Coding Dojo CEO Richard Wang speaks about the tech skills that can help if you’re considering a career change.
What do you need to know before you a commit to a career change? Is it ever too late to make the switch? Richard Wang, CEO and co-founder of tech-education company Coding Dojo, has some advice.
Wang is also the sector practice leader for edtech and future of work at the MIT Martin Trust Center, and previously worked at Boeing as chief of staff, chief strategy analyst and product manager.
He has experienced a number of big changes in his life to date – such as being the first person in his family to move from China to the US when he was 13 years old – and here he shares his tips for people who may be on the cusp of a tech-related career decision.
‘When the lightbulb finally clicks, it’s even more rewarding knowing the obstacles you’ve overcome’
– RICHARD WANG
Is it ever too late to make a career change?
I don’t believe it’s ever too late if you have the determination and grit to make the change. This is even more so the case when transitioning into a tech role, where job openings are plentiful and accelerated training options are available. The key factor is hard work. Learning new skills later in life isn’t easy, but it’s far from impossible.
We’ve seen students young and old come through our programme and go on to land great careers. For example, Bellevue alumni Mary Pearce who worked as a project manager for 35 years, had an MBA etc. She decided in her 50s that she wanted to change her career.
She had a computer science degree from the early 80s but quickly realised it had become obsolete due to the rapid pace of technological change. So, she started from scratch, dedicated herself to learning the new craft and landed a software developer role shortly after graduating.
If you’re making a change, what skills are most in demand?
People with tech skills are in demand because every company is a tech company in today’s global marketplace. Even small ‘mom and pop’ shops still have websites that need to be maintained, optimised etc. Meanwhile, nearly every industry is adopting more and more technology to streamline operations, better serve their customers or pursue innovation.
For workers in non-tech roles, having tech skills is still a great way for upward mobility or to just get more work done. Take a marketing rep, for example, who needs a landing page built for an upcoming campaign or initiative. They would likely need to spec out the messaging, which images they want to use and other details of the page, then ship it to their development team to build.
Or, if they know basic HTML and CSS, they could build the page in real time as they gather the images, messaging etc. The end result is the page gets built quicker, is designed exactly how the marketing rep wants it and the development team can focus on other more challenging mission-critical tasks.
For people hoping to break into tech, what steps should they take?
Which language or stack to learn after the basics will depend on not only where you want to work, but what types of projects you want to work on. Large tech companies use a lot of different technologies, but that doesn’t mean you need to learn all of them.
Meanwhile, if you want to stay within your current industry and just transition roles, there may be specialised software you need to learn or other less-common technologies may be more prevalent in a given industry.
For a generalised approach, I always suggest learning Python after picking up the basics. It’s beginner-friendly, widely applicable and also highly in-demand with employers.
What advice would you give anyone setting out to make a career change?
Start small and don’t get discouraged. Learning new skills can seem daunting and it can definitely be challenging. But the payoff is worth it in the end. Depending on your situation, you’re not just changing your life, but also the lives of your children or family.
Trying to learn something new and failing doesn’t make you a failure, nor does it mean you can’t learn it with enough work. Setbacks are a natural step in the process. When the lightbulb finally clicks, it’s even more rewarding knowing the obstacles you’ve overcome.