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Eight Tips For Getting Started in Your Tech Career

Diverse group of people shaking hands, getting started on your tech career

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Your tech career is only a few steps away. Read these brilliant tips by self taught developer, Lianne Potter.

In December 2017 I didn’t know what coding was.

Through a lot of hard work and sacrifice, I managed to change my career in less than a year.

Lianne Potter talks about her tech career

I began to teach myself how to code in earnest in January 2018 and by the summer I had applied and successfully got a tech job at NHS Digital on their graduate scheme as a software developer. By September I was working at NHS.UK, the largest health website in Europe. Since then I have hosted my code clubs, become a public speaker and tech activist and I have been nominated for numerous awards (and won one!). You can read more about my journey into tech here.

Getting started on your tech career in less than a year is achievable but it isn’t easy and you will need to make sacrifices if you want to get into tech quickly. The rewards of working in this fantastic industry are well worth the effort so I encourage anyone from any background to seriously consider a career in tech.

It changed my life and it can change yours too.

Here are my tips to help you get there in your tech career:

Be dedicated to your learning. 

When I first started learning to code I devoted all my free time to it. No video games, no Netflix, even my allotment got neglected. This can be hard to keep up if you’re working too or have other commitments, but you need to set the time aside to learn your chosen technical skill every day. If you want to progress your tech career fast, you need to put the hours in. When it comes to friends and family members, make sure they are aware of your goals right from the start so they can support you and keep you on track (rather than make you feel guilty when you turn down their invitation to the pub). Why not join initiatives like 100 days of code if you struggle to keep focused?

Do your research and find the programming language(s) or tech skill that is right for you.

Look for topics that you enjoy first and for most but also keep in mind what career path you’d be interested in later down the line. It’s hard to stick to something if it doesn’t interest you but it is even harder to stay motivated when you realise it is a waste of time.

Learning to code is easy until it isn’t easy.

You’ll read a lot about how easy it is to learn how to code and you might get despondent when you’re struggling. Learning the basics is easy, becoming a master is hard so don’t beat yourself up when things get tough. You will never know everything there is to know about the topic you are learning but everyday you’ll learn something new. Take pride in how far you’ve come, not how much you lack.

Find your tech tribe.

Find a group where you feel supported in your learning, where you can talk tech, learn new things and make great industry contacts. Word of warning: Most of these tech meetups serve pizza and you could quite comfortably never a cook a meal all week, great for the wallet, bad for the waistline!

“The global tech ecosystem is inherently human rather than technological; made up of entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, inventors, and innovators. Collaboration is the glue that sticks these people and organisations together”UK Tech on the Global Stage – Tech Nation 2019

Sign reading difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations next to a seedling plant, tech career

If you don’t know something, don’t pretend you do. 

People aren’t generally very good at admitting that they don’t know something. Avoid nodding in the affirmative if someone is explaining something you don’t understand. Don’t assume people know what level you are at, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. I have yet to come across anyone who wasn’t happy to explain a concept when asked.

Be willing to take a step back in your tech career to be able to go forward in the future. 

The same day I was offered my job at NHS Digital I was offered a promotion from my then-current employer which would have led to a significant salary increase. I had to make a choice, take the promotion and stop coding or take quite a large pay cut and get a junior role doing something I loved. Really a “career change” is a temporary “career sacrifice” and you need to take a short term risk before you see a long term reward. I was lucky that I was financially able to make that decision but others may need to be mindful that the next few years might be a bit lean on the salary front….But remember, tech is one of the most well-paid industries so it shouldn’t be for long!

Your non-tech skills are just as important as your tech skills. 

If you are retraining, don’t forget to shout about your non-technical skills. Employers are recognising more and more that technical skills can be taught, but soft skills are more innate. So if you give killer presentations or are great at motivating a team, then make sure you let these skills shine just as much as your coding.

Finally, if you see someone new to coding struggling, be kind, share knowledge, and remember that we are all still learners.

 

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