How to Land a Job in the Tech Industry Without a Tech Degree

Nov 07, 2014 - Joe Matar
The biggest secret of the tech world is that a huge percentage of people who work in the tech industry started out knowing nothing. They didn’t go to MIT, they didn’t get a degree in computer science and they still don’t know how to code. That’s because the high tech industry needs people to help their business run, not just create their product or service offering. Even New York State Comptroller, Thomas D. Napoli, stated this in his April report on New York City’s growing high tech industry: Like other industries, the high-tech industry employs work in a wide range of job titles, including non-tech-related positions such as accountants, administrative assistants, managers and sales representatives. The growth of the high-tech industry offers employment opportunities to works with a broad range of skills, not just those with technical backgrounds. The report also goes on to say that
“The average annual salary for workers in the high-tech industry was $118,600 in 2012, compared to an average of $79,500 for all other jobs in New York City ($65,400 excluding the securities industry).”
And you know that number has only gone up in the past two years. If you have a liberal arts degree in history or art or political science or sociology or English, don’t pass that hot sounding tech company by. Having a degree in tech isn’t necessary to land a job in the tech sector. They need you! Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Look in the right place

While many may push you towards established firms because they seem less risky, startups are a great place. Not only will you be part of a team where you can add value right away, but you’ll also be exposed to different areas of the business on a daily basis. Established firms often have compartmentalized their business units and departments, so once you’re on a track, that’s where you’ll likely stay. Working for a startup, on the other hand, means you’re going to wear many hats -- which means more exposure to new experiences more quickly. That said, you don’t have to go for the fledgling startups. Look for ones that already have venture capital funding or have demonstrated success for a few years. Five to 10 years old can still mean startup mentality, but may also have a more robust infrastructure for you to rely on, like better benefits and workspace.

2. Find the right fit

If you want startup culture, look for startups in areas you’re interested in. Like fashion? Find a fashion startup like ManRepeller or NastyGal. Interested in healthcare issues? Healthcare startups are doing everything from making apps that help doctors with billing to building machines that allow doctors to do virtual surgery to tech that helps kids keep tabs on their aging parents. Politics major? Look for startups invested in political change. The startup world is huge. And while much of it revolves around tech, that tech needs to do something useful to be a worthwhile business. Figure out what you’re interested in and find a company based on their mission.

3. Target the best role

Once you’ve figured out the area of tech you’re interested in and passionate about (tip: startups love passion) find their site, look for their opportunities page and see what they’re hiring for. Skip over the overtly tech roles like programmer, developer or architect and go for the positions that make the business run: sales, accounts, business development, marketing, HR, recruiting, payroll, operations. Or if you’re interested in learning a little more about the tech concepts themselves, try a hybrid role (known in the tech field as “techno-functional” and usually in high demand): project manager, business analyst, consultant. When looking at these roles, think about what you bring to the table -- are you a people person who’s super competitive? Sales might be right for you. Are you OCD when it comes to details? Project manager could be a good fit.

4. Make yourself indispensable

This may be a little more difficult at established business or if this is your first job out of college, but figuring out your strengths and pitching them to a startup is how many people today get hired. (Click here to tweet this advice.) Depending on the size of the startup, they may not even know what they need yet. If you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and pitch in, you’re bound to be scooped up quick. Even better, figure out what they’re having problems with and pitch a solution. Make yourself necessary. Solve a problem to create a need for your specific skills.

5. Learn the concepts

Many people who work in tech don’t know how to code. They’re the big thinkers and the strategists; they’re the people who make the everyday operations of a business run. You don’t need to be a developer to work in tech, but it’s a big leg up if you understand the concepts behind what a business is doing. If you want to work in the marketing department, dive into PPC, SEO and UX. If you want to work in sales, figure out what their product is and learn the concepts behind it. If they’re an e-commerce site, understanding what business intelligence and big data are will be useful and help you stand out. If the company builds applications, learn how they’re built. By understanding the difference between the user interface and user experience, you’ll be light years ahead of the competition.

6. Be willing to work

Say “yes” a lot. Employers have a negative stereotype about GenY: They think you’re lazy. Show them you’re not. Put all the activities you were involved in during college on your resume -- President of the sky diving club? Put it in! Active in student government? Put it in! Sang in an acappella group...yep. Anything and everything you had a serious commitment to will help prove your commitment to work. Plus, it has the added benefit of being a great conversation starter. Odds are that at least one person who interviews you will have something in common with your extra-curriculars. Want to work in tech but don’t have any background? Don’t sweat it! Go for it. Jessie Pressman is the CEO & Founder of Bite Size Learning, which produces five minute e-learning videos that teach tech concepts and sales acumen. Prior to her entrepreneurial endeavor, she was a record breaking sales rep, manager and executive in the Tech Staffing space, where she also created and ran both sales mentoring and tech training for their nationwide team.