Data Scientist and Technical Content Writer
Hi there, I talked about some top tech careers you need to consider this year in my last post. You can read the article by clicking on this link.
After publishing the post a week ago, I thought it would be nice to write an article on how to start a tech career. Because it's one thing to know the top tech careers and another thing entirely to know how to get started.
If you don't have much experience or you're looking to transition from a dead-end job to a career in tech, this article is for you. I'll share some specific action points that can help you transition to a tech career in 2021.
Let's get right into this.
When starting a new career, you need to be laser-focused by deciding what you really want to do and the career option you wish to pursue. There are tons of tech career paths out there. If you're not sure about what you want to focus on, chances are that you'll get lost trying to figure out what to do, courses to take and projects to embark upon.
Whether you want to be an AI engineer, a security analyst, a quality assurance engineer, you name it; I advise that you research carefully on the different career options you have your eye on, and decide what you actually want based on your interests. The previous article I wrote is a perfect place to get started. Once you're sure about your dream tech career options, it becomes easy to get really focused and deprioritize anything that's not on your list. Afterwards, you wouldn't want to be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.
One good thing about tech is that you can specialize in one area and then diversify into another over time. For instance, you could start off as a network or support admin and then rapidly advance into cybersecurity. A credit underwriter today could become a DevOps engineer tomorrow. There are just so many tech options, and I believe that once you remain focused and consistently gain relevant knowledge, it becomes almost impossible to get lost.
This is perhaps one of the fastest ways to break into IT. Although a typical tech degree can take anything from 1-4 years, you can study and earn relevant industry certifications in just a few weeks. For instance, some entry-level certifications like CompTIA A+, ITIL, Security+, and Network+ can lay the foundation for cybersecurity and networking roles later on.
By acquiring the industry certifications relevant to your chosen tech career, you're also hinting potential employers that you have the skills they're looking for. In a way, this knowledge alone can actually make up for lack of experience. When applying for some tech roles, the right certifications will give you a competitive edge over other applicants with no certifications and limited experience.
How do I get certified? You might want to ask.
You can choose to take an online course, hands-on tutorials, adopt the in-person methods and then take the certification exams. Because you just want to start a tech career, I'll advise you to take courses taught by experts with practical experience. That way, you can ask questions and get a detailed understanding of what you're learning. Another option is to leverage hands-on tutorials where you'll be allowed to familiarize yourself with tools and tech stacks used in the typical tech industry.
Caveat: I don't think it's a nice idea for newbies to skip learning and just take the certification exams only to get certified. If you eventually get a job, it's the knowledge and not the certificate that'll help you accomplish tasks.
One thing I discovered about tech professionals is that most of them love to help, mentor or advise others - as long as you're able to show them how serious you're. If you know anyone in your network or have friends who're connected to these professionals, you can humbly reach out to them or request for an introduction. Even if you don't have anyone in your network, you can connect with as many tech professionals as possible on LinkedIn.
Don't be timid about asking questions about their career, education, skills or things they wish they had some years ago. Truth is, every tech professional today was once a beginner looking for guidance, and I'm sure they'd want to hear and help you out. After discussing with about three to four subject matter experts, you'll soon find out that they all had some sort of similarities or things they did while starting off. With the right amount of guidance, focus and self-motivation, every tech career becomes achievable.
Another great benefit of networking with the right people is that it gives you a head start over the competition and inspires a career passion that lasts the rest of your life.
Most employers now prefer to fill a job role by hiring someone based on recommendations, without interviewing a bunch of total strangers. By connecting with the right people, you might be lucky to get an opportunity you never knew about.
I understand how frustrating it can be to learn and keep studying without getting a job where you can practically apply what you've been learning. I firmly believe that one way to dive into a tech career is to consider applying for internship opportunities at various companies. An internship is any formal or official program that provides the practical experience in the career field you wish to pursue - tech inclusively.
One good thing about internships is that they allow you to integrate theoretical knowledge with practical skills and applications developed in professional settings. Over time, you can include the experience gained in your resume or even land a full-time tech role upon completing an internship with a company. Whichever way it turns out, securing an internship position is a WIN-WIN, and you can use the opportunity to test your potential career.
Even though the tech world is broad and versatile, it's good to always start off your career with the mindset that you're competing for job opportunities on a global scale. That way, you'd always be motivated to consistently work hard and seek growth by doing more than what the average person can ever think of.
When you're applying to a tech job with about a thousand other potential candidates, what do you think will set you apart? Why should you be given the opportunities? What unique skill sets or knowledge do you have that others don't possess?
The moment you adopt this mindset, you say goodbye to mediocrity and embrace other good virtues of success like hard work, consistency, focus, diligence, amongst others. If you engage in a conversation with anyone doing very well in tech today, you'll notice that they all had to go the extra mile, aim for more incredible things and never settle for less. A successful tech career is built upon the foundation of consistent growth, focus and hard work.
I like the way Steve Jobs captures my thoughts in this post:
Your work is going to occupy the majority of your life. The only way to be contended is to do what you actually believe to be great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do and if you haven't found your passion yet, keep looking and never settle for less. Just as it works with every matter of the heart, you'll know when you find it.
Starting a tech career doesn't have a one-size-fits-all approach. Always remember that there are several options, and you can always approach a new tech career in several ways. The path to becoming a great tech professional could begin with the simple steps you take today.
I believe that this year is waiting on you to make the leap and the only way to tap into the opportunities in tech is by getting started. I'll conclude this article with the famous quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the father of time management, "he who fails to plan is planning to fail". Success doesn't happen overnight, neither does it happen by accident. I wish you all the best.
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