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Innovator Series: Transitioning into the Tech Industry from a Non-Tech Background

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By Tanay Gupta


Our Innovator Series, Inclusivity Talk Sessions have launched and we were honored to host Riana Singh, Innovation Associate at Uber, Vicky Shum, Partner, Operations and Marketing at World Innovation Lab, and Sharon Rylander, Director of User Experience at Square Panda, for a talk on transitioning into the tech industry without a background in tech. Each individual in this dynamic panel of speakers went through at least one transition in their career where they sought a new pathway into the tech industry. Moderated by Intertrust’s Community Manager, Ambriel Pouncy, the talk covered strategies that a non-tech individual can deploy to land a tech job and succeed at the job thereafter.

The panel unanimously stressed the importance of “having a plan and sticking to it,” as said by Singh, in order to successfully transition to the tech industry. The goal of having an elaborate plan is to “sell yourself”, as Shum said. In order to sell yourself successfully, you have to focus on optimizing your resume and LinkedIn profile. Simultaneously, you should ensure that you are putting yourself out in the job market, where companies and recruiters will notice you, through strategic networking. You should also keep in mind that finding a good fit in terms of company culture is a very important aspect of job transition that is often overlooked. Your plan should be crafted in such a way that it enables you to showcase how you can “take your experience and apply it to a new realm,” while also explaining why you chose that particular role.

Developing good research habits will also yield a positive outcome. Start by researching recruiters, job sites, and attending networking events to gauge available opportunities within your area of interest. Next, it is essential to identify the company culture and core values, comparing that with your personality and overall career goals. It is essential to find a good match in these terms too so that you enjoy working at your new workspace. You also have to ensure that you research the leadership of the company thoroughly along with researching the products and services the company offers. There are also many roles in the tech industry that do not require coding skills, although having that skillset is always an advantage.

One way to discover these roles is by building a network. Shum reiterated the importance of “cultivating your network” and added that the network she developed over the span of her career helped her a lot when she attempted to alter her career path and move from the finance to the tech industry. A few things to keep in mind while building your network involve:

  • Intention: You should have a clear goal of what you want to achieve when reaching out to a professional and you should express that in your message
  • Message composition: It is important to pay close attention to the way (does NOT refer to the platform you use) you reach out. Singh suggested that using the word “advice” when communicating as opposed to “opinion” can help you attain a more valuable response.
  • Follow up messages: It is important to follow up with a very thoughtful message that will make you memorable. For example, after meeting with someone or giving an interview, it is essential to send a reflective message in order to differentiate yourself. This used to be customary but has faded away. It is on the rise now and it is essential that your message is customized based on your conversation!
  • Find innovative ways to reach out: Singh mentioned that one of her friends decided to physically go to the workplace (of her dream company) to drop off her resume for an internship and was called in for an interview the following week! Therefore, you should try and find innovative ways to reach out and portray interest.

Additionally, a lot of companies host “information sessions”, wherein they delve deeper into the roles offered by the company. These are typically hosted on college campuses, however, if you do not have access to such resources, you can attend open houses hosted by recruiters and leadership team members working at the company. Both of these are amazing ways to network with employees of your target company and to get a “seat at the table” Additionally, you can also use these opportunities to polish your resume and create a customized portfolio for each role based on the various elements you learn about the role and the company. Once employers see you as a fit in terms of skills and culture, they will be more inclined towards giving you an interview.

Upon signing your offer letter and taking a seat in your new office, it is important to stay open-minded so you can be impactful in that role. In addition to scheduling weekly one on one meetings with your hiring manager during your initial 30 days, you can also seek out a work mentor who is willing to guide you through the transition into your new role.

A section of the talk also discussed barriers to entry in the tech industry for women. The tech industry has historically been dominated by men. The entire panel agreed that this cycle is a part of social conditioning, where subjects like mathematics, science, and engineering are primarily taken by males. The ripple effect of this is reflected in the corporate world as less than 25% of the S & P 500 companies have female CEOs. “There were 3 women on an office floor of 150 men,” Rylander added. This often adds a psychological barrier for women. However, this trend is currently changing as women are progressively climbing the ladder in the tech industry and we can notice many more women as part of the leadership in tech companies!

With so many barriers, transitioning jobs is not easy. You have to trust the process and continue to effectively implement the aforementioned techniques as they will increase your chances of a successful transition into this new space. Singh added, “Rejection is your friend,” and it’s an integral part of the transitioning process. It is essential that you keep pursuing this new phase in your career journey with passion, just as the moderator, Ambriel Pouncy reminded the audience in closing that “nothing works unless you do”, as said by poet laureate, Maya Angelou.

Innovator Series

The Innovator Series, brought to you by Intertrust Technologies, serves the local Bay Area tech community. These thought-provoking conversations inspire the future of tech while empowering our collective community to engage with one another in an open forum.

Tanay Gupta

About Tanay Gupta

Tanay Gupta is a senior studying Economics and Data Science at University of California, Berkeley. He is currently interning with Intertrust as a Market Research Associate - Intern in the Marketing Team.