Some of today’s most highly sought after jobs are within the technology industry. Companies like Google, Genentech, and AT&T rank high among some of the top organizations to work for if you’re an engineer and developer. But, many people who desire to join in on the innovative work being done at those companies don’t have the technical skills needed to enter the workforce. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably wondering how you can land a job in tech. Believe it or not, you don’t need to know how to code or be an engineer to enter the tech space. You just might have all of the skills and experience that you need after all.
Next week at the Women of Power Summit, we will be hosting a Codebusters panel to help women explore ways they can enter the front door of tech companies without having to know how to code back ends. We spoke with Exa Whiteman, assistant vice president of Global Security Services at AT&T, on how to enter the world of tech with your traditional skills. And, she says that a key component to cracking the code is to not be intimidated by technology.
What are some good, transferable skills for women to have?
Think about everything that’s needed besides doing programming and coding to run and lead an organization. If you’re in HR, finance, legal, or program management, those skills are transferable and they are needed to support the technology field. There are jobs that are adjacent to the technology to support the technologist or the person that is doing the work.
Speaking from my own experience, I did not know anything about cybersecurity and was not hyper technical, however, what I did bring to the table was leading large teams, developing large organizations, putting structures in place. So, I applied those competencies while I learned technology.
If you’re going to be specifically applying for the job that is going to require you to know coding, then you need to know coding. If you’re coming in for a leadership position then those leadership competencies will help you in those roles.
What programs can women enroll in to help them prepare for the tech industry?
You’d be surprised by how many courses and certification classes are offered at your local community colleges. I get the quarterly updates where it talks about the class offerings that include programming and coding, cybersecurity—you name it. And, a lot of those offerings are in the evening and on the weekends.
Many tech companies, including my own, offer training. So, take a look at what’s local and around you. Take advantage at what’s offered at your company. People forget about the tuition reimbursement program. And, it doesn’t mean that you need that program to get a new degree. If you show the value of taking those [technical] courses, you can get tuition for that class reimbursed to you. There are also a lot of vendors that offer technical training courses and certifications in certain areas.
Invest time in yourself to take some courses if you’re really serious about entering the technical field to learn and not be intimidated or afraid of it.
Where can women find tech mentors?
If you don’t have one, start looking within your current organization. I would start there first. Reach out to someone you know so that person can make an introduction for you. You can also Google tech conferences and forums in whatever city you’re in. You’d be surprised by what comes up. Use LinkedIn. There are a lot of people who reach out that are interested in meeting to talk and discuss because of the field that I’m in, which is cybersecurity.
What do women need to know about entering the tech space coming from other professions?
Know that it’s a different language. I think tech has its own personality. So, it’s learning to speak the language and understanding that your traditional kind of corporate role or what they call a job may be different. You may be used to having a title of ‘regional manager.’ Well, I have folks at my job that are at a director level but their title is ‘lead architect engineer.’ I think sometimes when people are looking at jobs they get caught up in the title and I would say go a little deeper because even the job titles in the tech field are a little different in how they translate. Try to learn and understand the language of technology.
How can women with fewer technical skills stand out when applying for tech jobs?
Lead with what you’re bringing to the table and that value. Normally, that value is the same value you would bring anywhere else. Do not be intimidated by the tech field. Play up what you bring because, as women, we tend to lead with what we can’t do and what experience we don’t have. So, don’t go there. Behind all of the tech, the buzzwords, and the language that you don’t know, at the end of the day it’s still an organization that needs good people working within them and leading them.
If you want to learn more about how you can crack the code on the tech industry and enter the workforce with the skills that you have, join us this week at the Women of Power Summit with Exa Whiteman; Stephanie Bryant, senior product manager at Genentech; and Valeisha Butterfield Jones, global head of women and black community engagement at Google as they share how you can do just that.