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Making the move into the technology sector from a non-technology background

woman holding a like a boss mug, career developmentArticle by Anna Yukhtenko, Senior Games Analyst, Hutch

Changing industries at any point in your career can be a daunting prospect, and one that’s even more nerve-wracking as a woman.

From keeping yourself awake at night wondering whether you have the relevant skills, to feeling the fear of having to start all over again, there are many things that can put you off taking the plunge.

The challenge can be even greater for those trying to break into the technology industry. It still suffers from an outdated perception that it’s a man’s world.

But there are some key steps that women can take to remove that barrier, and cement their rightful place in the industry.

Educate yourself on the sector

Let’s start with the basics. If you really want to enter a specific industry, make sure you’re brushing up on what’s happening in it right now. It’s usually obvious in an interview if you don’t understand the challenges a business faces. Make sure to do your research, and make it a point to read relevant industry news on a daily basis.

If you’re interested in entering the world of analytics specifically, get comfortable with programming languages such as SQL, Python or R, brush up on your statistical knowledge and work on storytelling and your presentational skills.

Trying to choose between Python and R? Choose Python as it is more versatile and is more widely used than R. SQL is often a must-have.

Start researching the relevant skills

There’s no avoiding the fact that there will be some skills that you need to start learning before you can join a certain industry, particularly with a technology career. But you don’t always need to have mastered them. Some of these skills can be learnt in your spare time through reading and general research, while others might require you to enroll in a specific course. If you’re truly passionate about entering that industry though, it’s worth dedicating the time to give you a better chance of standing out when applying.

There are some skills that you’ll be able to learn on the job too, so make sure you showcase confidence and interest in your ability to develop them. Being keen to learn a new skill can only be a good thing and shows enthusiasm, a highly valued trait in technology roles.

Brushing up on fundamental skills, such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint, is also vital. It might seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people lack even a basic understanding of how to use these tools when making the transition into technology.

Finally, once you’ve landed your dream role, make the most of the time you have in between jobs to prepare before you join, so that you can impress from day one.

Allow yourself to get creative

You might not typically associate creativity with technology as there is an antiquated perception that it’s just spreadsheets and data. But you can get a lot more creative than you might think, and you can use this to your advantage. Let’s take analytics as an example.

Working as an analyst in retail means you’ll mostly be analysing sales, which can be quite formulaic and not that exciting for some. But in the video games industry, you’ll be diving much deeper into the games, allowing yourself to get more creative.

While your technical knowhow is important, it’s equally as important to showcase your creativity, particularly at the interview stage.

Be confident in your abilities

As a woman, there is a degree of added pressure when trying to enter the technology industry, but the most important thing is to be confident. Women typically need to work harder than men to prove themselves and get the same credibility as their male counterparts. It’s not fair, but it’s reality. At least for now.

While things are slowly changing, be prepared to face some situations where your opinions might not be considered as relevant. This is where you need to remain confident in your ideas, and really show them what you’re made of. Be nice and polite but firm, give people the benefit of the doubt, stand your ground and don't use too many smiley faces.

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge

When it comes to making the transition into tech, don’t let the fact that you might not have the most relevant experience put you off. Apply for the job anyway, play to your strengths in your cover letter and start brushing up on the skills you think you’ll need for the position. The worst a potential employer can do is say no. But they might just say yes.

Anna YukhtenkoAbout the author

Anna has always been into data and numbers, and it was the switch from the retail industry to gaming that helped her fully realise her potential.

Her career in gaming started at Next Games as a marketing analyst, later transferring to Hutch, a mobile racing games developer and publisher known for free-to-play mobile games such as F1 ClashTop Drives and Rebel Racing, to be a full-time games analyst. Anna loves talking about analytics and strives to do so in a fun and easy way. 

 


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Anna Yukhtenko featured

Inspirational Woman: Anna Yukhtenko | Senior Games Analyst, Hutch

Anna YukhtenkoAnna has always been into data and numbers, and it was the switch from the retail industry to gaming that helped her fully realise her potential.

Her career in gaming started at Next Games as a marketing analyst, later transferring to Hutch, a mobile racing games developer and publisher known for free-to-play mobile games such as F1 ClashTop Drives and Rebel Racing, to be a full-time games analyst. Anna loves talking about analytics and strives to do so in a fun and easy way. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve been working as an analyst for the last eight years, moving into the mobile games sector in 2016.

I was born in Russia and moved to Finland to study when I was 20, learning Finnish and working as an analyst in consulting, retail and games, before moving to London three years ago.

I entered the mobile games industry from a retail background, and this is my favourite thing about being an analyst; it’s very rare to find yourself pigeon holed, as the skills are so transferable.

I’m currently working as a Senior Games Analyst at mobile developer and publisher Hutch, where I work on F1 Clash and Top Drives. I’m also a huge advocate of making data easy to understand and accessible to everyone. 

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t sit down and decide that I was going to become an analyst, but I chose my path because I like economics and maths, and I love a good head-scratcher.

I definitely wasn’t thinking about the mobile games industry in the beginning. I didn’t even know that being a game analyst was a real job that I could do. But I enjoy a challenge, and I wanted to stimulate my brain with something new, so when I saw a job ad for a Marketing Analyst at Next Games, I decided to apply. And the rest is history.

I make it more of a point to plan my career goals now, but make sure I leave room for plenty of adventures along the way.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Building any sort of career is always challenging, and the world of an analyst is no different.

Finding a job in a foreign country without being fluent in the language was difficult, but I constantly worked on improving my skills. Starting my first and second job right before or during my boss’ holiday was also tough. As was my first presentation to non-analysts, but I embraced the challenge.

There are some challenges that can be really fun as well. For example, I applied for a job in the mobile games industry that I wasn’t fully qualified for, but I nailed the interview. After that, I learnt the SQL programming language after work while serving my notice period with my previous company.

Overcoming all of these hurdles gave me a huge confidence boost, and meant I was able to develop my skills incredibly quickly.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It’s really hard to name just one, so I’ll share a few.

First of all, switching from being a marketing analyst to a full-time mobile games analyst and nailing it was a great achievement, and proved that I could do anything I wanted to do if I put my mind to it.

Working as a lead analyst on some of Hutch’s biggest games, such as F1 Clash, Top Drives and the Hill Dash series, has also been hugely rewarding as I’ve been able to influence the development strategy, suggest improvements and see the results pretty much right away. Also, working closely with the Product Managers makes the lead analyst role very hands-on.

Finally, I’ve been able to unleash my creativity and write articles about how to make analytics easy to understand, alongside hosting some of my own speaker sessions. I believe that analytics should be spoken about in an interesting, simple and engaging way, but there aren’t many easy to read resources or articles on analytics. With my articles and presentations, I feel like I’m contributing to the popularisation of the idea that analytics is fun and meant for everyone.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Taking risks has definitely been one of the main things that’s helped get me where I am today. I joined an industry that I’d never worked in before, or even considered applying for. I moved to a new country. Twice. I applied for a job that needed experience in SQL, which I didn’t have, and confidently told them that I would learn it.

It’s not easy to take these risks, but it definitely pays off in the long run.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

At Hutch, one of our core philosophies is ‘Test, Learn, Repeat’, and this can be applied to any career in technology. You should never stop trying new things and learning from them. If you think you’ve learnt everything you possibly can in your field, ask your peers for recommendations on other areas you can explore.

If you’re interested in entering the world of analytics specifically, take up SQL, Python or R (Python preferred to R), brush up on your statistical knowledge and work on your storytelling and presentational skills. Stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends, attend conferences, virtual talks and join various communities and Slack groups. Finally, stay curious and never be afraid to ask questions. 

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Unfortunately, yes. The main challenge is that society has taught women to not take risks or believe in themselves. Even to this day, I still sometimes find myself doubting my own skills and worth.

There needs to be more encouragement from the industry for women to apply for technology careers that are typically considered to be male dominated. Things are definitely changing for the better, but I would love to see more female analysts, developers, artists and marketing specialists in tech, especially in the games industry.

What do you think companies can do to support the careers of women working in technology?

I strongly believe that the key to success is information. Anyone who wants to build their career in technology needs to be better educated about the sheer variety of jobs that are available. Whether that’s a developer, analyst, artist, financial analyst or user acquisition manager, there are plenty of roles out there, and none of these are reserved for men.

Businesses themselves can also support the careers of women in several different ways.

They can run career events and forums at schools, explaining the different occupations available, and the different ways of gaining the relevant experience or degree. There might be some instances where you do need a degree, but when it comes to the games industry it’s not always a requirement.

Even organising events, panels and mentorship programmes for women who want to get into the technology industry will go a long way to demonstrating the breadth of opportunities available.

Descriptions in job adverts are also something that need to be paid closer attention to so that they appeal to a wider audience, including women. This includes carefully thinking about what is actually essential for the roles (women are less likely to apply if they don’t meet all requirements) and using a gender decoder when writing job ads. A gender decoder can help both recruiters and candidates identify any wording that could unconsciously influence the type of people who apply for the job, for example if they use words that are stereotypically masculine or feminine. I hope we won’t have to use them at all in the future, but for now they can help identify ways to make ads more open and accessible to everyone.

Finally, we need to nurture more female talent. Women suffer from impostor syndrome far more than men, and this needs to change.

There are currently only 17 percent of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would make it so that more able-minded women studied subjects like computer science, maths, economics (the analytical and mathematical side of it in particular), finance and engineering. Then, I would make sure that all of these women applied for a job in the technology industry that they find interesting, regardless of whether they are 100% qualified for the position.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

From an analyst perspective, I would encourage anyone interested in the field to brush up on their skills in SQL, Python or R. There’s plenty of different places you can learn these, including W3 Schools and Code Academy. Coursera and Data Camp also have specific R courses, while Eric Matthes wrote the brilliant Python Crash Course book. You might want to focus on Python, actually, as it is more widely used and is more versatile than R.

Outside of learning different programming languages, you should also take a look at sites like Gameanalytics.com, DeltaDNA.com and Deconstructor of Fun to learn more about the industry itself.

From a broader technology and games perspective, make sure you’re reading the latest news on websites such as Gamasutra and GamesIndustry.Biz, and keeping an eye out for events like the Game Developer Conference.


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