How to dev

How to dev

How to switch career to IT

In this article, I’ll discuss a recipe for moving from other professional field to IT.

Last 13 years, I’ve been working in IT—pretty much programming in one form or another. It’s my first career, so I don’t have my own experience in the transition I’m talking about here — I’m mostly summarizing my ideas based on industry experience, what I see could be useful in the teams I worked on & stories of people how I met after they did successful switch.

When I talk with non-IT friends who try to change a career, I see them mostly focused on building up technical skills: by doing some course, signing up for bootcamps or studying on their own. There is good logic to it— they look forward to get a technical job, and they build up skills those jobs require. That’s for sure a good idea, and will payout in plan I describe too as well — it will make you better prepared to move up the ladder.

Step 1: identify IT providers in your current industry

No matter what field you are working currently in, there are already many IT companies active in this space. For us, the most interesting are companies that are building products dedicated for the industry, and companies that try to ‘disrupt’ it.

In case of product building, this could be companies behind:

  • CAD for engineers

  • point of sale software for retail

  • healthcare innovations

We are interested in companies that have a good products — most likely, behind bad products there is a bad company, it won’t offer much opportunities to grow with it, and maybe it will not last that long.

For industry-disruption companies, we could have:

  • [uber|airbnb|] for X

  • any IT company that is after replacing your current employer along with the half of the industry

In that case, most likely we will work with starts up on some stage — maybe the product is nothing more than an idea, maybe there already something and even some paying customers. Most realistically, we can hope that we will mange to move a bit along the ladder before the company run out of money or collapse — and that it won’t be more stressful than we can handle.

Step 2: find the positions you could cover with your current skill set in those companies

So here is the key of this approach. We take the idea of quick feedback, which is so popular in IT that we have many names for it:

  • lean start up methodology

  • release early, release often

  • agile

and apply it to our project of career switch. So instead of spending a lot of time or other resources on acquiring skills, we look for a match between our current profile & what interesting companies in the field needs. We hope for few things:

  • changing career is hard. If we will manage to use our current knowledge & connections, we can save us a bit of the pain.

  • early feedback. It will be so much easier to dedicate a lot of time & money, as we learn more about IT and we see if the industry and us is a good match.

  • some cheer up along the way — no-IT employer will not care about you learning technical things, while non-technical employees of IT company are likely to get better as they progress in their studies

Some ideas for non-technical or less technical positions company may have:

  • customer service

  • technical writer

  • tester — especially when done manually

For applying to any of those jobs, you should be able to leverage your current experience — you are bringing a knowledge from the field, something that most of the people working in those companies don’t have.

Step 3: once inside, plan your next step

Ok, so when you manage to land on your first job in a IT company — no matter how technical it will be — it’s the time plan your next steps. There are many benefits of being inside the company:

  • you meet many people, doing different jobs — it should give you better idea about what career options you have, and how difficult it will be to achieve it

  • you can learn about hiring to the positions you are more interested in before they will be published outside

  • you can talk about your learning plans with you colleagues and hopefully you will get useful tips or maybe even some mentoring

Besides, the IT is full of non technical tasks, that in smaller teams will be done part-timely by technical staff along their main job, but bigger companies can have dedicated people for them. If you are complete outsider to the industry, you probably haven’t heard about UX designer, project managers or scrum masters — and maybe some of those paths will be easier for you to access than heavy duty programming that you planning to study for.

Wrap up

What I wrote here is just an idea I got from watching people who work on this transition — I don’t have an experience in applying it myself. Even if I had, everybody is different and what works in one case for somebody doesn’t apply to everybody in other context. It would be very interesting to hear about your experience in coming to IT form other field — maybe we all learn something from it.

If you find this article useful, and would like to read more — please let me know. Positive feedback encourage a lot to write more, and it makes sense for me to write only if it’s valuable for others.

Interested in reading more such articles from Marcin Wosinek?

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