4 Ways to Explore a Career in Tech
After working in Digital Marketing for 7 years, I suddenly found myself in free fall. I wanted to work closer to code but faced a basic challenge: How would my future job be called, and which new skills do I need? What are the first, and really, the first steps?
After having attended many tech meet-ups and conferences, I learnt the secret formula for success: First, be a woman. Second, be a freaking good developer. Now, although this might be correct (let's skip the woman thing for now), there is a problem.
It's only the tail of the monster we're looking at. What about the head, where do things start in the first place?
I have done 100 things to shed light on these questions, and I will soon kick off my new path with a web development boot camp. Although I'm at the very beginning of my journey, it feels great which made me decide to share my learnings.
To trigger first ideas about your own career transition, why don't you listen to other people's stories?
My favorite career podcast is 'Work in Progress' by Slack, which is a weekly podcast, portraying people's crazy job transitions. A lawyer becoming a comedian or a seamstress getting into NASA - each story is 100% inspiring.
For people interested in transitioning into developer roles, I also highly recommend the Code Newbie podcast, hosted by Saron Yitbarek. Each week, Saron interviews guests working as developers, and lets you learn about their career path.
If you're more of a book type, I loved reading 'Do Fly' by Gavin Strange, which is a brief and fun read about any kind of career transition. Another great way to get started is exploring Simon Sinek's "Start with why".
Get yourself out there.
Start surrounding yourself with people who know what they are doing. Although it can cost some time, it eventually pays off.
Check meetup.com and eventbrite.com like a maniac. Especially for tech-related topics, free meet-ups pour in as frequently as Amsterdam rain. Make sure to subscribe to interesting groups to keep up with their events. There are also many free or affordable conferences or workshops - keep your eyes peeled for university events. Some conferences offer volunteer options, where you have to work for some hours and get a free ticket in exchange.
Get in touch with recruiters, headhunters or people with an interesting job profile. Instead of the in-your-face-objective to 'give me a job', approach them for advice. Ask them about qualifications or specific information on the profile you're interested in. Limit time and effort on their side by keeping it short & sweet. Be aware that you will have to follow up, because well, people are busy.
Bad news is, that you'll actually have to do some work. Even worse, you're not sure what you're studying for, and where to start. On the flip side, there are plenty of resources.
Let job descriptions become your daily newspaper. Go on LinkedIn or e.g. The Dots and browse for cool jobs. Then skim through for the 'qualifications' section. What do I have to know? Which skills, e.g. programming languages, are mentioned frequently? Together with the knowledge you got from talking to people (see 'get yourself out there'), you can now start defining your personal curriculum.
Lynda.com, coursera, codeacademy.com, ideou.com, YouTube - there are many (free) platforms to study remotely. As a first step, think about your learning type. Do you prefer studying by yourself, or in a bigger group, remotely or on location? What's your budget (money and time)? You might also find some interesting local schools/courses, e.g. more and more 'makerlabs' or co-working spaces start offering courses on UX, coding and more.
DO things. Even with a very limited skill-set, nothing is more rewarding than working on your own little projects. Try to translate your new (coding) knowledge into execution, find people who also just started, meet and create things together. This also helps to set up your portfolio for potential applications.
Water your decision like a plant.
The hardest thing to accept is that you won't know what you're doing. You are constantly swimming in an ocean without seeing land, but it provides great exercise.
Talk to people who will tell you that you're doing the right thing. Yes, critical advice can be great, but it can also slow you down. So just for the time being, take the freedom to choose whom you're listening to.
Put out your vision first, then watch it slowly becoming real. As a person who loves telling stories, I know the handy consequences. People look at you and expect you to do what you said, which is a great thing for getting that little extra push.
Think about your entire life and how many years you will have to work. In the bigger picture, you have plenty of time for your career path to take a little detour. Enjoy the ride, ignore the speed limit and have a great time.