Ex-Disney Dancer, Chef, Bartender on the move to software development

  • Three workers told Insider why they started new careers in software development during the pandemic.
  • A former bartender said the pandemic made him realize how little time he was spending with his wife.
  • An ex-chef is still working at a restaurant part-time to “scratch that itch” of working in a kitchen.

Massive layoffs, remote work and family responsibilities have forced thousands of Americans to consider changing careers during the pandemic.

Some have been forced out of their jobs because their employers have downsized or even closed during the pandemic. Others “resigned in rage” in search of better pay and conditions.

People were also suffering from work fatigue, according to Shaun McAlmont, president of professional learning at Stride, a continuing education company. The pandemic has given people the opportunity to change “the whole of their working conditions”, he said.

Read more: The 22 best side hustles to get started that could net you 6 figures or more, and how to get them off the ground quickly from experts who’ve done it

Insider told three workers why they traded jobs in the hospitality and entertainment industries to get into software development during the pandemic.

Melanie Anderson wears a green blouse while smiling at the camera

Melanie Anderson decided she wanted a job in security.

Melanie Anderson

The Disney Dancer

Melanie Anderson worked at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., as a parade dancer, and her career path was “pretty much set.”

Then the performing arts industry crashed during the pandemic, and it became clear that she had to look for other options.

So she signed up for a Tech Elevator bootcamp, which consisted of live distance learning alongside career support.

After graduating in February 2021, she was “at a crossroads again” as the rollout of the vaccine had given her hope that the performing arts sector would rebound. But she wanted a job in security and started working for the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Anderson said mass layoffs and industry furloughs have also forced former colleagues to change careers. Some taught online classes, while others got retail jobs or did their full-time side jobs.

Anderson said she hoped to return to the performing arts on a part-time basis: “In their hearts, everyone really hopes the performing arts will come back.”

The bartender

Prior to the pandemic, Aaron Kolatch worked as a bartender in New York City, most recently at the NoMad Hotel in Brooklyn.

“I made a really good living as a bartender” and was “hyper-skilled” in the industry, he said.

But he got married in December 2019, and found his job at odds with married life. He told Insider he worked evenings and often went to bed at 4 a.m., which made it difficult to spend time with his wife, who worked in an office.

“When all the bars in New York closed, that was probably the first time in the five years we were together that I got to see her day to day,” he said.

“I think a lot of people in the hospitality industry got to experience what the rest of the world is going through for the first time.”

When the lockdown started, Kolatch looked into alternative careers and stumbled upon software development while learning how to modify a video game.

He decided to enroll in the Hack Reactor bootcamp. He is now looking for a job in software development while working for Hack Reactor.

The pandemic “made it easier than it would have been” to change careers, Kolatch said.

Drew Hall next to his computer

Drew Hall, a chef turned software developer.

Drew Hall


Drew Hall had worked in the Philadelphia restaurant industry for 18 years, 10 of them as a chef, before the pandemic hit.

He sometimes worked 80-hour weeks and even missed vacations and weddings for work, but said, “I loved what I was doing, even the hours.”

Hall had considered changing jobs before the pandemic, but wasn’t sure how he would find the time to return to school.

But his restaurant closed during the pandemic and he had “tons of time” to attend Tech Elevator’s bootcamp.

Hall now works as a software developer for PNC, but spends three days a week working as a butcher at a restaurant. “It scratches that itch that I still have to be in a kitchen,” he said.

He does not regret having changed careers and is already planning three summer trips.


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