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Tech needs you: How to translate your existing skills and strengths for a career in IT

women in tech, soft skills

Article by Nataliia Pelykh, Business analysis competency lead at Ciklum

My career didn’t begin in tech – but instead as an analyst working on financial models and forecasting for a whole host of industries, including agriculture, oil and gas.

My best friend back then was Microsoft Excel, and my role was a combination of working numbers and narratives. The exponential and impressive growth of the tech sector led me to make the switch and join the 55 million others working in IT across the world. Thinking of Sheryl Sandberg’s famous words, I had high hopes that the sector would be the means by which I would skyrocket my career.

It’s never too late, or too early, to change course

Ciklum’s business analyst department is undergoing a review of seniority levels this summer, and as part of this initiative, I am also working on updates to the BA job description. Why? The job description hasn’t changed much since I first used it to apply for my current role more than three years ago – but my team’s processes, and the demands of our clients, have. My vision for the newly revised JD is that we will focus less on the number of years a candidate has on their CV and instead give more weight to the diversity and breadth of their experience. There are so many fantastic candidates out there – who could be great for a BA role in tech – and it is important that in my team, we do not raise barriers to those who come from outside of the industry.

Here are my thoughts on how best to translate your existing skills and strengths for your big move into the tech sector.

1. Do your research

In spring 2016, I got in touch with a friend who was already working in a tech-based BA role – we talked about the nature of the job, his day-to-day tasks, what about the job he found interesting, and what drove him. This was my first introduction into a tech career that changed my own pre-existing assumptions about the industry.

I then spent lots of time researching the tech sector – reading widely, and speaking with my friend a little more about his work. This is my first suggestion for those looking to expand their experiences by moving into tech: do your research. Read industry magazines, google what kind of roles might be available, reach out to people already in the industry via LinkedIn – you’ll find that so many professionals will be responsive and keen to offer advice. Attend industry events and soak up as much as you possibly can; find job descriptions from a range of tech companies offering a variety of roles and compare them. This can help you narrow down where you might find your place within tech – and trust me, there’s space for your skillset. Be open to feedback after interviews, and remember, statistics show that women tend to only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the criteria. If you’re on the fence about an application because you’re worried you don’t have the experience, apply anyway.

At the same time as doing this work, it’s also important to ask yourself – where do I want to be in a year or in several years’ time? My research showed me just how quickly the IT industry was growing, and I decided that it was a place in which I would find some of the things I was looking for; working with people, utilising my communication skills, and the opportunity to create digital products.

2. Embrace your background

The level of opportunities within the tech sector is seismic – I truly believe there is space for every possible skill set and ability within this fast-growing, incredibly creative industry. Embrace the background you have – everything you have done up to this point has value – and know that there are always opportunities to learn in this constantly evolving sector.

I wouldn’t change my background or my career journey thus far – even if I could go back and do it again. The wonderful thing about the industry being so fast-paced is that it moves quicker than we do. I constantly need to level up my skills and to learn the things that I don’t know already. In my case, I really found that my financial consultancy background enabled me to gain key experience in working with and managing clients – from a range of complicated and challenging industries. At Ciklum, my clients are no different: they have a wide range of needs and challenges that we work to solve. As I’ve progressed in my tech career, I’ve come to see that my understanding of business models has helped me to better grasp the challenges that clients face. An experience that I initially thought might not have much connection to the IT industry does, in fact, have so much value to offer.

3. Identify your transferable skills

No matter what industry you’re already working in, I can guarantee you will have a wealth of skills and competencies at your fingertips – and we need those skills in tech.

This isn’t as much about your technical knowledge – but about your behaviours and attributes and your transferable, learned skills. Examples might include communication skills and personability; analytical thinking; ability to manage projects and people; team working; curiosity; problem solving; active listening, or a desire to learn. Identifying transferable skills often means looking beyond the confines of a CV or a job description. Make a list of your day-to-day work activities, and assign associated skills to each one. Ask others to identify your ‘soft’ skills, or talk to someone already working in tech about the attributes they view as being important for their particular role – and find connections between your list and theirs.

As a consultant, my key strengths were in building an argument, proving value, understanding client problems or concerns, and getting under the skin of a business. I would definitely describe myself as a storyteller and someone who can see the whole picture. Not only has this attribute proved to be immensely transferable, but I have found that my exposure to the many end-users of a range of digital applications has resulted in the narratives I create as a BA becoming more human-centric and richer, with real-life experiences.

Creatives, consultants, leaders, analytical thinkers, scientists, scholars, the list goes on – but tech needs us all. It is never too early in your career, and never too late, to try something new and make the transfer to a job in the IT sector. And whilst you might be considering making the switch to a tech career, it is the responsibility of the wider industry to rethink how they approach job descriptions and tackle some of the barriers that women, in particular, face upon entry to the sector.

Nataliia PelykhAbout the author

Nataliia Pelykh is business analysis competency lead at Ciklum, a global digital solutions company for Fortune 500 and fast-growing businesses. Nataliia’s contribution to her organisation and the business analysis community helped her secure a TOP-3 Business Analysts in Ukrainian IT Awards nomination in 2020. More recently, she has been nominated for the Women In Tech Excellence Rising Star of the Year Award. Nataliia is also a Board Member of a non-profit organisation with a key focus on professional education and networking events.

 


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Children lose interest in tech in late teens, finds survey

children learning to use computer with parent
Children lose interest in careers in technology as they reach their late teenage years, according to a survey from Nominet and Parent Zone.

The study found that 77% of children aged 11 to 12 are more likely to be inspired by a career in IT, as opposed to 63% of 17 to 18 year olds.

Children aged 11 to 18 were found to be most interested in development careers, with almost a quarter stating they wanted to be a games developer. 13% said they wanted a career in apps development and 12.6% said they aspired to be a web developer.

Only a quarter of girls claimed they wanted to work in an IT department, compared to 43% of boys. However, 12.3% of girls said they would like a career in games development and 11.5% said they wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of Parent Zone, said children, particularly young women, can be put off of careers in technology if their parents advise them otherwise: “It’s easy for parents to slip into the trap of being negative about technology, but it’s important they try to see it through their children’s eyes and remember that technology is likely to feature in their careers when they leave school.

"There are lots of resources available to parents when it comes to cultivating their children’s interests in IT, so they should know that help is available if they need it.”

The majority of girls aged between 11 and 18 said they wanted a career in fashion design (13%). The top career for boys in this age group was games development (36.5%).

Shotbolt added: “Young women are strongly influenced by their school years, what they learn and the role models they look up to. These influences can clearly make a difference to the choices they make later in life, so it’s paramount we do all we can now to ensure the success of our future IT workforce.”

Russell Haworth, CEO of Nominet, said a collaborated effort between the IT industry and the education sector could help to ensure more young people are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a technology career.

Haworth said: “We’re putting the future of our digital economy at risk if we recruit from only half of the talent pool and fail to encourage more girls into IT. It appears that sustained collaboration between schools and the IT industry is what’s required to ignite girls’ interest and to develop their skills.”