Want to make it in the tech industry, but don’t have the tech degree to back it up? It’s possible and probably easier than you think, take it from this tech analyst.
By Rachel Bruns (Federal Technology Analyst)
When I told my parents I had an interview with one of the Big Four for a summer internship in IT consulting, my mother responded, “Oh honey, that’s wonderful. Except you don’t have a technology degree.” As a third year international relations college student, I had focused on the intersection of globalization and community change in school, social entrepreneurship work at my university and an internship on Capitol Hill.
I focused on learning – and when I received an offer for a summer internship that led to a full-time offer, I proved not only my mother wrong, but everyone who thought that a liberal arts student can’t be successful in the ever-growing and rapidly changing IT world.
Here are four things that helped me along the way:
Market the Soft Skills
In every industry, especially the sometimes complicated and intimidating IT, the soft skills are paramount. The term is a catch-all phrase, used to describe a person’s non-technical skills and abilities. Attributes such as being able to solve problems, working well in a tem environment and motivating others are the kinds of characteristics that are important to highlight, no matter the technical capabilities required. Don’t underestimate the importance of your soft skills in any part of the job hunt. You’re bubbly and outgoing? Harness that energy in your behavioral interview. You’re best at written communication? Make sure that cover letter and introductory email have just the right flare. In order to get to the case interviews in corporate consulting, you have to ace the behavioral interview; take the opportunity to drive the conversation – your case interviews will be structured, intimidating and difficult.
Research, Research, Research
You’re probably not the only person in the world who has had to look up the definition of hexadecimal or GUI if someone rattles it off to you. So use Google, and don’t be afraid to. Google has pretty much all of life’s answers, so dig in and see what you can find. Besides a basic definition or explanation, you’re likely to find some helpful tips or references around the subject matter that might give you insight into the larger context. (When you’ve landed the job, the next best thing to Google is your agency’s or company’s intranet – all the most specific answers right at your finger tips!)
Talk to your Mentors and Sponsors
Your mentors are the ones that know you best – they know what tech and non-tech positions are the best fit. Drive the process by taking the initiative, developing a meaningful agenda, and demonstrating your interest by bringing your serious goals, questions and attention to each meeting. If they fall within your current industry of student, leverage their knowledge about you and your talents to market yourself the best that you are able. If they fall within the industry you’re seeking to break into, ask for an informational interview with one of their colleagues. Sponsorship, recently championed by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, is just as important to your future. What can you do to ensure that your sponsor feels confident in recommending you for the job?
Ultimately, it’s your job search, your career search, and your time, effort and focus; so take responsibility of your decisions, your goals, and work hard toward them. Each and every experience is an asset for your career, just find out how to market it. I decided I wanted to do every part of the corporate consulting internship except the technology part. As I enter into my second year at the firm, I’m excited to be working on a scrum master certification. I haven’t tried explaining that one to my mother yet.