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Ray M
Ray M

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So, you want to be a techie

A short time ago I wrote an article about how a techie can upgrade their tech skills to a management role. ( I was grateful to have people reaching out with positive messages about the article. I also received requests to write about how a non-techie could become a techie. Considering I started as a coder, I have not experienced this transition but I have observed it. So, I did some research and talked to different people to find out their experience, thoughts and reasons for their aspirations.

The first thing that you need to consider is what you think a techie is. There are many levels of being technical as well as perceived levels. Is being able to installing a driver on a PC being technical? Is being able to code a Machine Learning algorithm in R being technical? Over the years I have heard comments like if you know VB.Net but not C#.Net you are not a real coder. Java is the ultimate 'real' coding language. If you are not managing your memory, manually you are not a 'real' coder. SQL or HTML is not 'real' code. Javascript is not a 'real' code. This one stopped after the rise of JavaScript frameworks which now rule the web. The judgement will always be there as some people like to define what they do as more important as others. I'm also here to tell you their judgement is irrelevant. The only measure you need is your goal on what kind of technical career you want and which skills you need to get there.

First consider which level of technical knowledge you want? Is it you need to know SQL to run more complex reports to boost your current role? Or do you need to build an AI prototype of an idea that you came up with on the weekend? Either way the below six points should help you get there. I have leaned the six points towards someone wanting to be a techie coder as most of the requests I received were directed at this.

Second, are you clear on your purpose in wanting to be a techie. What is your driving force making you want to stay up till 3am debugging code not doing what it should be doing? Is it you don't want to be excluded from this mysterious language of acronyms? Unless you are clear on your purpose that is making you drive down the binary road. It will be hard to persevere through the early feelings of frustration. It will be hard to find and fix an Uncaught TypeError.

Here are six things I believe you need to make quick progress into your quest to become more technical.

One. Start being curious about how everything works. There are so many things we use or interact with every day that you wouldn't stop to consider how they work. A techie is always curious about how things work. How does cloud storage work? How does the internet work? Why do Amazon's Audible personalised emails not look up the books that I have completed and exclude them from suggested books to me? Take the time to watch videos explaining how things work. Make reading tech articles part of your weekly routine. The process of being curious about the details is a big part of the skills you need as a techie. Through curiosity, you will learn about the smaller things that make up more significant things. Knowing more about how things work, means you know more about how to change them or fix them.

Two. Start small. You don't need to be an expert in all things at once. Technology is ever expanding. There are more and more platforms and frameworks being released every month. Choose something simple and specialise. This will make your journey quicker as well as easier to establish confidence and credibility. If you want to start connecting things together. Take a look at There are simple applets as well as more complex multi-step applets. For something in code. Take a look at SQL to help with data reporting. Most BI platforms allow you to write SQL which will give you more flexibility in deriving insights in your data. For coding languages either Python or Javascript is a great place to start and both languages are highly versatile. Remember you do not need to know everything at once. Also, don't be discouraged by comparing yourself to seasoned techies.

"Don't be discouraged by comparing yourself to seasoned techies."

Three. Break things down into small steps. You can start doing this on any aspect of your life. Here is an example. I want coffee. First, I need a vessel to carry the liquid in, a keep cup is the best type. Then I need coffee beans. I need to grind the coffee beans, but before that, I need to make sure I have a grinder. I need to check if I have milk. I also need to check if I have sugar. I need a coffee machine and hot water. Once you have all the items and utensils, you can start the process. Some elements in the process are repetitive. Like if you want 2 teaspoons of sugar. I won't list every single step in the process as you can see already. There are many little steps that make up one task. As a programmer, you are writing lines of code. Each one is a step in the process or a container for an object. Before you start writing anything you will think about the outcome you are after and work backwards on what steps you need to get there. Making this process something you do will help you have an analytical mindset. That's the mindset you need to be a techie

Four. Learn the basics. You are in luck. There are so many initiatives around the world that are teaching people to code for free. They even make it fun. Check out or and build your own SnapChat Geofilter. These platforms will step you through the basics of coding. Instructions, loops, functions etc. Each activity builds on the last. A few hours a week over a few weeks will get a good sense of basic programming. If you managed to get through them and love what you are doing. You are indeed on the path to becoming a techie that you can be proud to be. You can then start to challenge yourself by writing simple apps from scratch. Everyone starts with a Hello World app. But you could start with Hello Ray and send me a screenshot :). Google search will be your best friend through this stage. Don't worry even coders with 15+ years experience are Googling errors to find a solutions daily.

Five. Find a tech buddy. You want to find someone happy to walk you through something till you are able to understand it. Even if it is several times. Some will not have the patience and dismiss you back to non-techie space you came from. Ignore those people. Find anyone that has the knowledge and is willing to support you through your becoming a techie experience. Ask them what they are working on. Ask them to explain how it works. Ask them how Siri knows which apps to put in the app suggestion section with relative accuracy. If you have multiple people that can support you, it would be even better. Don't think any question is too simple or to dumb to ask. Something's you read or view online will not make sense right away and having someone you can talk about it with will really help.

Six. Earn credibility. Now that you have the building blocks of being a techie you need to put it all together in different shapes and sizes. To earn credibility start building your own apps in your spare time. Build a new report using SQL. Tell people what you have done and also explain how you did it. Start talking like a techie. Use confusing acronyms 😁 and make it sound complicated. Okay. Don't do that but do try and use the right language. It is more accurate and you will feel more like a techie. You can also ask people you trust directly what else you need to do to get on a project. Or remind them that you are eager and will deliver.

These six steps should start your adventure into the world of being a techie. For all those that were curious, I hope you enjoyed the read and can form a goal and action plan to become the techie you dream to me. My first tip is everything in code starts at 0 just like your coding skills. Be Patient and, and you will progress in no time.

"Everything in code starts at zero just like your techie skills"

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

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