A person stands on the top of one ladder while stepping onto a different one, symbolising a career pivot.
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Top tips for pivoting into a tech career

16 Aug 2023

Hays’ James Milligan explains the non-traditional routes into tech and gives advice for those thinking about pivoting into the industry.

There are so many different ways to begin a career in tech. Those starting out may begin with a computer science degree and work there way up in a traditional trajectory. But there are plenty of stories of those who made the switch to tech much later in life, having worked in other roles, for example as a car mechanic or a teacher.

So, if you’re thinking about switching into the world of tech, where do you start? It depends on where you are the moment. Hays’ James Milligan said the easiest route is for people who work in a company that already hires technology professionals.

“They work in a different function like HR or finance or whatever it might be, and they’re interested in technology,” he said. These people might be able to get involved in a project in some capacity and start to build some tech experience from there, which will enable them in time to move into the tech area within the company more and more.

Another way people can move into tech is when organisations are actively reskilling their workforce. “There’s an organisation we’re speaking to at the moment in the retail banking sector. They’ve got 400 people that work in the branch network and those roles won’t exist in two or three years’ time, but they’re going to require a similar number of people working with technology functions,” said Milligan.

“Then you have people from completely different careers but maybe have transferable skills, for example, in the military or police force … Organisations are much more open minded about where they get talent from.”

Advice for pivoting to tech

While working in an organisation that already has opportunities can make it a little easier, there are some steps you can take if you’re currently completely removed from the tech world.

Milligan advised starting from a learning development standpoint to help immerse yourself in the industry and the skills you need. There are plenty of free courses online, whether you want to dive into cybersecurity, DevOps or JavaScript.

“We have a platform called Hays Thrive, where people who sign up can access learning development for various different technical skills for free,” said Milligan.

“So, there are loads of places that you can access this content … I think you need to show a tendency to want to work in that area.”

While most people will not be in a position to get unpaid work experience, finding opportunities in which you can show how you built up your skills in the industry can be another benefit, whether it’s a paid internship or through schemes from organisations such as Skillnet Ireland.

“Once you’ve got the skills then it’s about exploring. Don’t be afraid to go to meetups and events. Reach out to people that you know and look for sponsors,” said Milligan.

“If you don’t know anybody in technology, look for advocates in technology and reach out to them, be proactive. It’s much easier to get a job if you can tap into that network and get some degree of sponsorship or mentorship as you go on that journey.”

An added bonus for those who want to pivot into tech is that there is a very strong online community that are open to engagement so building relationships with the right people and creating a strong network is a good place to start.

Getting CV and interview ready

Once you’ve built up some skills, a strong network and feel ready and passionate enough to apply for certain roles or schemes, it’s time to get your tech CV ready.

Milligan said it’s important to first understand the job you’re applying for, identify the relevant skills you have and make sure you’re able to highlight them effectively.

“Lots of skills are transferable these days, but non-technical skills are equally as important as technical skills,” he said. “If you’re coming from teaching, you’ve probably gathered a lot of those skills. So, highlight those transferable skills and try to demonstrate where you don’t maybe have commercial experience, what you’ve done to try and acquire those skills.”

When it comes to the interview process, the same advice carries through in terms of having a strong understanding of the role itself.

“Be prepared to work with a recruitment agency or a friend or mentor that can roleplay the interview with you,” said Milligan.

It’s also important to understand what format the interview will take, be it a competency-based one, scenario-based or requires some technical assessment. Also, think about what you want to say in advance and have examples ready so that even if the question isn’t exactly what you were hoping for, you have a way that answers the question while bringing in the knowledge you want to get across.

“Finally, the interview is a two-way process and sometimes we forget this. You’re assessing that organisation as much as they’re assessing you. So it is really important to have some questions ready for the people that you’re meeting around the organisation,” said Milligan. These questions can be around the tech that’s used, the career progression possibilities or the culture.

“Having those types of conversations at interview stage are important because that will allow you to make a decision because hopefully, you have multiple options available at the end of the process and you can select the option that is the best fit for what you want to do.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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