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I left my 17-year career as a police officer to become a web developer.

After 17 years as a police officer, Abdul Rafi decided to pursue his first love - computers. Now a web developer, this father of 3 aspires to teach tech skills to under privileged children to inspire them to live their dreams.

What made you decide to change careers?

After spending 17 years as a Police Officer in the Singapore Police Force, with a focus on aviation security policies and project development, I decided it was time for a change. Despite the satisfying nature of my work, I felt a strong urge to explore the tech industry. This interest stemmed from my upbringing and a genuine passion for technology. I wanted to be more hands-on and be more directly involved in product creation.

What do you do now and what are the highlights of your role?

I was fortunate to secure a role as a React Developer at Accenture after graduating from the Web Development bootcamp at Le Wagon Singapore. My role is to transform our product owner’s requirement into codes. As our product owner is a government ministry in Singapore, the entire software development life cycle vis-à-vis the policies to be applied is very intensive. We work in an Agile setting where changes in scope and direction are being implemented in “sprints”.  While intense, the role is fulfilling as I get to be involved in implementing enterprise web application from the ground up.

What motivated you to join the Web Development bootcamp at Le Wagon?

When I decided it was time to make a move, I realised that I needed a solid starting point. I figured a certification and a jumpstart in knowledge and skills was what was needed. Learning on your own can only take you so far. Without a proper structure, it would be easy to get lost in the sea of information out there. True enough, when I ended my coding course at Le Wagon, I could compare the significant difference between what I had learned on my own and what the bootcamp provided. It was crystal clear.

In addition, I was also cognisant of the importance of connecting with like-minded people like me. People who are also taking that leap of faith. I have always believed that these will be your lifelong companions, and people who will not only support your journey but also push you to be the best.

Tell us about your Le Wagon experience.

I absolutely love and miss my time at Le Wagon. From the start, I was given instructions and guidance to set up my development environment. For someone who self-learnt to code, this was something not shared or taught by “YouTubers” and from paid online courses. Until today, I still use the extensively set up development environment that Le Wagon had got me started on.

Every day, after a 90-minute lecture focusing on coding concepts and frameworks, we settled down to start on coding challenges. These are designed to train your coding skills so that you can use the concepts to solve real world problems. Eventually we moved on to building mini applications from our command line interface and transitioned to the design side of things. All these culminated in a final project that combined both front-end and back-end into a fully functional product.

One thing I genuinely appreciated was the experience of working with other coders to develop an app. By and large, it prepared me well when I started my role in Accenture and had to work in an Agile setting with other developers.

Any advice for people looking to take the leap just like you did?

  1. Landing the perfect job right away might not happen, and that is okay. Every experience is a learning opportunity that adds to your skill set. It is important to get into the battlefield as early as you can, while the concepts are fresh in your mind. Be open to taking on roles that might not seem ideal initially, as they often lead to unexpected growth.
  2. Reach out to recruiters and show them what you can offer. Let them know you are all set to bring something extra to companies that are open to hiring newcomers. It is like making friends in the job world. They can help you find the right spots and you can prove that you are the right fit.
  3. Ensure your family supports your decision and that you are financially prepared for a potential transition period. This stability will allow you to fully focus on your learning journey without unnecessary distractions.

Rafi was interviewed on Singapore radio station 938 Live on his career switch and his aspirations to use his tech skills to give back to the community. Listen to his interview here.

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