I left tech to pursue a career in musical theater

  • Bryan Munar, 27, began to feel bored and dissatisfied as an iOS engineer at Mozilla.
  • After being laid off, he decided to pursue a full-time career as a musical theater performer.
  • He tells his story as it was told to journalist Annie Graham.

This say-to-say essay is based on a conversation with 27-year-old Bryan Munar, who ended his career as an iOS engineer to pursue musical theatre. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Three years ago, you could find me on a computer writing code as a full-time software engineer at Mozilla. Today I spend my time on stage, singing and performing in musical theater productions. Here’s my story and some advice for anyone navigating similar career changes.

I first felt drawn to the performing arts during the big Disney channel boom, when shows like Camp Rock and Hannah Montana made me want to be a pop star. I sang in choirs and school productions from time to time, and received external validation that I had a talent for performance. But when I went to UC Berkeley, I wasn’t even considering an arts education. Computing was all the rage, and at the time my desire to make art was not as important as my desire to succeed in the more traditional sense. So I got a degree in computer science in 2015 and started working at Mozilla.

It didn’t take long before I started feeling bored and dissatisfied with writing code every day.

I am a creative person and there was no outlet for that energy at work. The only times my performing side showed up among my co-workers was at the karaoke nights we hosted at extravagant off-site companies in Europe or Hawaii. I was in a meeting three months later, and someone was asking me if I was the amazing off-site singer.

I started thinking about work as something I could put on the back burner while pursuing my true passions.

I wasn’t interested in moving up the tech ladder, but rather wanted to do my thing at work and do art on the side. I signed up for a musical theater audition class at the American Conservatory Theater in SF, and the teacher told me she thought I had a future in the field and encouraged me to pursue the hearings. I started going to shows and taking time off work to perform.

Of course, this state of mind was not compatible with my manager. In technology, there is a strong expectation that engineers will move up the ladder to become more and more senior. My priorities didn’t fit that standard, and eventually I started looking for other jobs.

The same day I was offered a job at a non-profit theater organization called Theater Bay Area, Mozilla let me accept a hefty severance package.

I took it as a sign that I was destined to pursue the performing arts.

From then on, it was full steam ahead in the acting world. I continued to audition and get to know people, and built a network of people who trust me and my work. I started getting more and more emails and calls from people about auditions, and I steadily built a diverse resume.

Today, my performing career is flourishing.

In the past few months alone, I’ve been recording music with Boyz II Men’s Wanyá Morris after winning a live IG contest he hosted, I’ve been a cast member of Brat Pack in San Francisco, and I is preparing a new musical in the bay. Region. My work is dynamic and fulfilling – musical theater allows me to be a vehicle for something that moves audiences and ultimately affects how others feel.

As for the money, I don’t earn as much as I used to, but I don’t have any difficulty either. I work as a voice and SAT tutor to make sure I can pay my bills. I don’t spend a lot of money either.

Pursuing a passion — creative or otherwise — can be a daunting prospect when you’re safely settled in the high-paying, benefits-saturated tech industry. But I never looked back, and my life today seems richer and more authentic.