Breaking into IT: Career paths for nontechnical people
A career renaissance could await in the technology industry
July 15, 2020 | By: TEKsystems
If you’re facing job loss or job restructuring due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, the time for a career renaissance may be opportune.
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. Michal Tsur, the president and co-founder of Kaltura, told Mashable that execution is more important than experience.
A number of positions that are in high demand at information technology companies 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. Job candidates with strong writing skills can find these jobs even if they’re not intimately familiar with computer programs. 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. For example, an electronic health record company needs trainers to teach its own employees and clinicians how to use the program and comply with regulations. Instead of explaining the technical aspects of the software, these teachers need to master workflows so they can guide users through their tasks. As corporations expand their IT infrastructure, they need to train employees 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 staff with management talent. Roles for these professionals often include acting as a liaison with customers, so people skills and organizational abilities are attractive qualities to have. [Search project manager jobs]
- Sales staff. Every business needs customers to buy its products, 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 emphasizing the skills that are valuable for IT services. Tsur emphasized that intelligent people who are fast learners are attractive candidates for a number of positions, 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. If you want to work your way into a more specific technical role, Global Knowledge listed these top-paying IT certifications:
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- CISM – Certified Information Security Manager
- CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
- PMP® – Project Management Professional
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 resume, 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 programs
Immersive adult IT training programs—oftentimes 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, resume-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. For example, take nonprofit Per Scholas, which TEKsystems partners with on a national scale. Per Scholas provides tuition-free “technology skills training and professional development tailored to business needs to highly motivated students from overlooked talent pools.” The typical Per Scholas graduate has an average of 300% increase in posttraining income.
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?