One of the biggest mistakes people make when considering a career transition is to think in terms of black or white; it’s all for the geeks, definitely not for them… You assume you’d quit everything you’ve ever been / known, and deep dive in the abyssal unknown, head first. Talk about nausea!
In fact, there are plenty of career options that you have in front of you when you contemplate a possible career in tech. And they are not even mutually exclusive; you can use them to take a stepped approach. The good news is that this, right here, is probably the best time ever to explore a tech career – there’s a growing shortage of talent and companies are finding it hard to fill their positions, and the outlook is increasingly favourable.
Here they are, ordered from the less dramatic to the most significant change:
Your 4 career options in tech
1. Grow where you are
Yes, you read that right. With all the changes around us and the new challenges employers are faced with every day, chances are that if you just offered to take on a more technical role, you might be able to do that from the comfort of your current position.
It can be even a low key, informal change at the beginning; once you are aware of the kind of technical skills that your employer might appreciate / needs, you can start learning in your free time, and then offer to help within or in addition to your current role. If this is helpful to your employer, and if you make yourself valuable, you might be allowed, encouraged even, to continue learning during work hours.
Later on, you could gravitate little by little to the new role. The big plus of this approach is that you don’t have to take time off = live without a salary, you get to practice as soon as you start learning, and your employer might even help out with whatever learning costs you might incur.
If this is not an option (there are no tech roles in your current workplace or your employer fusses), and / or if for whatever reason you’re not inclined to leave your current employer, then your alternative is to consider a (more or less temporary) side-hustle. Start learning in your free time, and then look for opportunities to put your new skills to work. You can volunteer with a local organisation (or even remotely), look for simple freelance jobs, or start building something of your own.
By doing either of these, you’ll start consolidating your new skills, build valuable experience and even end up with a little portfolio – all valuable down the road, regardless of whether you’ll prefer to stick with your current employer or move on to new challenges.
2. Go with a non-technical job in the tech industry
Whatever your initial training and / or experience, chances are you might have something valuable to offer a prospective employer. Tech team are usually 50% tech roles, and 50% other roles. It’s difficult to enlist all possibilities – since they are likely very diverse (both in terms of what you’ve got to offer and what potential employers are looking for); however, here are a few roles that could definitely find a fit in a tech setting.
- account management roles
- project / program management
- human resources
- marketing, social media
- copywriting, content creation, technical writing
- anything finance and procurement
- legal (especially data protection / copyrights / GDPR)
- secretarial / admin tasks
- training-related roles
- and so on…
Tech companies need, in addition to tech savvy, skills like communication, leadership, team work / collaboration, adaptability, creativity, visual / design skills, emotional intelligence, decision making, management, sales, marketing.
In fact, according to a Glassdoor report, 43% of jobs advertised by the tech sector are nottechnical in nature. If you can demonstrate (and maybe know how to ‘sell’) them, these skills will definitely get the attention of your recruiter. They come in handy for tech roles too – so regardless of your interest, check out this article on leveraging your transferable skills. If just changing the environment does it for you – perfect.
However, you can also look at this as a buffer period, or a period to gain exposure to the new field – to feel it out. To connect with people performing the job you’re interested in and observe them, talk to them. Say you’re in sales but are hoping to transition to web development; you could look for a sales job in a web agency; you could even mention in the interview you’re interested in further exploring the dev side – and find a way to ‘sell’ that as an immediate value to your new employer (ex. by better understanding the work of developers, you’ll be able to better convey the info to both sides etc.).
You can think of this as a crossover kind of role; then you find yourself in situation 1 above – up to you to navigate your way to your dream position by delving deeper and deeper in the tech side.
3. Choose a tech jobs in a non-technical setting
Most small to medium enterprises working in pretty much all fields (ex. publishing houses, legal services, schools, retailers, medical services etc.) will need some sort of in house tech assistance. As they scale and become larger, they tend to contract out these services in a majority of cases the services remain in-house. These services can include maintaining a website, administrating and troubleshooting office equipment, managing access to information, providing user support, processing and archiving data etc.
The key difference between this set of positions and the next (tech in tech) is that here the tech staff do not develop the solutions they implement; they merely have to become very skilled at implementing and supporting them. Frequently, these skills can be developed on the job.
And look, if you’re wondering if this is, maybe, just a so-so option that I’m using just to fill up space on the page 🙂 : according to an Oracle report, the vast majority of IT job openings (9 in 10) are outside the tech industry.
4. Aim for a tech job in a tech company
This is likely what most people would consider a ‘tech job’. We’re talking here about, arguably, some of the best & most secure positions of our times. A fast-evolving field, in high demand, fighting for scarce talent (a fight that, at your end, translates in many perks and a good working environment, not to mention a fair compensation). A field that tackles real world problems by proposing innovative solutions – so if it’s meaning you’re after, this is where you find it.
This is where you have the developers, the network and database administrators, the data scientists, the various engineers the security engineers, the IT support / helpdesk positions, the solutions architects and so on. Check out the (almost) exhaustive list of tech careers here.
So these are some of the career options in tech that you get to explore. What is / was your approach to your career transition? I’d love to hear from you – drop a line in the comments box below or on your favourite social network!