Shiloh, a friend of La Femme Collective, has been sharing her story about her experiences in multiple sectors of the tech industry over the past few weeks. In this segment, she shares advice on pursuing a career in tech.
In addition to telling my own story, I wanted to make sure I also shared some tangible advice and tips for other people thinking about pursuing a job in tech. Now, without further ado, here are some lessons I have learned over the last five years from working in the tech space:
1. Where you start is probably not where you will end up. Nearly everyone I know who works in tech have not come from typically “tech” backgrounds. Growing up, if someone mentioned a tech job to me, I automatically thought that meant engineering or coding. But there are so many jobs in the tech industry! People who work in tech come from an endless variety of backgrounds and majors. While I definitely suggest everyone take a computer science class (or two) if you are able, do not think that every tech job requires you to have technical skills. Also, it is important to realize that where you start in tech is just that: a starting point. Your first job in tech will probably not be your dream job. But you should use it as a stepping- stone to get the job you really want. Most tech companies take their hiring processes very seriously and once someone is hired, they invest in their employees’ career development. Furthermore, many companies promote from within and consistently move people around internally. Some of the larger companies even have internal programs that allow their employees to try working on different teams and in different offices. So if you are considering a job in tech, it can help to be open about where you start. With each job you take, consider the skills you are developing and whether they will help you later down the line.
2. Network, network, network. Networking is big in tech. I know that networking can be pretty scary for a lot of people but it does not have to be. At a networking event, I guarantee you that the majority of people are nervous at the prospect of having to talk to other people in the room. You are not alone in being nervous! One thing to remember: you do not need to be extroverted to be a greatnetworker. When starting out, look for internships and projects to gain experience and to begin to develop a network. Find ways to meet new people. There are tons of resources out there to attend meet-ups, conferences, and networking events. Also, always pay it forward. I spend a lot of time simply having coffee with other colleagues. For me, it is important to educate myself about what my peers are working on and how everything fits together to make the business a success. I will never decline an opportunity to meet up with someone who wants to chat about what I do or how I got to the place I am in. Similarly, I will always respond to career questions on LinkedIn, email, social media, etc. For me, networking is about listening and connecting. I spend my time listening to other people. I want to surround myself you people that inspire me. Eventually an opportunity will come up where I can connect two people based on what I know about them. Making connections can be extremely valuable and this is how I have built a network.
3. Align your personal and professional passions. In addition to my day-to- day job at Twitter, I was actively involved in their women’s leadership group called SWAT (Super Women at Twitter). Eventually I was asked to take over the group as its global lead. I consider myself an ardent feminist and I want to take every opportunity I can to help other women reach their own personal and professional goals. One of the great things about the tech industry is that you can often combine your personal and professional interests. Being a part of the women’s leadership group at Twitter was not only a great way for me to help other women, but it became one of the most important moments in my own career growth. I was afforded opportunities to meet amazing people and to develop important skills. Being a part of the group also provided me with a deeper respect for the company I was working for, since this was an area they strongly invested in. If there is something you are passionate about which falls outside the range of your 9 to 5 job, look for ways to combine the two. Or invest in a project you can own related to your passion. Eventually, that passion project could end up becoming your full-time job. Kudos to Nora for doing just that!
4. Ask lots of questions. Do not be afraid to challenge others by asking questions. Transparency is a cornerstone of tech culture. Fostering an environment of openness and communication has always been important at the companies I have worked for. As a result, when working at a tech company you need to be willing to do two things: (1) ask questions and (2) challenge others. This kind of thinking manifests itself as early as during the hiring process when interviewers are testing applicants for critical thinking skills. Without a doubt, the phrase “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” applies to working in tech. Do not be afraid to question a product or process. Usually the greatest new inventions come about by asking a question. Furthermore, if there is something you want, such as a promotion or raise, you are likely not going to get it unless you ask. So again, it all starts with a question.