Addition, Not Transition: How to enter the tech industry without leaving your experience behind
The tech industry has exploded in the last 10 years, and it isn’t going anywhere. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics offers multiple projections* that see growth in the technology sector clearly outpacing other industries—even other scientific and professional industries. Occupations in information technology are expected to grow “from about 3.9 million jobs to about 4.4 million jobs from 2014 to 2024.” (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Given this wealth of opportunity, it is no surprise that many people—young professionals who are just entering the workforce as well as those mid-career who are looking for a new challenge—are considering a transition into the tech industry. Programs catering to career changers or those looking to gain new skills have sprung up in many forms—from full-time coding boot camps to self-guided, self-paced online learning that can be accessed around your own schedule. Regardless of your time constraints, financial resources, or previous experience, it seems there is now a path available to guide you into the tech industry.
But all these resources, options, and opportunities can be overwhelming; and learning a brand new skill set can be daunting. Luckily, you don’t have to do it in a vacuum! I’ve already taken the leap of faith into the tech industry, and I’m here to share my experience in the hopes it will make yours that much better.
DO your research! With so many options out there for learning, it can be hard to narrow it down. So think about what YOU need. Some things to consider:
- What is your schedule?
- What is your learning style?
- What are your interests?
- What is your ultimate goal?
I thought I could motivate myself to learn on my own through free online tutorials and courses… but I quickly found this wasn’t the case! I’d get home from a full day of work and general adulting and try to convince myself to do a coding tutorial… and I just. couldn’t. do it. I was simply too exhausted after working all day to do anything more mentally taxing than watching Netflix. So I ended up quitting my job and doing the full-time boot camp at LEARN Academy. If I hadn’t taken such a huge leap, I’m not sure if I ever would’ve really had the motivation to learn web development.
But some people love self-paced, self-directed learning and thrive in an environment where they can choose when and how they learn. So take some time to get to know yourself and answer some of the questions above before you embark on your tech journey. It will go a long way toward reducing the sense of overwhelm that can occur when looking into a completely new industry.
DO find your niche/passion but DON’T panic if this doesn’t happen right away!
I really do believe that the tech industry is so broad and varied that there is something for everyone; but that’s not to say that your niche will be apparent right away. If you try something and find it difficult, that’s okay! Learning new skills, especially specialized skills, is never easy. If you try something and find yourself hating it or dreading it, try something else!
A large part of the work I did during my first internship was back-end focused, meaning lots of function writing, database work, and data structure development. I felt very out of my depth. And I started to panic. What if I’d made a huge mistake? What if the tech industry wasn’t for me? What if I wasn’t good at this?
Then I landed my current job working on the various websites managed by the San Diego transportation network, and one of my first assignments was to create an internal website for Human Resources, from scratch. I was given a basic design by the creative team, but everything else was up to me. And I loved it! And I was good at it. Spending hours trying to figure out how to evenly center items on a responsive web page sounds like a nightmare to some people; but it was something I found fascinating and really satisfying.
So keep trying new things! Just because one aspect of tech isn’t for you doesn’t mean none of it is.
Finally—and in my opinion, maybe most importantly—DON’T abandon your background skills and experience! Your story—the subjects you’ve specialized in, the jobs you’ve had, your passions and interests—are an asset, not a hindrance. I like to think of my entrance into the tech industry as addition rather than transition. I wasn’t leaving behind the other sectors I’d worked in or cared about; I was adding a new (highly marketable) skill to my repertoire.
I obtained my MA in human rights, with a focus on rehabilitating survivors of sex trafficking. I have several years of experience in the mental health field as well as four years of teaching experience. I am passionate about art, social justice, and gender equality. I didn’t want to abandon any of these things when I entered the tech industry, and I found that I didn’t have to. Technology has permeated just about every aspect of our lives, and this means you can apply tech just about everywhere.