This is a guest post from Anthony D. Mays. Enjoy.
Dear new developer,
Before jumping into some tips around making career moves, it’s important to address mindset. Many transitioning into tech encounter frustration because the journey isn’t what they hoped. You need to have accurate expectations if you’re going to succeed in any transition.
- You are not starting from zero. Think that tech companies only care about technical skills? Think again. You often need a stronger mastery of communication, problem solving ability, and creativity. Focusing on tech skills at the expense of soft skills is a losing strategy.
- You will probably have to work harder than you think. Think about it. You have the dual duty of learning new skills while trying to pay the bills in the job you already have. You are going to need to spend time off work hours and on weekends to get where you need to go. Let the lazy beware — there is going to be toil and sacrifice involved. There are no silver bullets.
- Failing to plan is planning to fail. The hardest part often isn’t going to be the actual learning or doing. It’s the process of planning that tends to be the most difficult. You have to understand where you are, where you need to be, and what’s going to help you get from one to the other. Everyone is going to have an opinion. Most folks are going to claim to be an expert. Finding reliable and trustworthy advice will be tougher than you realize unless you can connect with the right people.
- Your network is still your net worth, even in tech. Tech may look like it’s different from any other industry, but it’s not. Who you know matters. You need to be intentional about building genuine relationships with different types of people. Know people and let them get to know you. The tech world is still a small one.
- Referrals are a cheat code. One fruit of having a strong network is having people who will put in a good word for you with a prospective employer. This is especially important for opening doors at those big tech companies. Don’t lose track of people you’ve worked with. They might end up where you want to go.
- Get comfortable learning in public and showing your work. Tech isn’t concerned with what you know as much as with what you can do. The builders and risk-takers who get things done are the ones who get rewarded. Your education and your corporate title don’t matter much here. It’s all about what you build. That can work in your favor if you are action oriented and are willing to broadcast it. Keep your receipts and focus on measurable, quantifiable outcomes.
- Think months and years, not days and weeks. People quit pursuing tech careers for the same reason they quit the gym. It can take way too long for some people to see results if they are expecting a fast turnaround. The learning curves in tech tend to be pretty steep. It takes time to get results to appear on your resume when you’re building experience. You need tenacity and perseverance if you’re going to be successful.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money (unless you’re trying to rush). Extending the gym analogy a bit, spending money doesn’t guarantee you’ll be stronger or skinnier. Plenty of people buy expensive treadmills and fancy weights they don’t use. Likewise, if you think that you can easily spend your way into a high-paying tech job, think again. Spending loads of cash on bootcamps and degrees is an easy way to end up frustrated and broke. Prefer to invest more in sweat equity and spend your money wisely.
This post is an excerpt of a longer one about how to transition into tech.
A former abuse victim and foster kid straight outta Compton, Anthony D. Mays wears many hats as a public speaker, DEI consultant, writer, tech career coach, and software engineer. Teaching himself how to code at the age of 8, Anthony went on to obtain a degree in Information and Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine and started his tech career as an INROADS intern, winning the Lorenz Tovar Intern of the Year award and earning a spot as one of the Top 50 alums in the organization’s 50-year history.