February 4, 2018
I Want to Break Into a Career In Tech. Where do I Start?
By Jay Wengrow, CEO of Actualize
You’ve decided that you’d like to break into a career in technology. Technology is taking over the world. Robots are eating people’s jobs in every industry. You don’t want to be left behind, so you decide to jump on the bandwagon.
But you’re not 19 anymore. In fact, you have a career in something other than tech. You’re an accountant, a welder, a mechanic, or a lawyer - and you’re not exactly willing or able to start college all over again. Where do you even begin?
The truth is that many people successfully switch careers every day, and you can too. Technology is a very large field that encompasses many possible career choices, and for many of them, you don’t need a degree at all. You may need training, but the training can be short-term, like a coding bootcamp or similar program. In fact, many technologists are actually self-taught.
The place that I’d recommend starting first is deciding what exact job within technology you actually want to do. There are so many different careers in technology (check out our other blog posts to take a deeper dive into some of them). Some are more technical, such as Software Engineer or Data Scientist, while others are a bit softer, such as Digital Marketer or Operations Manager. Yet others focus on the visuals, such as a UX or UI Designer. Not everyone is wired to do everything, and you don’t want to try to transform yourself into someone you’re not.
So take a good, hard look at all your options, and play to your strengths.
Additionally, it’s important to note that you can (and should!) absolutely leverage your previous non-technical experience in your new career in tech. Having two skill sets can make you a rare asset, and many companies and organizations may clamor over you to get you on their team. For example, a marketer-turned-software-developer has so much more to offer to a digital agency than someone who has development experience alone. Likewise, store-owners-turned-digital-marketers can use their retail experience to create magnificent ad campaigns targeting similar store-owners, as they totally understand the mindset of that customer base.
Once you’ve narrowed your career choices down to a few options, go out there and meet people who actually perform such roles now. It’s easy to find someone in your area in a almost any role using LinkedIn. With a small amount of research, you can connect and invite local technologists to coffee, or even a simple chat by phone, and informally interview them to gain a deeper understanding of what they do and what advice they’d have for someone who wants to break into a similar role.
When you’re pretty sure you know which technology job you’re aiming for, you next want to explore what education or experience is necessary to land an entry-level position in that role. Some positions may require no additional education at all, and you can simply start out interning or assisting a more senior position at a company who fulfills that role so you can learn the ropes. Other positions may require a little more training, but not a college degree. For example, one can learn software development in just a few months at a programming bootcamp. There are similar bootcamps for data scientists, web designers, and digital marketers as well. The level of education required is also something you can ask the people you’ve been meeting for coffee about.
Once you have a clear idea of what education or experience you need, you can then begin doing a fair amount of internet research to see what educational or experiential opportunities are available near you. Now, not in every case does a school or experience need to be local, per se. Some coding schools, for example, take place online (such as our Online Live program). Again, with some research, you should be able to make a list of options.
If you’ve done all of the above, you can actually begin to make a realistic game plan as to what your next steps should be. We cover some of these next steps in other blog posts, but this article is your very first step to get you up and running towards your new career in tech.
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