The main learning from my trajectory is, that you can indeed start a career in the tech industry not having major technical-skills. How? Bea Dominguez, Head of People and Talent at a Swiss startup, who has over ten years of experience in Talent Acquisition in Silicon Valley, Berlin, and Switzerland gave us some valuable tips to nail a job in the tech world with non- tech-skills.
Bea, the tech industry is booming. What positions are there for people who want to enter the tech world without any (major) technical skills?
If you are the receptionist at a salon, you can easily become the receptionist at a tech company, the principle of welcoming people and answering phones is the same. If you are an accountant, accounting principles will be the same, even if some of the issues and terminology will be different. If you are a fundraiser at a non-profit or NGO, although it might seem like there is no correlation with tech, there is, donor development is not so different from client engagement or sales. If you work as a project manager for a large consumer goods corporation, the skills that allow you to keep track of all moving parts and deliver a project on-time and under budget are skills you can use at a tech company.
Similarly to you, I had no tech background when I got started in tech. I studied Art History and was working in donor development at a non-profit art space. I was looking to switch careers and a good friend of mine said “administrative work is pretty much the same across industries.” Yes, I know terminology is different, and what you do is “different”, but overall some functions can be the same.
Outside of skills, tech is revolutionizing all industries, so there is a big chance there is a startup working in your field. A doctor or nurse could work at a health tech company, for example.
Outside of experience and skills, what are tech companies looking for?
While there are many different kinds of tech companies, tech companies, in general, have a lot of similarities. One of these is the desire to hire bright, motivated people who want to create game-changing solutions.
Companies look for three main things in a candidate. Can they do the job? Are they passionate and motivated? Are they a culture fit?
Cultural fit is really important for small teams. This is not just personality, but more an alignment of values, beliefs, and behaviors between you and the company. You don’t have to fake culture fit, look for companies that share your values and beliefs, and let your genuine interest shine through during the interview.
What tips do you give people who want to break into the tech industry?
Do your homework, get clear about what you want, and network with people in the industry.
First, you should assess what you can do and figure out what you want to do. You need to know your strengths, weaknesses, and what interests you. To help you figure it out, you should look into companies you like, get insights into industry trends, news, and emerging technologies, and talk to people in tech.
Research and networking doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be as simple as reading Techcrunch, Venture Beat, Forbes Tech, Mashable, etc., and checking out job descriptions on LinkedIn. I recommend looking at job descriptions and career pages from tech companies because they show you exactly what companies are looking for, the qualifications needed for the job/s, and the terminology used. From there, you can also connect with people and ask questions, “hey x, I see that you work at ‘super cool company’ how do you like working there?”
And are there any “no-gos” or things not to do?
Not necessarily a no-go, but I do recommend doing a bit of expectation management. If you are switching industries you are going to have to work harder to get the job. Expecting to get a job based on a generic resume, or putting in the same amount of effort, is not going to work.
As I mentioned above. I have a degree in Art History and worked at a reputable art space. My knowledge and network of arts nonprofit meant that I could apply to a similar job and get an interview based on the name of the place I worked at alone. Now, if I apply to a startup with my “nonprofit” resume, it would go on the reject pile right away. To keep your resume from the no pile you need either a recommendation/referral or a tailored resume.
Any CV / Cover Letter tips?
Tailor your resume to the job, make sure you show the “connection” between your experience and the job, address any concerns head-on, and show results, not tasks.
Read the job description, take a look at the language the company uses, is it friendly? Is it colloquial? Is it formal? Make sure your resume mirrors their language. You want to be a culture fit, so writing in a similar voice will help you feel familiar. On that note, you can also make your resume pop visually, using the same colors found on the company website.
Any final words of wisdom?
If you are lacking experience and you don’t have time to go back to school, you can volunteer, or take a side project.
Finding a small, time-limited opportunity that doesn’t require someone to invest heavily in you is a great solution. You can look at Upwork, Fiveer or you can volunteer your expertise to help a small 2-3 person startup.
Looking for a job can be stressful, even more so when you are trying to move to a new industry. Don’t give up!
Bea Dominguez is a talent acquisition leader with over 10-years of experience working for startups and high-growth technology companies in Silicon Valley and Europe. Before working in tech, Bea worked in marketing and fundraising for nonprofit art organizations and social entrepreneurs. When she is not working, she is playing with her daughter Alma, going into Reddit rabbit holes, and/or ‘zooming’ with friends. You can find her on LinkedIn