So you wanna break into tech huh.... No worries love, we got you. Below is a thicc guide containing everything you need to know.
Welcome to the RenderATL beginner's guide for breaking into tech. This guide attempts to shed light on the mystical tech industry and offers advice on how you can break in if you choose to. This is a really long article, so here are some links to help you move around. This is a living document so changes may happen.
The tech industry is a large place. It includes everything from self-driving cars to smart toasters. It can be really difficult to imagine yourself here and think about what opportunities are available to you. To make things simple, you have two paths in front of you, a technical path or a non-technical path.
There is no right answer. Each path has its pros and cons. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine what path feels right for you. Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
So now, let's talk about some career paths. This is not an exhaustive list of all the careers possible in tech. This is just a small sample to get you started. Each path will feature a link to another page for you to learn more about that job/industry. We could provide you with that information, but consider this an introduction to the tech industry. Often you will have to research and find information on your own 😉.
Technical Career Paths
Non Technical Career Paths
A caveat for the non-technical career paths, most jobs that exist at large corporations (sales, research, marketing etc.) can be found in the tech space as well. An easy transition into tech is to keep the same job title and responsibilities you currently have but find that same job at a tech company.
Now that you have chosen an industry let's talk about skills. The easiest way to break into tech is to utilize the skills that you already have. Think about both the soft and hard skills that you already have. If you have skills in marketing, look to take those same skills with you into the tech industry.
If you are dead set on learning a new skill, let's talk about the options available to you for learning.
College - This option is not terrible; however, it is the most expensive option and requires the largest time commitment. College is a great option if it is affordable for you and you have the time to commit to it. To get the most out of the college experience, you need to immerse yourself in the culture. That means joining clubs, attending events, and getting internships. If you can't do those things, the other options might make more sense time-wise or money-wise.
An added benefit of college is exploring industries not generally covered in bootcamps. Most bootcamps are geared toward web development or data science, so if you are interested in anything besides those two industries, you will have a harder time finding bootcamp options.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing college programs:
Bootcamps - are immersive programs spanning from twelve weeks up to two years that promise to teach you the ins and outs of your chosen field. Bootcamps are subjective, and you must do your homework. Some bootcamps are great and have placed their graduates at some awesome companies; other bootcamps have gone out of business in the middle of a cohort. If you decide to take this route, try to learn as much as possible about the bootcamp before paying any money. While bootcamps are not as expensive as college, they can get expensive quickly.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing bootcamp programs:
Certifications - depend entirely on your desired path. In specific industries, certifications are nice but don’t guarantee that you get a job. Whereas in other fields like IT or Cybersecurity, certifications are a must. Our advice is to do your research. Certifications can be costly to get and maintain. Ensure that certifications matter in your industry, and check to see if your current employer or school will pay for your certification.
Self Study- this is the hardest option of all the available education paths. This path requires the least amount of financial commitment but is quite difficult for most people to stick to. On this path, you must self-motivate and remain consistent with no external deadlines.
Tips for self-studying:
There are way too many resources to list them all on one page, so instead, we will link a few platforms and courses that you might find helpful in getting started on your journey.
Education Portals & Courses:
While learning and getting your hands dirty, you should be creating small projects and mockups. You can take those projects and mockups and place them in your portfolio. The type of portfolio you will have will depend on the path/industry you are interested in. Web-based portfolios are generally a great way to start. Even if you don't want to code the application yourself, it's a great way to show off your learnings and what you have been up to.
You can host your portfolios on a variety of different platforms, such as: Github, Behance, Dribbble, your website, Linkedin etc. Where you host your portfolio doesn't matter; just try to make one if it makes sense for your industry. A portfolio makes it easier for people to verify that you have skills.
If you are curious about what you can put into your portfolio, you can add personal projects, freelance work, homework, open-source contributions, small projects you made for friends, etc. Ideally, your portfolio should grow with you, so it's okay if your first creations or drafts aren't good. 😇
While you are learning and building your portfolio, you should be networking. Before you roll your eyes and scroll away, hear us out. Networking gets a bad rap. Networking is not talking to a bunch of strangers at weird places, hoping you can get a job. Not sure who started that, but that's boring and generally doesn't work.
The idea behind networking is to build mutually beneficial relationships. This means that:
The goal of networking is to build relationships and grow your community. Haven't you heard that your network is your net worth?
You may or may not be aware of this, but you represent your own personal brand. The way you dress, speak, the places to visit, how you talk to people online, your portfolio, etc., all represent your personal brand. We don't have to tell you how important it is to maintain a quality brand. Instead, let's talk about how you can strengthen yours online.
If you do not have a solid online presence, now is an excellent time to cultivate one. During your networking journey, you may come into contact with someone who has a strong personal brand. Study what you like and dislike about their brand and use it to make a strategy for yourself. Take note of the social platforms they are on, and consider if you like those platforms. Building an online presence should feel like an extension of yourself. Your personal brand can bring you opportunities without you having to go and search for them. Take some time to consider what type of brand you want to create.
Here are a few ways you can improve your personal brand:
Ultimately your personal brand is whatever you make it out to be. Having a brand is a powerful thing and can easily be the thing that separates you from others.
Despite all information on the internet and hoopla about resumes, they don't really matter as much as people say that they do. We are going to keep this section short and sweet. Here are the tips:
You might be wondering why we say your resume doesn't really matter that much. If you are networking, building a portfolio, and working on your brand in public, your work will speak for itself. Your Linkedin profile and website/ portfolio / GitHub in most cases will be enough to get you an initial interview provided you put in the work and they look good.
Once again, you have two paths in front of you, the technical interview/whiteboard challenge and the non-technical interview. Keeping it 100%, the technical interview can be trash and difficult to prepare for. However, it is not impossible to pass, and you can train for them. Covering all the different interview questions would take forever, so let's focus on the general software engineering technical interview first.
The technical interview generally consists of an interviewer asking one to three questions within a timed session. These questions are designed to test your coding ability and ability to communicate code. You need to practice these types of questions. They are not questions that you will see in everyday life.
Here are a few examples of these questions:
If you don't know how to solve these questions, that is fine; however, you will need to study for the interview. There are tons of resources online to guide you through learning the questions. The easiest way to become comfortable with these questions is to get a strong understanding of data structures. If you can master data structures, these questions become 10x easier to understand and puzzle through.
Resources for Learning Data Structures:
Once you learn data structures, you have to put that knowledge to go use. Test your understanding of data structures by using sites like Leetcode, HackerRank, codewars, CodinGame, etc. These websites will ask you similar questions to the examples above. Don't be discouraged if you struggle with the first few questions; you have to train your brain to think algorithmically. 💪🏾
Solving the problem is just one-half of the interview; you still need to communicate your solution to the interviewer and defend the solution that you came up with. Unlike the previous section, the best way to practice this is with another person. Ideally, you want to get used to thinking out loud in front of another person. The interviewer cannot read your mind. Your interviewer can offer helpful tips or suggestions if you are stuck. However, no one will know that you are stuck if you do not communicate. Sites like Pramp and interviewing.io can be great places to find people to help you practice this skill. If you want to learn more about technical interviews and how to ace them, check out this article written by a Render community member and master interviewer, Anthony Mays.
Caveat, not all software engineering jobs require this Leetcode style technical interview. Some jobs will ask you multiple-choice questions, and others will ask you questions about projects you may have worked on. If possible, try to ask the recruiter what type of interview you will have. If you cannot reach the recruiter in time, try googling "interview questions for XYZ company".
Non Technical Interviews
Moving on to non-technical interviews, these are very similar to the interviews that you see outside of tech. You will get questions like, "Why do you want to work for XYZ?", " Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", "What is your greatest strength?" etc. It is important to prepare for this interview style as well, even if you are technical. If you pass the technical interview, the following interview generally is a non-technical one, so don't skip studying for this part.
Non-technical roles have the same interview process inside tech and outside of tech. No need to study whole new topics. Lucky you! 🎉. One last tip on interviewing, make sure you ask questions. The interview is a two way street. You want to make sure that the company is a good fit for you as well. Render community member and the best recruiter with a podcast Taylor Desseyn has free guides on things to consider when interviewing and questions to ask your interviewer.
Breaking into tech can be a long and hard journey, but it doesn't have to be. Join the Render community and find your people. If you need more career advice or have other questions about tech check out the career corner channels in the official render discord. Good luck, and we can't wait to see your "I made it into tech" posts on social media!💖
What programming language should I learn for XYZ job?
No clue. It really depends on what you want to do. Did you research the job?
Should you learn more than one programming language at once?
It's not recommended, but it won't harm you.
How can you network yourself into a job?
Consider networking a tool in your toolbelt. Networking alone won't get you a job, you need to have the skills to go along with it. With that being said, have you joined groups, twitter communities, local meetups geared toward your career interests? Did you buy a ticket to Render? 🤨
How do I know what skills are transferable?
Compare your resume to job descriptions. Highlight areas that seem related.
Can you learn frameworks before learning the programming language?
Not recommended. This may scramble your brain.
What do I need to learn to become employable in XYZ field?
It really depends on the field. We recommend googling "study plans for xyz" and reading entry level job descriptions for that field. Combine those together and make a supercharged study plan. Follow people in that field on social media. You will learn a lot about what is needed from observing them.