Stephen Chapendama

I'm a Technology Consultant @ Foundervine & also working on Cyber Security @ Fujitsu UK.

Do You Have to Code to Be in Tech?

Software Development is a route that’s proved to be very popular in the last couple of years in tech. From HTML & CSS webinars to Ruby on Rails meet ups, you can’t escape the hype. But what if coding isn’t for you? What if you want to solve problems in Tech without writing code, is there a career out there for you?
I was introduced to code the same way as most people, Piczo. For those fortunate enough to not remember these dark days, Piczo was advertised as a social network & blogging site but in reality, it was a competition as to who could have the most extravagant HTML embedded objects on a web page. It was here I realised I didn’t like coding, my sites were always minimalistic. Fast forward a few years later, I started my BSc in Computer Science. Coding in Java was a compulsory module in first year and second year. We even delved upon the wonderful world of Haskel and PHP, and again I realised that there was something about coding I didn’t enjoy. When most of my friends classified their degrees towards Software Engineering, I chose to go towards networking and in 2016 I graduated from the University of Hertfordshire with a BSc in Computer Science (Networks).
My first role as a graduate was at a leading construction firm working as a Management Trainee. I was able to try different placements across multiple disciplines and here I was able to try Business Intelligence using tech such as SQL & SAP Business Objects. SQL is a querying language, and I found it much more enjoyable than Java. It also allowed me to work with data by building reports and creating universes where the data could sit to be queried. My next placement was Development where I worked with the .Net stack and this introduced me to JavaScript, C# and a much more functional HTML & CSS framework than my Piczo days had taught me. For the first time, I actually enjoyed coding, but I didn’t like it enough to want to do it for life.
My second role, however, was very different, this involved working in SOC (Security Operations Centre) environment where I often had to wear multiple hats. It introduced me to the wonderful world of analysing machine logs, investigating threats and creating SNORT rules. I didn’t have to write a single line of code during my time at the company, but I did spend a lot of time working with Unix servers and often carrying out data centre requests for customers.

So, what’s there to do in tech without being a coder?

Most development boot camps and coding hubs focus on web and app development. If you’ve spent countless hours watching video tutorials and you’ve come to the point where you realise this is not for you, don’t be disheartened, the tech scene is big, and there are so many communities out there to support you in finding your path.

Cognitive Class

A great resource for trying out different technologies is CogntiveClass.ai which is now owned by IBM. It was formerly the Big Data University and offers introduction practical courses in Blockchain, TensorFlow, Data Science, Hadoop and many other niche courses you might not find offered at Universities. Curiosity is a key skill in tech, being able to be curious and find out information is how you move forward in tech. Because you can never really know it all, the ability to keep going forward and learning means you will always be able to find a new reason or direction to love tech. Some of these technologies such as Hadoop do require coding knowledge the more involved you get and utilise languages such as Pig but setting up a Hadoop cluster is relatively simple.
Cognitive Class also offers one of the best introductory courses outside Pluralsight that I’ve come across for SQL. Being able to query data is an important skill which can cross over across many business functions. It is now not uncommon to see Finance teams utilising querying skills like SQL and then making the transition into data science. Udemy has plenty of courses on SQL to NoSQL database and if you have just graduated and are looking to get a foothold in the Database management industry, Microsoft offers the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) certification in Database Management (Exam 98–364/Course 40364A) which is a great way to get a foothold in an interview. Practise for this exam allows you to work with SQL Management Studio which is an industry standard tool.
Whilst it is possible to fully function in the tech world without coding, the ability to code will eventually make your life easier when it comes to automation. I mean, what if you could make repetitive tasks simpler by just writing a few lines in a Python script? Sometimes learning code first can be a hindrance. But learning it when you have practical experience to try to solve your own problems can make it a much better experience.

So what careers can I go into?

UX & UI — User Experience and User Interface designers are the creatives in tech who can be the difference between a product being forgettable or a game changer. UX Designers focus primarily on the user satisfaction experience whereas UI Designers will focus on establishing the look and feel of the interface of the product.
Test Analysts — Software testers are usually the key part of a team and a developers “best friend.” They get the lovely job of making sure there are no bugs in the software by running multiple tests and scenarios to try and cause errors. This is then fed back to the developers and changes are made. Their role is to eliminate bugs which could potentially be exploited in the future, stress testing to see how the application handles and also scalability.
Growth Hacker — A common term in the startup scene, growth hackers tend to wear many hats. From marketing, business development and intelligence to ensuring users are signing up, their role is to grow the user base. When the product becomes established, growth hackers can transition to enterprise sales, acquiring new customers or continuing across the marketing route and will be heavy users of social media and visible at conferences.

What if you don't really know where you fit in?

Hackathons are a great way to see where you fit in. At Foundervine, the focus of our hackathons has been on helping diverse entrepreneurs build startups from scratch. Over the course of 2 years we held different themed hackathons, and with each we saw people from different backgrounds connect and build tech startups. Often you find someone would've went to University, studied a non tech subject, and during that course, they mostly stayed around the social circle of people from their course. But with hackathons, you can find on a table, a student studying nursing who's identified a problem. A developer who has the skills but hasn't found the problem to solve, and a project manager looking for a new passion. These are three people who may be interested in tech, but would most likely not have ever come across each other had it not been for a hackathon.
By Stephen Chapendama. Stock photo from UKBlackTech

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