How to Break into Tech for Non-Techie Women

09/02/2016 03:40 pm ET
Photo by #WOCinTech

Several weeks ago, I was invited to the Los Angeles Latina Power in STEM Conference as the keynote speaker to their middle-school and high school Latina attendees.

According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, only 25% of the tech space is made of women and only 1% are Latinas, 5% are Asian, and 3% are African American.

Honored and excited to promote women in tech, I started thinking about what I’d share. I wrote some notes on my non-technical journey into tech. Then, I started to think about how I could end my talk with specific guidance and a call to action for girls to go into tech.

That’s when I ran into Jeremy - a non-techie guy who not only broke into the world of tech but also wrote a manual on it - and I got some pretty good material to share with my girls (and with you too!).

If you’ve ever considered a career in tech, you’ll want to read our Q&A below.

 

Who should go into tech?  

Jeremy: As hot as the tech industry is these days, I only recommend it to people who are really passionate about that space. Because while a job with free sushi or massages may seem sexy, at the end of the day, it’s still a job. Which means that if you don’t love what you’re doing all day – be it launching a new product, creating marketing materials, or closing deals with clients – you’re not going to love tech.

 

What career opportunities are available to someone interested in tech who has a technical background?

Jeremy: Professionals with a technical background have lots of opportunities in the tech space, naturally. For example, someone with a computer science background could be a good fit for a web development or software engineering job. Whereas someone with a strong background in math or statistics could do well as a data scientist or business analyst.

 

What career opportunities are available to someone interested in tech who has a non-technical background?

Jeremy: Non-technical jobs actually make up the majority of all tech jobs, believe it or not. And that’s because for every technical staffer who comes up with a great new piece of code, companies need a non-technical staffer to patent that code, market it, and sell it. So that means there are great non-technical jobs for all kinds of people. If you’re very analytical by nature, you may enjoy business operations (basically internal consulting) or market research. Whereas if you gravitate towards interpersonal-focused roles, jobs like sales or customer success could be perfect you. Here’s a list of 12 of the best non-technical roles across the tech world.

What’s the best way of researching a new non-technical tech career?

Jeremy: Start by understanding which role is right for you, using the aforementioned list. And then start reaching out to people who have that role to both confirm your fit and build connections into that world. Here’s some advice on how to reach out most effectively.

 

What’s the best way of identifying transferable skills for a new non-technical tech career?

Jeremy: The trick is to understand what skills the new job requires. You can figure that out by reading several job descriptions in your desired field and looking for commonalities in their language. And then you just need to map your own past experiences onto those skills.

For instance, when I wanted to get into tech marketing, I identified four key skills across the job descriptions I read. And then I tied those back to what I had done as a teacher.

 

What are great resources for training and education for someone looking into non-technical careers in tech?

Jeremy: I’ve actually built a whole site to help non-techies break into the tech world, from finding the right role to nailing their job interviews. It’s called Break into Tech. And it’s completely free.

In addition, I highly recommend LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and AngelList as resources for learning about tech professionals, companies, and startups, respectively.

What’s the best way to network to get a non-technical tech job?

Jeremy: I recommend starting by reaching out to people who have the job you want to have – not to get a job, but just to learn. And then as you demonstrate your curiosity and passion by asking really good questions, those people will start to have positive associations with you, so that if you talk with them a few times over the course of several months, it will now feel appropriate for you to segue the conversation into job opportunities at their companies and on their teams. And, if you put yourself in their shoes, who would they rather hire: A total stranger or someone they’ve met and like?

How can someone looking to jump into a non-technical tech career gain experience?

Jeremy: You can gain experience in just about any field by doing freelance projects. For example, if you want to become a marketer, you can go to Upwork and find hundreds of freelance marketing jobs at just about any time. And then, if you successfully complete a few of these projects (e.g., write a couple of blog posts, help run an AdWords campaign), you can now list experience in content and PPC (pay per click) marketing on your resume.

 

Where can someone looking to jump into a non-technical tech career find a mentor? 

Jeremy: I’d say the best mentorship experiences start organically. So, again, I’d recommend reaching out to people already working in your desired field and just start asking good questions. You may not hit it off with everyone but that’s OK. Even if there’s just one person who you love to chat with and who seems to enjoy your conversations as well, there’s a good chance that person can become your mentor over time. It just takes two things: First, the courage to reach out initially. And second, the patience to consistently follow-up and build the relationship over time.

 

Are there any other tips you have for someone looking to break into tech?

Jeremy: The #1 piece of advice I can give is to not be intimidated. It’s easy to say, “I’m not a coder. I’m not a techie. I don’t belong here.” But just remember that the majority of people working in tech aren’t any of those things either. And so if you’re passionate about this space and are willing to work hard to break in and succeed, you absolutely belong.

There you have it. Now go break into tech!

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