4 Keys to Making a Tech Career Switch without Technical Experience
Austin Coding Academy
February 21, 2019
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The tech industry seems to be holding steady as the place to be for job seekers and people looking to switch careers these days. Between the high job security, exciting work culture, competitive pay, and (in some cases) extremely generous and creative perks, tech companies make an excellent case for learning to code.
However, one common concern we hear at Austin Coding Academy from students and prospective students is this: “I work in the service industry and I don’t have any technical job experience. Will anyone even hire me?”
This is an understandable concern. After all, when you’re not working in the tech industry currently, it’s tough to get a handle on what the hiring landscape looks like. The good news is that tech companies and startups are regularly looking for people with coding skills, whether they’ve been at it for a few months or a few years.
Of course your skills will become more developed (and more valuable to employers when it comes to salary negotiations) over years of working. Still, the absence of technical work on your resume should not scare you away or hold you back from getting started.
Austin Coding Academy students have all kinds of work backgrounds. Many people come to us looking to move away from their service industry jobs as servers, baristas, bartenders, hairdressers, etc. At first glance, it may not seem like these jobs have anything at all to do with working as a developer.
In fact, service industry jobs and other non-technical work experiences build a broad range of soft skills that may serve you well in a technical position, such as:
The importance of strong communication skills in any corporate environment cannot be overstated. Regularly checking in to make sure that all stakeholders are up to speed on the status of a project—including expected completion dates, roadblocks you encounter along the way, and any number of other relevant concerns— is the mark of a professional, competent developer.
Fortunately, strong communication skills are also necessary to function successfully in any service industry job as well. Whether you realize it or not, when you work in a fast-paced and demanding client-facing position (such as retail or food service), you develop and sharpen this skill set. The ability to communicate the status of orders with coworkers and customers in a timely fashion is a good indicator of how well you’d be able to use the same skills in an office setting..
Even seasoned developers will occasionally run into an issue with their code that they’ve never encountered before. Understandably, this experience is even more common for beginners. That’s why it’s so important for developers to be resourceful thinkers. Being able to identify and draw from the resources that are available to you (whether that’s the advice of a more experienced team member or help from fellow developers on a Stack Exchange forum) is another mark of a strong contributor.
This also happens to be another skill that workers in the service industry can develop and strengthen on the job. Servers, baristas, and retail workers routinely have to get creative and find ways to meet customers’ high expectations on a tight timeline, using only the tools that are readily available to them. These experiences can translate into a smoother career transition than many of our students initially expect.
When a hairdresser accidentally makes a bigger cut than they meant to, there’s no going back. When a bartender pours the wrong drink, or a server brings out an incorrect food order, those resources often go to waste, and customers are likely to become irritable. People in service industry jobs learn quickly— often through early mistakes— how important it is to focus and get things right the first time.
Similarly, strong developers know how pay attention to small details. When the difference between success and failure can come down to a handful of characters on a screen, having the ability to focus is crucial. Since experience is usually the best teacher, people with service industry backgrounds often have this skill down to a science.
Your soft skills are more important than you think
Communication, focus, and resourcefulness are just a few of the soft skills that people in the service industry learn on the job. There are many other crucial traits these jobs can nurture, such as social skills, timeliness, and work ethic, to name a few. All these skills can help create a successful move into a technical position, even if your work experience doesn’t seem relevant at first glance.
If you’re currently working in the service industry or another non-technical position, it’s understandable to feel intimidated by the thought of moving into a technical role. The truth is, though, that these job experiences may help make you a stronger developer down the road.
The soft skills you’ve picked up in your past work experiences may actually make you a desirable job candidate and a more successful, productive employee in the future.