Not everyone strikes lucky with their first career choice. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 1 in 3 workers in the UK is considering changing jobs or careers. For some, the realisation that they’re in the wrong field happens quickly after their chosen career path fails to meet expectations, while others simply lose passion for what they’re doing over time. Whatever the reason may be, there’s no better time to choose a career in technology. With tech vacancies soaring and demand for digital talent peaking, the sector is full of exciting career opportunities.
To help you on your career switching journey, we’ve gathered some of the best tips and advice from some of our own team members who have made the leap into tech. Read on to learn how to successfully switch to a tech career.
Meet the Intechnica team members who switched to a career in tech
Fiona Fairbairn, Consultant at Intechnica
After a colourful career in the music industry, Fiona was ready for a change. Realising how much she enjoyed introducing new systems to businesses and remembering how much she loved typing in lines of code from magazines to play games on her BBC Micro, she started considering tech. She completed an intensive coding bootcamp to qualify as a Full Stack Developer and worked in product before bringing her skills to Intechnica six months ago.
Aneeqah Qureshi, Finance Business Partner at Intechnica
Aneeqah started her finance career working for two media firms in London. After taking a three-month break travelling and volunteering, she and her partner decided to move up north to Manchester. She knew that the city had a big tech presence and was drawn in by the flexible culture that tech businesses have to offer. Since joining Intechnica in 2019, Aneeqah has played an integral part in driving the business forward.
Rachel Ng, Consultant at Intechnica
After graduating with a BA in Russian & Arabic, Rachel was considering a few different career paths. She had never been a “techie” person and had even actively avoided IT in school. She was working in customer service, trying to figure out her next move, when her friend encouraged her to apply to Intechnica. With a knack for languages and writing, she got the job and has now been at Intechnica for four years, enjoying the diversity of the businesses that she assesses.
1. Focus on transferrable skills and on what you can bring to the table
“Skills transfer from other industries.”, says Aneeqah. No matter what tech position you’re after, transferrable skills will be extremely valuable in your job hunt. Problem-solving skills, communication skills, and organisational and analytical skills are always in demand for most technology positions.
“If you decide to become a developer, you might be surprised to find out how much of your time isn’t spent writing code. The good news is that this makes the skills you may already have from a previous career even more valuable. Time management, planning and researching are all things that need to be done every day and it’s likely you’ve done at least some of them before.” says Fiona.
Rachel too echoes the importance of transferrable skills: “Don’t forget your previous skills and experience. My background is in languages and I have a particular affinity for grammar and writing which aren’t necessarily directly important for tech. But I’ve brought those skills to the team! I’m the go-to proofreader and I’ve helped make the reports we write more formal and consistent. Technology thrives in diversity and having a unique or alternative background can help your team to tackle and solve problems in new, better ways.”
2. Speak to people who work in tech
The best way to get an insight into what working in tech looks like is to speak to people in the industry. “Never be afraid to ask questions, not only is this how you learn, but most people I’ve met in the tech world love sharing their knowledge. And as cliched as it may sound, there really are no stupid questions. Even the most senior tech architects don’t know everything – google is everyone’s friend.”, reminds Fiona.
The vast majority of people in tech that I’ve come across love talking about it and are up for teaching new concepts – so don’t be shy of asking questions and use that to learn.Rachel Ng
Aneeqah also encourages people to start conversations and to learn from others. “People are really passionate about tech and usually I’ve had very enthusiastic replies explaining things to me. There are lots of little corners of specialisms and each person has a unique take. Also, no one is supposed to know everything, so ask away!”.
3. Discover the best tech role for you
Working in tech goes far beyond coding and programming. Make a list of what your ideal role would look like and start researching which positions best match your dream job. Try to think of tasks and things that you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Would you enjoy a client-facing role, or do you prefer working with internal functions? Are you more creative or analytical? How do you feel about managing people or projects?
Narrowing things down makes it easier for you to align your skills with your desired position, and to strategically pick up new skills that you may need. If you’re after inspiration for what technology careers are out there, Skillcrush has compiled a handy list of 41 job titles in tech and what each role entails.
To help figure out the best path, Rachel encourages people to try the basics: “There’s a wealth of roles in technology and you may not want or need to be a developer. However, learning to code can be incredibly useful. There are numerous courses online that you can try your hand at. It’ll also help you know if switching to a tech career is something you actually want to do and help you narrow down what you want to do. I don’t have the patience to be a developer but there are other tech roles that are a better fit for me.”
Reflecting on her own role discovery, Fiona highlights that working in tech doesn’t just mean coding. “For instance, roles in Product or UX are great if you’re interested in how tech impacts and is used by consumers, whereas becoming a Business Analyst is a great choice if you like identifying problems and finding solutions. There are probably roles out there that you don’t even know about! I had no idea I could be a consultant until I found myself in the application process at Intechnica. The role has allowed me to combine the technical knowledge I’ve gained with writing reports (which I love to do), and I also get to learn all about the companies we assess.”
4. Develop new skills
These days there are so many ways in which career switchers can retrain and hone their skills. If you’ve found a tech path that you wish to follow, you might want to consider an intensive bootcamp where you’ll learn everything that you need to kickstart your career. Providers such as Northcoders, Le Wagon, Manchester Codes, and Ironhack offer various courses where you can learn a new skill set, whether it be coding or UX design. Such courses often require an intensive time commitment and may cost several thousands of pounds, but they can be a good investment for those who are confident in their new career choice.
However, bootcamps aren’t the only route to a new skillset, reminds Fiona.
If you want to learn to code but aren’t 100% sure you want to splash out on a course just yet, there are loads of free online resources to give you a taste of what it’s like. In my experience, freecodecamp and codecademy are two of the best.Fiona Fairbairn
5. Start building a network
“Now that events are happening in person again it’s a great time to go along to meetups. Some are aimed specifically at newcomers to tech but going to anything on a subject you’re interested in can be a great learning experience. There are some really supportive communities out there! There are even some meetups where you can take along a personal coding project that you need some help with, and experienced mentors will give you a hand.” advises Fiona.
Websites such as Eventbrite and Meetup are brimming with tech-themed networking events, and many of them are completely free of charge. You can also use social media to hunt down networking events hosted by businesses, universities, non-profits, or trade associations.
6. Remember that companies are looking for culture fits
While skills are important for landing your first job in tech, they’re not all that matter to hiring businesses. Here’s how Aneeqah describes it:
When I hear people talk about recruitment at Intechnica, there’s a lot of emphasis on what kind of approach a person has, or how can they complement the culture and stretch the current team. So, apply for the job. Apply for the job. Apply for the job! Even if you just have a few of the preferred skills, Intechnica particularly is invested in upskilling people who are up for the challenge.Aneeqah Qureshi
Final words of advice?
Fiona: “As a career switcher I promise you will be able to ace your interviews! When I was first looking for a junior developer job after my bootcamp I received a number of offers because I think I was more articulate than a typical candidate – that’s not to say recent Computer Science graduates can’t express themselves, but the life experience you bring can make for great interview answers.”
Rachel: “Be humble – this is probably true of any career change but be open to feedback and being taught new things.”
Aneeqah: “Speak up. Different perspectives are helpful. Even when I am way out of my depth listening to others on technical matters, if I ask a question, it can spark a different idea or solve a problem just because all our brains work in different ways.”