Welcome to a new series I’m starting called Questions That Need Answers, where I answer common questions I’ve received with opinions that are my own. From questions on where to start to get involved in tech to my opinions on being a black woman in the Tech industry and what that means.
Last Saturday, I received a text from one of my friends. She had been mulling over the possibility of the tech industry being her next move, motivated by a few experiences she’d had at work. She deals with technical issues in her line of work, though her job is not directly tech related, and she’s curious, which is such an awesome place to be in! It can also be overwhelming and one could end up lost and/or giving up before they’ve even started. I’ve been in that place, and have shared a bit about my humble beginnings (not that I’m too far from that point, but whatever). I wanted to write this post for anyone that is curious about tech and considering it as a career move.
Having a career in tech was something that sounded fantastical to me growing up. There was immediately a barrier on that being a possibility for me. However, I ended up being the Miss Fix-It of my family. When my dad clicked on a link from a pop-up claiming he had a virus that needed to be cleaned with this AMAZING anti-virus program that he had to download RIGHT THIS MINUTE, he called on my help when he wasn’t able to do anything but stare at an endless amount of ads popping up on his desktop. My mom called on me to assist her in restoring that file that she deleted…from the Recycle Bin. For a large number of years, I was the tech support for my family, and when I moved away for college, I became the tech support for my friends. Even still, when I decided to switch my major from print journalism to computer science, I was terrified. Could I even do this???
There are some things I want to warn you about, things that could serve as discouragement for any budding techie.
- Everyone sounds like they know what they’re doing, even if they don’t. I don’t know why. I am not sure if there is an orientation people go to where they learn to do this, but the confidence is strong with everyone and they will rarely ever let on that they are unsure of anything. Don’t let that intimidate you, because no one knows everything and people barely know what they know.
- You will be confused…a lot. Embrace learning and the processes that go along with it, because that is what you will be doing, over and over again.
- The tech industry is a broad one. What you think you may like, you may actually hate. But you can find a home for you in Tech land, you just need some exposure.
Now, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. So, Steph, all of that was great…but that doesn’t answer my question. How do I get started? I can’t answer that question definitively, because everyone is different and every story is different and what works for Bob won’t work for Alice and vice versa. However, there are some tools that I could recommend that may assist with at least giving you a head start.
- Enroll in a free online class on Computer Science. If you love the structure that a class provides, I’d suggest enrolling in a free or paid Introductory class to something tech related. Most community colleges offer intro classes for a decent price. There are also a lot of free online courses as well. There is a free Intro to Computer Science class by Harvard University. There are classes on Lynda. You can even watch some Professor Messer videos on the A+ for a good foundation.
- Install and use the Enki app. This app is completely new to me. I found out about it through Reddit and have been using it for the past few days to brush up on my Python. Every day, you get a bite-sized workout that contains a little blurb on a subject and a quick quiz. You can use it on your breaks, you can use it on your lunch, whenever you get 5 minutes, open up the app and complete a workout.
- Attend some meetups in your area that are tech related. I’m an introvert, so this is probably the least appealing option for me, personally, but it honestly helps the most. Meeting people not only broadens your network, but it also helps to meet a group of people who will push you forward in your journey. I’ve met some pretty supportive people by getting out there and going to a Happy Hour event or a conference. Meetup.com is a great app to use to look for local tech related events. You can also use LinkedIn to virtually meet like-minded individuals with common goals.
- If you know anyone who is in the tech field, glean as much advice as you can from them. This point kind of piggy backs off of the last one. You’ll want advice. You’ll need it, in some cases. And everyone is so ready to give advice. Apart from a few people, any time I’ve asked for help with something or advice, a techie is always there to provide that.
- Check out some books from the library. I’m a huge library nerd, so this will always make it on my lists. Libraries have lots of resources, and they’re free! Just rent out a bunch of books and skim through them. Exposure is key this early on, and books are a great way to expose yourself to tech related subject matter.
- Google. When all else fails, the almighty Google is there to pick up where everyone else left off.
- Projects. Dive into a project. It will frustrate you. You will quit. You will start back up again. You will be confused. You will struggle. But you will learn…a lot.
- Podcasts. If podcasts are your thing, there are a million and one podcasts on tech. I don’t have any I’d want to recommend yet, but a quick search on Google or in the podcast app of your choice will show you what options are out there.