cert during lockdown in Brisbane and then when I came to New Zealand it was more about getting a job in a field I knew, and there were opportunities there at the time. I was looking for ways to get experience in the Salesforce environment or to develop my skills further to then progress along that path. When I came across Mission Ready it seemed to fit the bill, with training in the developer stream and a healthy chunk of workplace experience.  

Did you have any fears or concerns about changing from the library work you were doing into this new tech realm?

Yeah, for sure. I guess there’s always some kind of hesitancy or uncertainty about change in general but especially changing careers. I want to be doing work that has impact, that helps people in some way. One of my biggest concerns was around moving from public service to the private industry and not knowing if I was going to be able to be involved with that sort of impact-driven work but Merkle’s values align with mine and they pick up a lot of work that falls into the impact space.  

What was the accelerator like for you?

It was a big cohort to start with and it was entirely remote which added a layer of complexity. I was still working full time and doing the classes at work, after work, as well so there were some long days. It was good though—the work was interesting and Afraz, our tutor, was super knowledgeable with a lot of experience. He was good at passing that on and talking about processes and procedures—working in an agile environment, what does that mean and how does it work on a day-to-day basis and so on. There was a lot to take in. Working with other people always presents challenges but I was pretty fortunate in that I fell in with a good team and we stayed together throughout the course. I’m still in contact with them—we catch up every now and again to have a chat and see how everyone’s going, and if there’s any support we can provide for each other.

What did you love the most about your experience?

The industry experience. Going from ten weeks of training straight into a real environment definitely took some time to get used to. It was a tough start but it was really worthwhile and our mentor on the project was a lifesaver. They were hugely invested in us being successful and making sure we came away with a good learning experience, which was great.  

What are you doing now?

I’m currently working at Merkle Aotearoa in the Wellington office as a Technical Consultant which basically means more on the development side of Salesforce rather than the declarative. I’m working on a project with Te Kāhui Kāhu which is the social services accreditation arm of the Ministry of Social Development. It’s a great work environment, a really interesting project, and it aligns with where I wanted to be working. I’m really happy here, and glad I made the change.  

Do you have any advice for someone who’s interested in studying with Mission Ready but perhaps hasn’t made the choice to enrol yet?

You’ll get out of it as much or as little as you put in. There was a lot of outside study that I did just because I was changing careers and I felt I needed to do some catch up; I didn’t have a background in coding or anything like that. The programme isn’t long but it is intensive so if you can maintain it then it’s definitely worth it.  

Lastly, do you have any tips for getting hired?

I don’t consider myself someone who is very good at networking. It’s probably my least favourite thing to do but in this industry it’s super valuable so talk to people because you just don’t know who you’re going to meet and who might be able to help you. Go to industry events, if you’re doing the Salesforce developer track go to your local user group meetings. I reached out to a couple of different people and just said ’hey, this is what I’m doing, do you have any advice?’ and they were willing to have a 1-on-1 meeting with me for half an hour and talk through what they’re doing, what they’re looking for in terms of hiring, other people it might be useful for me to talk to—that sort of thing. People are very generous with their time. Let it be known you’re asking for help. Be interested and invested, and people will respond to that.