Switching careers to tech industry advice

I’ve always been more on the engineering than the tech side of the world so i don’t really have experience in the tech industry, and haven’t really got useful advice here, but my sister is in the process of divorcing her husband and is particularly worried and confused about how to re-enter the workforce. She has a marketing degree but aside from a few years as a marketer doesn’t really have a skillset to transition into the tech world, as she’s been a homemaker for almost a decade.

When i look online at job postings in Austin there are thousands of tech jobs but it seems too many of them are extremely specific and technical and would require years of training just to be able to qualify for an entry level position.

Are there any sorts of skills would it be possible for her to gain in a reasonable timeframe / skill level that could open at least a few doors in the tech industry in general? She does at least live in an area and are friends with where most people working there are in the tech industry.

I know there are all kinds of Microsoft Certifications, for ex., but these seem of dubious value to pick at random to train in without an overarching plan where and how to apply them, and such an industry level overview is outside my wheelhouse.

So good luck to her.

I guess the first question is, what kind of tech work? And what skills can she bring into interviews?

If she has been out of the workforce for a decade, and has a non tech degree, the first challenge is how to get her resume even looked at. Obviously things like coding jobs would be out without some relevant experience or skill demonstration, but maybe a help desk type IT position may be feasible.

Certs can be nice in specific cases, but are more oriented towards a specific position. Like I haven’t taken any such certs myself, but there are positions where I could use them to step into a new role. But that’s less ‘I’m looking for a job’ and more ‘this position will be available, if you want to take it go get this cert’ for me.

Thanks. I know she’s not really qualified - or even capable per se - for “hard” technical jobs, but if you look at some of those Google Internship videos it’s like a bunch of millennials doing nothing but making presentations, so I’m hoping there are more “soft” technical jobs now that these companies are so big she might be able to snag.

She’s been the head of the PTA and has a lot of public speaking experience - she’s been leading a campaign to redistrict some of the areas around her elementary school, as it has been filled to 2x the official capacity.

Very difficult to break in later in life, unless you already have chops.

I would suggest going to nursing school. It’s a 2 year program, but at the end she has a real career path. There’s a huge, and growing, shortage of RNs in the US.

She can try going into marketing for tech startups (many do need some help on that area), or perhaps PR. There’s always demand for those, and they fit her experience and skills, most likely.

That said, there is some noticeable ageism in the tech industry, in my experience. Not sure if that would be a problem for her, but it’s something to consider.

I suppose marketing is possible but I imagine it will be very difficult getting those jobs when you compete with a 22 year old perky chick right out of college willing to work 60+ hours for nothing. Nursing is two years of school, but at the end of it you have a real career, not a McJob.

Experience does count. Of course, she would have to find a company that cares about that first, which may be, as you said, a bit difficult.

Social Media/Social Listening is kind of a blend in between tech and marketing, if she’s interested in that. They do tend to hire younger people who have their “pulse” on social media, though.

Another job is technical writer. A lot of liberal arts grads I have seen transition into tech with that role, which is basically documentation for technical stuff. You can learn a lot about tech that way.

Another one might be an entry level project coordinator. She might be able to get a PMP (project manager), Agile/SCRUMM certification as a jumping off point and go from there. You can get the SCRUMM master one for sub $1000, PMP cert is about $5K.

Given her other experience with school district activities, this is probably a decent idea. Less tech work, more social coordination in tech.

I’d suggest a sales role - they are generally willing to take a chance on people who seem motivated to learn and the role has a natural high attrition rate anyway so they are always hiring

Indeed, but sales is based on commissions so if you don’t sell, they don’t pay you enough to live. Tough job, I couldn’t do it.

With a marketing background, good organisation and presentation skills, and if she has good people skills, perhaps she can get into a gig as an account manager for a tech company. But as Stusser says, it might not be easy to compete for such a position.

I would suggest something like payroll, talent, and so forth. Tech could be supporting clients with issues on those type of applications. Most of these would be entry level but it would be experience in learning how applications work and dealing with problem solving. If she has good client relationship skills that could help in such a job and they would be training her on what she needs to know.

These type of jobs would be Services and could later lead her to an implementation role.

I built my skills working in QA, which can be a good entry point. She could also look at project management.

This is probably more aligned for what she might be looking for. Organizations across all sorts of industries hire project managers, either on permanent or even a temporary/consulting basis. She would need to know at least a couple/few tools of the trade for that, the software they use. As for the industry specifics, well that would depend on the industry. In health, I’ve sen all sorts of walks of life in that position, some not tech at all and others started off in tech.

Definitely will want to get PMP-certified, and yes the jokes fly freely with that one. But again there are tons of 22 year old cold-ass PMPs also with zero experience willing to work for peanuts who don’t have to deal with family obligations.

I wouldn’t let this discourage her. If we had 10 or 12 project managers at the site I’ve been at or visited, there was maybe 1. Project Manager is not a sexy role, and they’re prone to taking the blame when stuff hits the fan, but man if you get someone in there that can wrangle all these groups with different needs, who can stand up and present and get buy in from people who just want the same, and make heads and tails of what everyone is saying… it’s pretty awesome.

Also, because so much of Project Management is coordination and communication, her Marketing background will serve her well.

Technical writing is a good way to jump into tech. I’ve known a lot of technical writers that aren’t very technical.

  • Look for software developers that are providing software or services for the government, health care or lawyers (which when these type groups buy software or services they tend to want documentation that explains a user interface, as opposed to small software developers who often forgo documentation or groups that create software for developers, which can be more complex).

  • Look for small private companies that have a team of technical writers. A lot of times technical writing is a one person thing, but you don’t want that for her for her first job. Most of the small teams are not looking for tech skills as much as a good fit for the office (read: someone who won’t cause drama and is willing to work).

  • Finally, If there is a college close by, see if they have a certificate program for technical writing. It won’t hurt, but it’s not necessary if she can find a team she likes.

First some alternate advice: I have a sibling that makes decisions this way. Your sister is taking a major change: getting back into the workforce after a decade, then adding additional difficulty on top of that which raises the rate of failure. For any major change, baby steps are the way to progress. Get a job first. If not in that at the start, transition to a job in marketing. Change career when possible, with training pre-completed. Now I’m sure the push back from your sister would be that it’s hard to change careers or get training while already working. But people do that all the time. If needed, get financial assistance for training prior to going back into the workforce at all. Don’t add failure points to a major change.

That’s an IT based lesson by the way.

As for transitioning into tech, we’ve taken several older workers into our org that had degrees in other items but went through local community college programs for tech. Typically, here at least, they are interned at a lessor pay rate until they finish that program, but it allows both our organization and them to get a feel for the fit into our organization. I’m not sure if other companies do that, but approaching a local community or technical college and quizzing them on said programs would be a huge first step to transitioning to tech entirely.

Stusser’s mention of nursing is similar. You don’t just walk into a tech job off the street. You train for it, and the more specific the training for a specific job, the better.