Technology Education: How To Transition Into Tech In 2022?
Over the last year, a number of people have been asking me about what they should do in order to break into technology. At the time, I was working for IBM as a software engineer, and my advice to them was usually something along the lines of:
“If you want to break into technology, you could try building your own startup or open-source project. If that’s not possible right now, then just work on improving your computer science skills and building stuff – only once you’re able to produce things will people be willing to give you a chance.”
The response from most people went something like this: “Computer Science isn’t really my thing. It’s too theoretical and abstract for me.
I wish there was an easier way! What should I do instead? Should I learn web development?”
And until recently, my answer would’ve been the following:
“If you want to break into technology, web development is what you should focus on. It’s by far the fastest way to get a job in tech.”
But this is no longer the case.
The fact of the matter is that after spending 3 years in the industry, working for multiple companies- I’ve realized that not only does teaching yourself web development provide little insight into how the industry actually works, it also puts you at a disadvantage when applying for jobs that are outside of front end engineering roles.
Even more so if your goal isn’t becoming a junior developer right off the bat, but breaking in as a mid-level engineer or higher.
So what can people do instead? What’s an alternative route?
You need to learn how to create technology.
As a former IBMer myself, I understand why basic computer science has an appeal. The idea that there’s some kind of magic black box (or even better, a set of secret algorithms) which you can employ in order to make your computer do amazing things is exciting.
And if you’re someone who loves tinkering around with electronics and gadgets- the fact that computers are built upon this fundamental principle is great news for you.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether or not you know how something works on a technical level if it didn’t help you solve any problems. If all your knowledge ends up amounting to is moving 1s and 0s around- then what was the point of wasting your time studying in the first place?
Had I given in to my initial urge, this is where I’d be today. At 18 years of age, I’d know how computers work down to their electrical components and molecular structure. My resume would include college courses on basic programming concepts, data structures, etc. but I wouldn’t actually have any real-world experience solving problems with code.
And while having a theoretical understanding is important when it comes to being able to solve unfamiliar algorithmic challenges during an interview- if all you’ve ever done is just write code without shipping anything that actually mattered – then you’re at a significant disadvantage when compared against someone who can actually build stuff.
Technology Education: How To Transition Into Tech In 2022: Step-By-Step Guide
So what does your journey into the tech industry look like?
If you’re coming from a non-technical background, then there are a few distinct steps you’ll need to take before you can make a successful transition:
Step 1: Understand The Fundamentals.
There’s one reason why so many of the “Learn X In One Day!” articles you see online are filled with language tutorials- and it’s because there simply aren’t any other materials out there.
Programming languages have been around for a long time, but the internet is still lacking books on how to learn them that don’t suck.
If all your exposure to computer science has come from college courses or whatever you’ve stumbled across on the internet- then I understand if you’re overwhelmed by how fragmented and disorganized computer science education seems.
But no matter what kind of thing you want to build, at its core there will be some similarities between all programs: Variables, conditionals, loops, etc.
The fundamentals of computer science are a great place to start, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much of it is actually useful in real life.
At the very least, understanding this stuff will make learning a specific programming language much easier as they’re all based on the same concepts.
And as I’ve said before- everything else can usually be learned as you go along.
Step 2: Build A Foundation In Programming Languages.
Once you feel comfortable with the underlying principles behind computer programs- your next step should be to build a foundation in a programming language.
It doesn’t matter which one you choose, just pick whichever sounds most interesting to you and start working through tutorials until you know enough that you can build simple things without having to constantly look up syntax.
Whatever language you choose, the first step is to make sure you can build a website. There’s nothing more embarrassing than spending months learning how to code (especially as a self-taught developer) and having someone ask you what HTML is or how to edit a CSS file.
You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to pick up, and websites offer lots of opportunities for practice: Making simple forms, reading data from APIs, etc. will all teach you something new about programming and help reinforce whatever concepts you’re struggling with at the time.
It doesn’t matter whether your site is hosted on Freehostia or Github Pages– just don’t expect your portfolio website to impress anyone who actually knows what they’re looking at. And speaking of portfolios.
Step 3: Build A Portfolio.
Your portfolio website is your resume for getting into tech, and it needs to be good enough that you’d be excited to show it to someone who works in the industry. If websites like Github or Dribbble didn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten my first internship after university- so make sure you know what employers are looking for in terms of code samples when creating your own portfolio.
And while having a “portfolio” of side projects might look impressive on a resume, most companies will still want to see a few more traditional documents before they decide whether or not to interview you. Fortunately compiling all of these materials usually isn’t too difficult.
Step 4: Compile A Resume And Cover Letter.
Not all job applications are created equal, and if you’re planning to apply to a position with one of the big tech companies then make sure you know what hiring managers are actually looking for before writing your resume.
But most programmer positions don’t require anything more than a Word document or Google Docs, so it shouldn’t be that hard to put together something that gets the point across. That said, taking some extra time to write up a personalized cover letter can also be useful when applying elsewhere.
And while I won’t bother linking out to any specific guides since they exist in abundance online, I will mention that having someone review your materials before sending them into a company will increase your chances of getting hired.
This is especially true if you don’t have any previous experience working in tech, so be sure to reach out to anyone you think might have some industry connections.
Step 5: Apply To Open Positions.
Some people are surprised when I say that applying to jobs online isn’t the best way to find a job, but it’s absolutely true- and most programmers know better than to read through stacks of resumes on a daily basis anyway.
If you’re reaching out mostly just for practice then this shouldn’t really matter too much, but keep in mind that going straight to hiring managers or recruiters can be more effective (especially if they already know who you are ).
Step 6: Prepare To Be Rejected. A Lot.
While there are quite a few programmers out there who have found jobs by sending out lots of applications, it’s far more common to hear stories of people being rejected over and over again before finally getting hired (if they do at all).
But this doesn’t mean that you should stop applying once you’ve sent off your first round of materials- instead, think of it as an opportunity to improve your materials before sending them in again.
And while you’re waiting on a reply from a company, keep in mind that most people who work at tech companies are both overworked and heavily overqualified. If you only send a single resume, you probably won’t stand out from the other employees who are applying for the same role.
But if you can demonstrate that you have an interest in what the company does and a firm grasp of what you’re talking about, then hiring managers will be much more likely to take notice.
Step 7: Persistence Pays Off
If you want a job in tech then you’ll need to be persistent- no matter what, keep sending applications even after you’ve been rejected (or ignored) for the first time. And if you really want to stand out then try sending some small gifts along with your resume. Since most tech companies are comprised of young, liberal-minded people who believe in meritocracy, they’ll love receiving baked goods or other treats. If nothing else, it will be a good way to break the ice and get on their good side.
What technology should I learn in 2022?
What technology will be hot in 2022? What new technologies or programming languages have a chance of hitting it big over the next five years? I am not talking about new technologies that have been around for a while but will gain steam, such as containers. I am thinking more along the lines of completely new programming languages, tools, or frameworks.
Find More Here: Top Technology Skills To Learn in 2022
But regardless of how you find them, there are lots of websites out there that list open jobs at tech companies- so use whatever resources you can, and don’t forget to be persistent. But no matter how many times you reach out to a hiring manager, make sure that your initial email (and follow-up emails) are personalized to the company and position that you’re applying for they’ll be far more likely to listen if they know that you’re interested in what they do, rather than just spamming them with resumes.