woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

How to transition into a career in tech

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Have you ever read about the tech sector’s latest success and wondered how you can be part of it too?

This is a question that many smart professionals ask themselves today.

The tech sector is booming

The pandemic hit many sectors of the economy, but it has been fertile ground for tech. Revenues at the tech giants,  Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, grew by 40% on average compared with the same period a year ago and profits soared by 90%. In every minute of the first three months of 2021, these companies made $88 bn profits before tax. This is more than $1bn of profit for every working day!

While local businesses shut down, tech companies went on a hiring spree. But, if you have never worked in a digital environment, it is easy to assume that they would never hire you.

In 2021, I taught MBA students and executives at London Business School and Oxford University’s Said School of Business. Most of my students, while very smart and capable, do not have backgrounds in computer science, and have not worked in tech.

In my courses students learn technology concepts for non-technical professionals. We cover what role design plays in technology, the difference between a back end and a front end, how to use APIs to scale audience, and so on.

This knowledge is the foundation for the students’ bigger goal: a transition into a career in tech.

Some of them want to start tech enabled businesses, others want to become tech investors, yet others aspire to corporate leadership roles.

Whether you want to transition into tech as a founder, an investor or an employee, I have found that there are core strategies that lead to success.

Capitalise on your experience as a user

My former student, Juliet Eysenck, had no intention of working in tech when she started her career as a journalist. Juliet was a news reporter at The Telegraph.

At the Telegraph, like at any other publication, journalists have their own portal to upload news stories. After using the journalist app to upload her news stories, Juliet began giving feedback about this product to the team in charge. She shared her insights as a user, to make life easier for herself and her journalist colleagues.

As she did this, Juliet realised that product management appealed to her more than breaking the news. In turn, the product team got to know her and found her user insights valuable. So, when a job opening for a product manager came up, the team asked Juliet to apply. She did and she got the job.

Juliet transitioned into a career in tech because she had a unique user perspective. She became a product manager for a product made for journalists.

Whatever you do today, you have a unique user perspective. Your insights as a user can be the thing that gets you into tech.

What apps and sites do you use to do your job? How would you make them better?

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Get involved while doing your day job

Oksana Stowe began her career in investment banking but wanted to swap death defying hours and corporate culture for life in venture capital. Sadly, many investment bankers have the same idea, and competition is fierce.

To transition into a career in tech investing, Oksana started making angel investments with her own money. This helped her learn about start-ups and technology, and to widen her network.

Since 80% of jobs do not get advertised according to some estimates, having a network and being known for your expertise is vital in a career transition into tech.

This strategy worked for Oksana and she is a successful venture capital investor, investing in retail tech and consumer technologies today.

However, most people do not have the funds to make angel investments to pivot their careers. But you can use the same principle, without spending your hard cash.

You can get involved as an organiser at an angel investment network. This will give you exposure to start-ups and investors, show you how tech investment decisions get made, and ensure that when there’s a job opening in a VC fund, you’re the first to know about it.

Where can you volunteer that gives you exposure to tech? I am positive that there are plenty of opportunities that you could get involved in right now.

Transition into tech via your clients

Ronan Walsh runs a marketing agency called Digital Trawler. While his core competency is marketing, he participates in the tech boom via his clients: his agency only works with software as a service businesses.

If you are a professional services expert, like a lawyer, an accountant, an advertiser or a PR, you could pivot into tech by working with clients in this lucrative sector.

To attract and retain tech clients, you do need to know the basics of what they do. If you’re pitching your services to a tech company and you don’t know the back end from the front end, you are probably not going to win the client.

You need to know the core concepts of technology, rather than retraining as a coder. If you know how to connect technology concepts to business outcomes and user needs, you are well equipped to be a strategic advisor to a tech business. This is not hard to learn and is exactly what I teach my students.

Transitioning into a career in tech for non-technical professionals is not only possible, but that there are many more ways to do it than you probably think. Juliet, Oksana and Ronan are just three examples, but there are many more.

Would you like to become one of them too?

Sophia MatveevaAbout the author

Sophia Matveeva MBA is the founder of Tech for Non-Techies, an education company and consultancy (with a very useful podcast).