THE BLOG

Thinking About a Career Change to Tech? Here's How

03/16/2015 11:17 am ET | Updated May 16, 2015

We all know that the tech industry is where the jobs are, especially if you have the coding skills. But what would it take to break into the field if you have no experience or background in that area? Anh, age 29 from Brooklyn, took a chance on a career change into tech and it paid off. Here's an interview with Anh, a friend of mine, on how she did it:

What was your career background before you decided to switch over to the tech industry?
I have a BA in Psychology and a Masters of Science in Education, obtained through the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. I taught 6th, 7th and 9th grade math for a couple of years, then transitioned into an Academic and Career Advisor position at the college level.

How did you determine that changing fields would potentially work for you?
Honestly, I had no idea if I was making the right decision. I had invested 6 years of work in the education sector, but at each job I felt that I wasn't able to satisfy my creativity. As a hobby, I love meticulous activities like craft making and building scrapbooks. I didn't think craft making would be a sustainable career path, so I explored other channels. My husband, also a developer, introduced me to programming. At first I was hesitant -- it was just numbers and letters on a screen. However, when I started to learn HTML, CSS, JavaScript and basic Ruby fundamentals through online tutorials from Codecademy.com and TeamTreeHouse.com, I was hooked. I really enjoyed the problem solving and being able to build things with code. I turned my ideas into beautiful looking sites that are functional -- it brought the same satisfaction as building a craft project, but it was something I could share with many people online.

Tell us more about your coursework experience and how you were able to find a job afterward.
I wanted to speed up the learning process, collaborate with other developers and immerse myself in the experience. In September of 2014 I enrolled in a Web Development Intensive Course at New York Code and Design Academy (NYCDA). My pre-work was the front end web development track through Thinkful.com, where I started to build out static websites using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and JQuery.

The WDI class was a 12 week program, from 10am-6pm Monday - Friday. It consisted of lectures, code alongs, group projects as well as independent work. It was an intense and challenging experience. We went through the topics very quickly and we were constantly learning something new. On many days, I would go home feeling really frustrated because I had no idea what I was doing. I spent my evenings, nights, weekends coding. The three months flew by and I think the effort I put in really paid off.

At the end of the program, I had a portfolio site, with three completed projects -- one of which is an onboarding app built with a classmate for future WDI students (this is now being used by the school!) During the course of the program, we had lunch and learn events where we met with a few recruiters and employers to gain insight into the tech industry and develop job seeking skills. At the end of the course, NYCDA arranged a meet and greet event where each student was able to showcase their projects. I met with about 20 companies and interviewed with 4. I was offered an amazing position with a startup company as their technical lead.

What do you like about your current work and what are the biggest challenges?
I love the company culture at a small startup. And as a developer, it's exciting working on something that you have a stake in and that you have a huge role in making successful. My work lets me be creative and it's rewarding to contribute code that solves a problem. The biggest challenge is that there's a lot I don't know. I constantly face problems I can't solve -- I spend a lot of time searching on Google for a solution or reaching out to my network of developer friends for help. In this industry, I also feel like I am competing with a lot of younger and more skilled developers with computer science backgrounds. However, I was fortunate to find a company that valued my previous background and acknowledge that survival at a tech bootcamp meant I was a quick learner.

What advice do you have for someone considering a career change into the tech industry, specifically for those considering computer programming/coding?
1. Practice by building your own things, like simple one page apps to show that you've mastered a specific skill
2. Develop a portfolio to show off your projects
3. Learn at least one web framework (Rails, Django, Angular, React, etc.)
4. Be well informed about best practices and updates in the tech community by reading developer blogs, Hackernews and attending meetups.
5. Understand how the internet works (cookies, DNS, tcp/ip, http)
6. Learn Git really well.
7. Don't give up! For me, learning to code was a real challenge. I didn't have a computer science background and a lot of the concepts went over my head the first time around. However it eventually gets easter. It just takes time, practice and repetition.

Inspired by career success stories? Read more Secrets of My Success profiles.