discussion / Early Career  / 23 July 2023

Career Change Advice

Hi All,

I’m seeking advice on a career change.  

I am an early career software engineer currently working in medical device software test automation. I want to break into the world of conservation technology, but don’t really know where to begin. 

I have always been passionate about animals and would love to work in either the aquarium/zoo industry or with wildlife. I have software skills, but no biology background. I feel like I should go back to school but haven’t found too many grad programs that marry software and animal studies. 

Any program suggestions or general advice would be greatly appreciated. I’m based in the US, I’d love to do research, and am also interested in learning AI/ML.

Hi Carly :) 

Welcome to WILDLABS!

I curated some great opportunities for young East African women looking to get into conservation technology some time ago. Though you are based in the U.S, there are some great resources on there that may be of interest to you like - Earth Data Science: Earth Lab provides free online courses, tutorials, tools and course materials covering topics including data integration, GIS and data intensive science. You can also check out WILDLABS Tech Tutors to learn more about the areas within conservation technology and which you'd be most interested in pursuing. Also, feel free to come along to WILDLABS Variety Hour, our monthly community event connecting you to the exciting projects, research, and ideas that are happening in conservation tech right now.

You can also check out this webinar on the future of green jobs to help you get started. 

I hope these resources help as a starting point! Best wishes.  

Hi Carly!

It's exciting to hear that you're thinking about how to apply your skills to conservation! I made a career pivot last year from an electrical engineer at the department of defense to a PhD student designing community-driven environmental sensors and its been awesome! Definitely took some work to figure out what I wanted though.

Good places to start might be joining the AI for Conservation Slack group (it has a jobs page) and potentially the Work on Climate community. In my experience people in these communities are generally very happy to give advice to someone pivoting into the field. 

If you are considering the academic route, you should think about whether you want a Master's or PhD (or something else). It might be hard to find a Master's program specifically for software + animals, but some HCI programs might have tracks that allow you to work with animals, for example with Georgia Tech's Animal-Computer Interaction Lab. If you're open to a PhD, I would recommend exploring the existing academic literature for papers that seem interesting and then looking more into the authors.

I'd be happy to talk more if there's other advice I can provide. Good luck!

Hi Carly,

I'm asking myself the same questions. I've recently contributed to MoveApps, which was a very nice entry point into conservation tech/movement ecology for me. Perhaps you find it interesting, too. There's a nice article on it here on WILDLABS. Let me know if you have any questions on this.