I’ve been working in tech since 2013. When I entered the field shortly after graduating from UC Berkeley, I remember feeling that, although tech was already a popular career option — especially in the Bay Area — it wasn’t the only option. It’s hard to believe that I went to college at a time when I seldom heard my peers talk about hoping to land a product manager gig. This title has since grown massively in its visibility and has become a dream career for many people, including some high schoolers.
More broadly, in the past couple of years, the public urge to work in tech seems to have reached a fever pitch. I can hardly go a day without coming across a TikTok video offering referrals to various FAANG companies en masse or giving tips on how to break into tech. People flood the comments section of each video begging for referrals and asking for advice on their unique trajectories.
Recently, one of the owners of a trendy cafe that opened down the block from my house asked me about the best way to transition into a tech career after hearing that I work at a startup. She enthusiastically jotted notes in her phone as I gave her some possible job titles and role openings to look for.
Whether it’s the rise of tech voices on TikTok (a community either fondly or derisively known by some as “TechTok”), all the talk of remote work in a post-pandemic world or the fact that cryptocurrency and Web3 continue to grab daily headlines, it feels like careers in tech are surging in popularity more than ever before.
If you’re reconsidering your current career and looking to break into tech but feeling stuck or uncertain of where to begin, here are a few steps to start you off in the right direction.
4 Key Steps for Launching a Tech Career
- Join Twitter.
- Look for non-technical roles and be willing to try almost everything.
- Apply everywhere.
- Put yourself out there.
1. Join Twitter
This is the single most important piece of advice I can share. It sounds silly, but looking back on my own failed startup, one thing I wish is that I had gotten over my fear of/distaste for Twitter faster. The tech community, and specifically the startup community, live on Twitter. I’m part of multiple founder and startup group chats, and we often discuss how Twitter is the best place for founders and startups to look for talent.
Twitter works because it lacks the pretension of LinkedIn and the creepiness of Facebook. When you become part of the Twitter tech community, you realize that people seem to have a genuine interest in connecting with people and companies they actually care about.
Twitter also forces you to understand the tech world — and particularly the startup world — more clearly. You’ll learn who’s who and which companies you want to follow. It’s effectively the best digital platform for networking (and if you’re lucky, making some real friends too). Twitter has less noise than LinkedIn because the pretense of job hunting isn’t a foundational part of the platform. Even if everyone is looking for a job, it doesn’t feel that way.
2. Look for Non-Technical Roles and Be Willing to Try Almost Everything
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely not a developer or engineer, and that’s totally fine. Contrary to some emerging schools of thought, non-technical jobs in tech are still tech jobs and are very important to the overall success of a company.
The specific non-technical role you should apply for depends on your interests and skill set, but promising titles may include words like “operations,” “customer success,” “evangelist” (yes, that’s a real thing), and “sales,” along with roles found at most companies outside of tech, like recruiting, human resources, business development, and administrative positions.
One mistake I see a lot of people making is being too rigid in terms of titles in their initial search and application process. Especially if you’re looking at startups, which you should, because they tend to offer more flexibility in hiring, neither level nor specific role should be the make or break factor in your decision to apply. Yes, you should always negotiate to get closer to what you want, but getting your foot in the door as an operations associate, even if you’re more interested in eventually becoming a marketing manager, can be the key to your success. Plus, startups often have more mobility in team and role placement over time. Keep in mind that it never hurts to ask during your interview what the career path might look like for someone entering this open position.
3. Apply Everywhere
Similar to the point above, if this is your first tech job, make sure you apply to all kinds of companies: big, small, and every industry under the sun. Find and research companies you like, but don’t stop there. Just because you haven’t heard of a particular company doesn’t mean they’re not deserving of your time.
One of the most consequential career pivots I took was thanks in part to a company I had never heard of offering me a role I had never heard of. I had never considered marketing as a viable path for myself as someone with an engineering background, but product marketing — a role I was pitched by a recruiter — made use of both my technical acumen as well as my creative inclination. Be flexible in terms of the breadth of companies you apply to, and always remember that you can find another job later on. Job-hopping is more or less expected in the tech world; just try to stay with your first company for at least a year once you’re there.
4. Put Yourself out There
If you’re not already in the industry and you know that’s where you want to be, stick your neck out a little bit. Send a DM to the founder of that company you’ve been researching. Ask that old acquaintance to refer you for an opening. Think of it this way: In the best case scenario, you end up with the job that you want; in the worst, you’ve slightly irritated someone you will probably never talk to again.
I won’t sugarcoat the situation and say that making a huge career transition into a new industry is easy. But I have watched many friends and acquaintances implement these tactics with great success over the years. Ultimately, time, adaptability, perseverance, and a stroke of luck seem to be the magic formula. Here’s hoping that it’s the formula that works for you, too.