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Cover image for My Tech Journey: Advice for Career Switchers

My Tech Journey: Advice for Career Switchers

helenanders26 profile image Helen Anderson Originally published at helenanderson.co.nz ・4 min read

Making it as a career switcher is not easy, especially as there are technical skills you need to gain. I hope this post can help other career switchers and those supporting them to do it.


You are not starting from zero
Explore your options
Don't be afraid to fail
Be part of the community
Get comfortable, being uncomfortable
Teach others what you know
Small steps



You are not starting from zero

If you are considering a career change, you are not throwing away everything you have done so far and starting again. Nor are you competing with 20-somethings who have been coding since they were toddlers. You bring a unique point of view and experience that makes you stand out. Not hold you back.

You aren't in competition with new graduates, as you have years of experience already. Dealing with stakeholders, holding meetings, and managing deadlines, are all transferable skills. Adding coding to the experience you already have is an additional skill, not a starting point.



Explore your options

There are hundreds of different roles in the tech industry and no checklist of what you 'must' learn. In the same way that your career journey so far is unique to you, so is the journey to make the switch to tech. This is the time to test out what makes you happy and explore your options. None of this is wasted time.

When I was going through this process I went down plenty of avenues to discover what I liked and didn't like. Starting with watching the videos from Harvard's CS50. Just watching the videos introduced me to different computer science concepts. I am not planning on becoming a computer scientist anytime soon but I appreciate what the concepts are.



Don't be afraid to fail

Having a series of unfinished projects is not a failure. Starting a project, setting aside time to work on it and taking on the challenges that come with it, is a win. It may not feel like it at the time but even if you don't cross the finish line, the learnings happen before then. You learn valuable skills taking the time to spot bugs, understand the issue and solve problems along the way.

I have a Github graveyard of unfinished coursework from the 10 week JavaScript course I did when I was exploring web development. I came into the course with a bit of HTML/CSS from learning online. Although I decided that JavaScript is not for me I learned how to use Github, the command line, the basics of scripting and how to ask the right questions when I got stuck.



Be part of the community

Career switchers are often advised to talk to people in the role they are interested in, go to informational interviews, and learn with others. Easy to say, but harder to track down these people if you are not part of the 'who's who' in your local community. Meetups are a safe and friendly environment to chat with people them about what they are working on.

My first Meetup was R Ladies London. At the time I was exploring junior Data Science roles. The organisers and attendees were great to chat to at our monthly events. I got to find out what Data Scientists work on in their day to day work and what I would need to do to join them. While Data Science was not for me either I only found that out by chatting one-on-one in a friendly environment.



Get comfortable, being uncomfortable

This is a shift in thinking that will help you from feeling overwhelmed. In the IT and tech industry, things are always changing. The hot new library or language may not be hot for long. It is not important to learn everything about everything, as you are setting yourself up to fail. What is important, is to learn how to learn so you can get to grips with what's new when things change.

My strategy was to find all the tutorials, videos and blog posts on the topic I was attempting to learn. Then I would try and work through the list. Not only did this quickly feel like 'work' and a box-ticking exercise I wasn't getting anywhere. My new way to keep in the loop is to take a few hours each weekend to focus on a topic that interests me and enjoy it. Trying to take on everything is the quickest way to lose enthusiasm.



Teach others what you know

Teaching someone else reinforces knowledge. You will need to break concepts down into chunks and take questions from who you are explaining it to. It doesn't have to be delivering a workshop or standing up in front of hundreds of people, just chatting to your friend about what you learnt this week is beneficial. Blogging is also a great way to lock in what you have been learning about and find out where the gaps are in your knowledge.



Small steps

Good things take time. You may take multiple steps to get to where you're going. There is no rule that says you should switch straight into a technical role right away. So don't put pressure on yourself to do so. Maybe being a technical administrator is a good stepping stone into a developer role, maybe working in a non-technical team in a software development company is a way to transition. Taking small steps towards a bigger goal is a way to keep up your enthusiasm.



Career change isn't easy. But you can get there by taking a staggered approach and keeping the end in mind. Learn how to learn, what you enjoy doing, and how important soft skills are as well. Good things take time so remember to be kind to yourself as well.



This post first appeared on helenanderson.co.nz

Posted on Apr 27 by:

helenanders26 profile

Helen Anderson

@helenanders26

Making applications go faster at Raygun, AWS Data Hero, and tag moderator on Dev.to. Database concept you don’t understand? Let me know, I’ll write a post!

Discussion

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Very well said @helenanders26 ! The "You are not starting from zero" section is powerful. I see many folks that are very hesitant to get into tech because they are not an "expert". I argue to them that they are. They have a unique background. They are the only ones who can combine their own unique skills and experiences with tech to create something.

 

I agree, that section was so important to read, especially as a beginner. It took some time to change my perspective on this, but now I view my past work experience as a strength and I can tell that my previous experiences are constantly coming into play as I am learning to code. Everything is cumulative and connected in a wonderful way.

 

When I worked for a bootcamp, some of the best students / candidates were career switchers. A lot of them had amassed skills that are basically impossible to learn in a short time, unlike various tech skills ... communication, diligence, conscientiousness etc.

 

Congrats @helenanders26 ! I agree with you about when the changed career you do not start scratch, you have all experience and skill of old career.

 

Thanks so much! Looking forward to reading more of your posts. Keep up the good work!