This article will guide you on how to break into tech with little to no experience by sharing resources, tips, and tricks on how to get started, fine-tune a field of interest, build your profile, prepare for interviews, and get full-time jobs/contracts.
Suppose you’re like most newbies out there, tired of hearing buzzwords like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ChatGPT without having any idea of what it’s about and feel burdened by how difficult it may seem to do tech; I’ll like to let you know that you’re not alone, but keep in mind that getting started isn’t “rocket science” and “landing on the moon” from the very first day, little steps add up.
At the end of this article, you will find some advice that will be helpful regardless of your skill level or experience; they might be the words you need to hear or remember.
How to get started
- Search for roles in tech on Google to get an idea of options available, reading short descriptions about them as well.
- Search for job openings in the field(s) in your interests. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for this.
- Go through the job description and write down common skills among the job openings.
- With that idea in mind, you can start your research, getting a surface-level understanding of those topics.
- Read articles, watch videos of people talking about how they got started in those fields of study/work.
- Fine-tune your field of interest with the above in mind.
- Kickstart with learning programs like Alt School, watch free crash courses on YouTube, and take a couple of paid courses on platforms like Udemy, Coursera, etc.
- Work on personal projects to build your portfolio and make your theoretical knowledge practical.
- Harsh truth: You’ll undoubtedly get frustrated at one point or the other in tech; continuous practice would help build the muscle of endurance and perseverance, especially when you have a personal interest in your learning.
Building your profile
- Draft an updated CV.
- Create professional accounts on job searching platforms like LinkedIn.
- Create a shareable portfolio if applicable, e.g., with GitHub, Figma, a personal website, etc.
Preparing for interviews and contract jobs
- With your portfolio ready, practice your speech by practicing how you’d talk about yourself, what you have worked on, your interests, and your goals (having an understanding of the target company and tailoring your speech in that line can help stand you out as it depicts common interest).
- Research the pattern of interviews specific to your field of interest. E.g., common questions asked in technical interviews for Software Engineers, questions about the thought process for Product designers, portfolio reviews, etc.
- Learn how to negotiate with an idea of the market value/salary range of the role of interest or scope of work.
The typical pattern of interviews:
- Introductory call: An almost informal call to talk about the role, what the company does, and balance the candidate's expectations as well as get a sense of the skill level or experience of the candidate.
- Technical interview: Coding challenge, take-home assignment, portfolio review, industry-specific questions, etc.
- Assessment: Consideration of interpersonal skills, technical skills, relevant experience, etc.
- Job offer and negotiation.
- Not everyone is privileged to have access to a mentor or someone experienced/skilled in their field of interest. If you do come in contact with or know someone that suits the above description, the best way to gain the most from such interactions is not to expect a sole dependence on whatever they say or do or request a “handout” but for you to do your research (having in mind the tips already shared above), have and ask specific questions, this helps to make the conversations more effective and enables the mentor help you better/easier.
- It is easier for a mentor to share tips on becoming a better Frontend Engineer than to start from scratch explaining the difference between a Frontend Engineer, a Backend Engineer, a DevOps Engineer, etc. Summary: ensure you do your due diligence of research to help your helper help you.
Personas explaining the concept.
Below are examples of people trying to break into tech who need more experience or an idea of what they want to do.
NB: Please note that the names used here are only for demonstration purposes with all due respect to the people and companies/bodies associated with them.
Oppenheimer wants to be a Project Manager.
- Oppenheimer has good planning and collaboration skills and loves to learn. He searches on LinkedIn for job openings in project management.
- Oppenheimer finds a couple of openings asking for an understanding of “Agile Methodology,” “Working with a cross-functional team,” “OKR (Objective key result) approach,” “Planning quarterly goals,” “Scoping and balancing expectations,” etc.
- Oppenheimer begins his research as he Googles what Agile means and realizes there’s another methodology called Waterfall; he reads further; the more he searches into a topic, the broader it becomes, and with time, he sees the connection between them.
- Oppenheimer starts to build confidence in his research capabilities and familiarity with common keywords used in the industry.
- Oppenheimer decides to apply to companies to work for free but, unfortunately, is denied. Hence, he decides to reach out to his friends or join tech communities to find a project to collaborate on.
- Oppenheimer takes professional courses to solidify his knowledge and practice/collaboration work.
- Oppenheimer is now more experienced in the field and has worked on several projects, so he returns to the job market with the tips above in mind.
Barbie with no idea of what she wants to do in tech
- Barbie searches on Google with keywords relevant to jobs in tech and finds roles like “Project Manager,” “Product Designer,” “Software Engineer,” “Backend Engineer,” “Frontend Engineer,” “Social Media Manager,” “Graphic Designer,” etc.
- Barbie now knows tech roles and spends time reading articles, asking questions, and watching videos about what people do in those roles.
- Barbie realizes she wants to be a Product designer.
- Barbie searches LinkedIn for job openings for Product designers and finds a couple of openings asking for proficiency in Figma.
- Barbie starts watching free videos about how to get started with Figma.
- Barbie grasps the basics of what Figma is and has an idea of its use.
- Barbie understands better with structures, so Barbie signs up for a course on Udemy.
- Barbie now knows how to use the tool, so she starts to practice and creates a couple of designs and a portfolio for herself.
- Barbie now has the option to source for freelance gigs, collaborate with peers learning together, undergo free/paid internships, or source for full-time jobs/contracts.
Tom Cruise wants to be a self-taught Frontend Engineer and has an experienced friend
- Tom is a self-motivated creative that enjoys expressing himself through pixels and code, converting ideas and designs into usable solutions on the web.
- From a couple of searches on Google and browsing the web, Tom realizes he needs to know the basics of HTML and CSS to get started. Tom has a friend, Precious OSSAI, that is experienced in this field. Tom asks for advice, and Precious suggests understanding box models, flex-box, and grid systems as a start after grasping the proper use of semantic HTML tags.
- Tom goes back to Precious, showing progress; Precious seeing the dedication, is motivated to help further and explains a couple of concepts, throwing light on topics Tom can go back to research.
- Tom is getting confident and is ready to pick up frameworks of the language, so he has started studying and practicing with ReactJS.
- Tom has built muscle in picking up new knowledge in tech, research, in troubleshooting/debugging. He has the option to continue on this path of being self-taught, undergo training, take up freelance gigs, find a full-time job, and pursue a career with the tips mentioned earlier shared in this article.
Words of advice
- While internships are great, personal study is essential to level up, attract more value, become great at your craft, and stand out.
- Try to be as practical as possible with hands-on attempts with or without external support.
- Focus on progress, and remember how far you have come; rather than beat yourself up about what you need to achieve or learn, enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
Imposter syndrome never ends, no matter how skilled or experienced you are; it may not completely be a bad thing but a tool you can use to improve. The more you know, the more you know you don’t know, but the more you know, the more you know you know better than you knew. — Precious OSSAI.
Resources and links
Below is a list of helpful links and resources.