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3 Apr, 2022 - 6 min read

Build on your experience, don't replace it.

Switching careers can take some energy, especially if you’ve invested thousands of dollars into education, made sacrifices on dreams and spent years of your valuable time dedicating yourself to an industry you’ve now fallen out of love with. To make the leap, you want to know you're building on your past experience and knowledge rather than replacing it with entirely new skill sets.

That is where Jacqui Burfoot was when she started to explore her options to bridge out of professional services into the tech space. She certainly had the energy for change, so it came down to choosing an approach that allowed her to carry her existing skills across and build on them. She did know the traditional study route wouldn’t cut it.

“I needed something short, something that would help me understand the possibilities and limits of tech to design an incredible product. It had to be mind expanding but focused on emerging technologies and product development, and not too heavy on the academic theory.”

Jacqui found that, and more, in the Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments at Tech Futures Lab.

Bringing in your background

The profession agnostic approach that Tech Futures Lab offers in all its programmes is what stood out to Jacqui. She didn’t need to be technical, she didn’t need to have engineering know-how or analytical skills (although her professional services background meant she did have those). In fact, she’s sure that was an advantage in how she approached the programme.

“Innovation is about creating something new that no one has done before, so I believe you have an advantage when your imagination is not constrained by the current state of technology.”

That open minded approach with her willingness to cross the boundaries marked out by traditional education meant she was able to bring what she already had in her toolkit but to also apply freedom in her thinking.

“I previously trained as a Lawyer and Investment Analyst. But Connected Environments gave me a huge blank canvas to go out and conceptualise and innovate with systems that will change an activity – any activity.” 

Taking a do-it-yourself approach

Jacqui had been brewing an idea she wanted to make a reality - a digital mind-body coach. But after six months of searching around and asking people how to develop it, she kept drawing blanks. It was down to her to make it happen, so that’s what she set out to do on the Connected Environments programme.

“Eventually after getting frustrated with my inability to find anyone with comprehensive knowledge of how to build the entire technology system we needed, I realised I probably needed  to figure it out myself.”

Making the leap and loving it

Practical learning mixed with flexible application meant the programme gave Jacqui the launchpad she needed to get her idea off the ground. When she began the programme, Jacqui was working full-time in professional services and trying to tease out her digital mind-body coach as a passion project. 

But through access to industry experts alongside the inspiration and insight sessions with startup founders encouraged Jacqui to make the bold decision to resign from her job and chase her passions in technology, design and product. “I resigned from my job knowing that this is exactly where I wanted to be, go and explore for the foreseeable decade. This was one of the best gut decisions I have ever made. I feel like I’ve had one of the biggest head starts on Web 3.0, the metaverse and future of tech and industry. “

On the leading edge of a new industry

Connected Environments is a term that still needs some explanation being a relatively new industry, despite many of the disparate technologies it includes have been around for years. For many, the Internet of Things (IoT) is an easy entry point into connected environments - those small sensor devices that are making their way into wearables, appliances and environmental monitoring. The iPhone was perhaps one of the first incarnations of true IoT - a thing that was able to access the internet and all its power from anywhere, make some decisions and provide some communication back to its user on the next best steps.

However, Connected Environments have evolved significantly over the past decade and now we see exponential technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics and extended realities (like VR) included in the device mix that connected environments offer. But devices alone are not connected environments either - it’s the data, the insight and the communication it enables that is where the real impact occurs. With connected environments we can bridge the gap in awareness and understanding between natural and built environments. And that brings potential for massive change in how we plan and deliver sustainable solutions.

Jacqui believes this is a watershed moment in time, akin to the birth of the internet.

“This is how early-internet pioneers must have felt – all this potential and nobody paying attention to it. You might need a career change, technical upskilling or a big leap of faith. But the pioneers of our future will not be hesitating.“

Jacqui's journey from the more traditional career to tech startup entrepreneur is one that many people who join the Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments follow. She is proof that tech isn’t exclusive for coders and developers. In fact, we need this diversity of perspective, skill sets and experience in this space as it will underline so much of what our future holds.

“Diversity is extremely important in this space, as is a variety of perspectives, because projects tend to be large scale, touch on multiple industries, tap deep into multiple domains, and are often expensive to embark on R&D. There is no way one person can know it all - it is a huge team-based project. It means everyone is valued equally in the IoT space, particularly non-technical business people because the user-experience & business case matters more than what the tech is or could do.”

This is exactly why Tech Futures Lab designs all programmes to be profession agnostic, including the Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments.

We believe that for us to build a resilient future, it requires holistic thinking that connects across all facets of society.  It’s not about giving up on what you’ve already done and where you’ve already been. Rather you’re able to use those as foundations for what you’re building towards next. 

Jacqui Burfoot is a lawyer and investment analyst by trade but has now made the leap into entrepreneurship with her own tech start-up after completing the Postgraduate Certificate in Connected Environments at Tech Futures Lab. The postgraduate certificate, a 34-week part time programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab is for people who want to solve problems, using the power of insight and responsiveness that connected technologies enable. Learners on the programme will begin by uncovering a problem relevant or important to them and end with a strategic solution and business plan that leverages connected technologies and data.

Importantly, the ethos of all solution designs are underpinned by a consistent check against impact - positive and negative - for people, place and planet.