How To Break Into The Tech Industry
Tell Your Story: How did you break into the tech industry?
Interested in the tech industry, but you’re not sure where to start? Consider reading these first hand stories from those who were there at the fledgeling start of networked connections, to those who are breaking into the industry by cutting their teeth on state-of-the-art tech. These 13 tech professionals share all on what it takes (or took) to break into the tech industry.
- I Configured Broadband Connections
- I Was Browsing Reddit
- I Went From Humanist to Serial Entrepreneur
- It All Started as a Fascination…
- I Got Into Music
- I Was the Only Programmer on Staff
- A Friend Asked Me to Manage a Software Project for Him
- I Didn’t Forget the Human Element
- I’ve Been Coding Since High School
- I Started as an Entry-Level Sales Rep
- I Struggled With a Dot Matrix Printer
- I’m Riding the Wave of Mass Adoption
- I Convinced a Program I Could Type 200 Words a Minute
I Configured Broadband Connections
I started my IT career back in 1999 with the local cable company, setting up computers to work with the local broadband. At that point in time, most of the desktop computers didn’t come with an ethernet connection. I followed the cable technician around as he set up the company, and I would configure the PC side. I would have to install a network card and get the computer online and set up email.
At the time, I was going to school to become a network administrator; this was an excellent entry-level job. Every day was a little different and I was working on all types of systems. I learned how to build my customer service skills and half of my job was how to educate the customer on how to work with their new internet service. It wasn’t the most exciting job I’ve had in the IT field, but I did learn some important skills that I still use to this day.
I Was Browsing Reddit
I was always interested in computers and technology, but I didn’t know how to break into the tech industry. I graduated from college with a degree in computer science, but I didn’t have any internships or real-world experience. I spent months sending out resumes and waiting for interviews without getting any bites.
Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start posting on Reddit. I started participating in conversations, asking questions, and offering my help. After a few months, I had built up a reputation as someone who knew their stuff. That’s when I finally
started getting interview requests. It took a lot of hard work and dedication, but Reddit was the key to breaking into the tech industry for me.
I Went From Humanist to Serial Entrepreneur
I transitioned from a job as a graduate student instructor in the humanities before getting into the tech industry in 2013. I had actually wanted to start a lab on campus through the Digital Humanities center at Berkeley, but couldn’t rally the support for the research I wanted to do on AI and student writing. Instead, I found that philanthropists were much more eager to work with me outside the university and inside a corporate environment, so I founded WriteLab to build AI tools for students.
Within a few years I raised $4M, built the team, and sold the business to Chegg in 2018. Although going from humanities to tech founder is not a common transition, I think my background gave me unique advantages and perspectives in the earlier days of natural language processing and deep learning products.
It All Started as a Fascination…
I always knew I wanted to be involved in the tech industry. As a child, I was fascinated by computers and how they worked, and I would spend hours tinkering with them. In high school, I took every computer science course available. I even started teaching myself how to code. However, I wasn’t sure how to turn my passion into a career.
After graduation, I decided to take a gap year to figure it out. During that time, I did a lot of research and discovered that the best way to break into the tech industry was to get a degree in computer science. So, I enrolled in college and never looked back. Today, I’m working as a software engineer at a major tech company, and I couldn’t be happier. Breaking into the tech industry wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.
I Got Into Music
I got heavily into music in the late 90s. I composed my breakbeat, drum, and bass tracks. At one point, I wanted to start playing these in clubs, but—coming from a small town—it was difficult for me to break through. And then SEO and web mastering came to my rescue. I created a website and started reading how to measure traffic and make it more valuable to appear higher on Google searches. When I finally started to rank high for phrases related to drum and bass, bookings began coming in via email, not only for national clubs but also for foreign ones.
After a while, I concluded that making a living from music was difficult, but SEO was easier and more profitable. So I decided to make music my hobby and SEO my profession. After graduating from university, I took up SEO in 2004 and 2007; I moved to London, where I have been doing SEO (and music, but that’s just a hobby) since my arrival.
I Was the Only Programmer on Staff
My first job in the tech industry was as a programmer at a small startup. The company had just been founded and I was the only programmer on staff. My boss asked me to write code for an iPhone app they were developing, so I did. The app launched successfully and was downloaded thousands of times in its first few days. It shot up to #1 on the charts, stayed there for two weeks, where it then dropped off again.
After that first job, I went on to work as a freelance developer for many years. I found myself working with clients who were looking for someone with experience in several different programming languages because they didn’t have enough employees to handle all the coding tasks required by their projects. At that point it became clear to me that there was an opportunity for me to build my own company, one that could provide these companies with all the skills they needed at once so they wouldn’t have to hire multiple freelancers or contract out different parts of their projects separately.
A Friend Asked Me to Manage a Software Project for Him
I started out as a project manager, working for a software startup. I then decided to take the risk and start my own company. At the time, I was a contractor and managed to get a contract to build software for a friend’s company. This turned out to be a turning point in my life. I started to get more clients and was able to start up my own agency.
I think that breaking into the tech industry isn’t hard if you have the right attitude and are willing to learn. You also need to be more than just a programmer. You should be able to understand your client’s needs and be able to provide solutions for relieving their pain points. If you’re able to do this, you’ll be able to build a successful career as a tech entrepreneur.
I Didn’t Forget the Human Element
My route into tech has been quite interesting. I’m a human resource professional and have worked in this field for 12+ years. I’m a natural problem solver and found myself working very closely with our IT and human resources information systems (HRIS) teams to develop automation to support our HR processes. Through this type of work, I became more involved in HRIS and developing automated processes to replace our manual work. It increases productivity tenfold when new hire information is entered into one system and then pushed into our other HR systems instead of assigning a member of the team to enter this information manually.
One of my first successes early in my career was working with IT to design a trigger for new hire email creation. This allowed our new hire emails to be created prior to their start date. This was a huge success! I am now an HR Operations manager and very proud to be a part of the tech industry.
I’ve Been Coding Since High School
All of his efforts and the new developments at the time made me fall in love with programming as a field. I now work as a programmer for my miniature crypto firm, performing tasks anywhere from programming to SEO to coding in Python.
I Started as an Entry-Level Sales Rep
I broke into the tech industry by landing an entry-level job as a Sales Development Rep (SDR) at a fast-growth B2B software startup. I had a few years in a Business Development role in a non-tech industry and wanted to find a way into the high-growth tech world.
But without any connections that could land me my first job in the field, I had to take an entry-level position despite already having three years of experience from a similar role. Once I broke into the tech industry as an SDR at a marketing technology company, I could transition into a marketing job. Since then, I’ve been developing my career as a B2B tech marketer.
I Struggled With a Dot Matrix Printer
Many years ago I had to submit an assignment for college, but I had never used a computer before, so after wrestling all night with Microsoft Word and a dot matrix printer, I decided to qualify as an IT trainer. I subsequently qualified as a therapist and coach.
During the pandemic, many of my peers struggled with technology and I became the go-to person in my circle. This prompted me to retrain as a web designer, a decision I’ve never regretted because it helps so many people to access the support they need. Mine was an unusual path into tech, but I’m delighted to know that my work makes a difference.
I’m Riding the Wave of Mass Adoption
As a tech CEO who previously had a hand in other industries, breaking into tech was challenging but exciting. I saw 2021 as the year when crypto would begin to enjoy mass adoption by large corporations such as Starbucks. Before that, the crypto space had mainly been seen as a sort of underground activity reserved for the most tech-savvy people or those with advanced knowledge of finance.
I founded Gauss in 2021 as a way to combat some of the inadequacies in the crypto space such as scams, duplicate transactions, and other issues that I believe have been holding back mass adoption in the past. I believe that creating an ethical blockchain ecosystem designed for accessibility and mass adoption as well as coming into the scene at exactly the right time will be the recipe for success.
I Convinced a Program I Could Type 200 Words a Minute
When I was still in grade school, my parents purchased a Commodore VIC-20 computer. With a whopping 5K of RAM and the ability to create my own programs, I quickly got hooked. My curiosity taught me how computer programs worked under the hood, and I applied that knowledge in my classes in school, finding a flaw in a typing program which enabled me to trick the program into believing I could type over 200 words per minute through a simple buffer overflow vulnerability.
From that point forward, I allowed this curiosity to guide me through high school and college, learning multiple computer programming languages while also learning how programs could be exploited, or defended against exploits. After graduating college, I found a job as a software tester, quickly moving to the cyber security team after demonstrating my aptitude towards that career path. Over 15 years later, I now leverage my expertise to analyze and write about the cyber security industry and emerging trends.
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