Breaking into IT: Career paths for nontechnical people
A career renaissance could await in the technology industry
September 28, 2020
Have you thought about starting a new career in the technology industry?
If you’re facing job loss or job restructuring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, now might be the time to think about changing career.
If you have a passion for technology but lack the degree or professional experience, don’t worry; there are still plenty of IT career opportunities for you. The technology industry requires people with a diverse set of skills and offers a myriad of opportunities for gaining new expertise.
Nontechnical roles at IT companies
Maybe you don’t even consider yourself a techy person. Luckily, you don’t need to be—information technology services actually benefit from having team members who have strengths in other areas, such as communication or foreign languages.
It’s important to be able to learn and understand technical concepts, but you can develop much of this knowledge on the job.
There are a number of positions in information and technology companies that are great entry points for people without a technical background.
- Technical writer or editor. Software companies need an array of documentation, from user manuals to executive summaries. Candidates with strong writing skills can find these jobs even if they’re not intimately familiar with computer programmes. In fact, sometimes a lack of a technical background enables writers to communicate more effectively with the people who will be relying on their documentation. After time, some technical writers may develop subject matter expertise to transition into other roles.
- IT training or technical support. Software companies and industries that use technology need people who are good educators and problem-solvers. Instead of explaining the technical aspects of the software, these teachers need to master workflows so they can guide users through their tasks. As businesses expand their IT infrastructure, they need to train people on company processes and security protocol.
- Project Manager. Project Management Professional certifications are widely marketable, as most industries need people who can lead projects and adhere to budgets. While the certification is a nice touch, the main point is that technology companies require people with management talent. Roles for these professionals often include acting as a liaison with customers, so people skills and organisational abilities are attractive qualities to have.
- Sales. Every business needs customers to buy its products/services, and for many companies, this means having a dedicated sales team. Successful salespeople develop a deep understanding of the service or product they’re selling so they can build trust with the client, but this specific knowledge is usually learned after they’re hired.
How to get your foot in the door
If you’re interested in IT jobs, you can bolster a nontechnical background by emphasising the skills that are valuable for IT services. Intelligent people who are fast learners are attractive candidates, and industry-specific knowledge is also in high demand. For example, IT teams that support business intelligence need professionals with marketing, analytical and management skills.
You can also pursue certifications or learn some skills on your own to make yourself more competitive. Nontechnical certifications, such as project management or corporate training, are useful for a wide spectrum of careers. Certifications show that you are serious about the profession and willing to master new knowledge and skills. While an official certification makes a strong statement on your CV, you can also benefit from educating yourself, such as learning basic website and UX design. These opportunities can give you a competitive edge even if you don’t have a technical degree or background.
Go all-in with technical skill boot camps and programmes
Immersive adult IT training programmes—often called boot camps—have risen in popularity in recent years as the IT skills gap has widened for emerging and in-demand skills like Java, networking and information security. This type of training is both rigorous and fast-paced, combining theory, hands-on application and professional development skills (e.g., interviewing, CV-building). They can also be time-consuming, often requiring as much in-person time as a full-time job. But when it comes to launching a career in technology, they can be quite effective.
Bottom line: There are many paths to a career in IT
Whether you start with a computer science degree, pick up technology skills while working in a different field (and end up liking that more!) or have a personal interest that you think could become a professional endeavor, there are many paths people take into an information technology career. Where will yours start?