How to get into the tech industry with no experience—it’s one of the first concerns that might pop up when you’re considering how to change careers.
It’s a question that Sameer Syed thought about too while working as an investment banker at JP Morgan. “I was starting to really think, is this the path that I want to continue down? Do I want to succeed and become a senior leader at a bank? And I realized it wasn't. It really wasn't what my true passion was.”
After pursuing a new career in tech, Sameer eventually found that “passion work” as part of the team at Google offshoot company Jigsaw. “Our goal and mission is to try to tackle some of the toughest problems in the world by using technology and building tools to address those problems. One of the bigger areas that we're focusing on is to build technology and promote tools that can help promote a free and open Internet,” he explains.
Of course, it took him a few years to arrive at that point, so it leaves the question of exactly how to change career paths. Fortunately, that’s what Sameer came on the podcast to discuss. Listen to his story and career-change advice below!
Let’s get into some of the steps Sameer considers to be key for how to change careers successfully.
6 Steps for Your Transition Into Tech
When it comes to how to get into the tech industry with no experience, it doesn’t just happen by accident—you need a plan! “When I think about my own process, I bucket it into general steps,” Sameer says.
1. Identify and Address Your Roadblocks
People often think about a career change as some abstract future idea: something they’d like to do someday. “But the real question is, why haven’t you done it yet? And the answer is because you have these blockers. They can be a lot of different things. For me personally, it was financial insecurity, career suicide, and self-doubt.”
2. Make a Timeline
“The second one is developing a solid timelining plan. That's extremely important. A lot of people don't do that,” Sameer says.
“The reality is, people go out there looking to change their career. But they do it without a plan. And then as you go through the process, you're going to fall flat on your face. It just happens. Partly because you're completely switching industries most of the time.”
His own first target was nine months. “I decided, Okay, I'm starting today, I'm going to start putting myself out there, I'm going to start to see, Is there a place for me out there in the tech world? Are there roles? What kind of opportunities can I create for myself? And I started to think in nine months if I don't have any solid traction, any solid leads, if I haven't gone anywhere…I should probably take a step back and reconsider. So I started to set milestones and work backwards.”
However, he cautions not to make your deadlines too tight. “Giving yourself ample time that you work through the process and the self-doubt is super important. Otherwise, you'll give up too soon.”
3. Learn About the Tech Space
“People think they know a lot about tech,” Sameer says. “But you'll be surprised—you don't if you don't really take time and effort.”
Personally, he focused on “learning about the industry, how to speak the lingo, identifying where I could be a fit, and really trying to prove to people that I was serious about making the change, and how I could make an impact to their organization.”
4. Know What Role You’re Looking For
“Number four is taking the time to research and understand roles that exist in tech because that's extremely important. When you actually go on this journey, you need to know what you're looking for,” he advises.
If you feel passionate and excited about the job you want to pursue, that extra motivation will make the transition a lot easier.
“I always had an interest in tech and media specifically,” Sameer says. “So I started to think about what can I do to make that transition, I really wanted to just to feel fulfilled and excited about the work that I do. That's what really pushed me because I thought about it and knew if I continued down the path I was on, I would never take a leap. I thought, if I'm gonna do it, I’ve got to do it now.”
Be prepared to not get that dream job right away, though. The secret of how to get into the tech industry with no experience is by working up to it and making compromises in your early roles.
“When you move into the industry, yes, you may not get health insurance, or you may not get certain types of things that you're accustomed to,” Sameer explains. “Understand what you're willing to give up.”
“My first job in tech was almost unpaid because the company was going through fundraising and just didn’t have a lot of money. But I was very clear on my intent that I wanted to start working on other pieces of the business and expose myself to those things like marketing and understanding the market strategy and helping contribute there. And fortunately, it worked out.”
5. Be Willing to Take Risks
You’re already taking a leap by pursuing a new career, so embrace that mentality. “Be open to taking those risks. Just do it, get your foot in the door, start learning, take risks, try these new opportunities. You never know what it leads to.”
“The roadblocks I mentioned earlier held me back for a while. When I got over that, it really opened up things for me. Like I mentioned, the first opportunity I took was essentially unpaid for several months. Not everyone can do that, and it was difficult, but I saw the upside in the experience. The underlying idea there is to take risks, but do it in a calculated way.”
To finish his list, Sameer emphasizes, “The most important thing is networking. Networking is super important to open up opportunities and really expose yourself.” In fact, Sameer believes so much in networking that he founded Wall Street to Silicon Alley, a tech community in NYC bridging the gap between finance and tech.
Learn more about networking for new opportunities here in Season 1 of the podcast!
To end, Sameer has some final advice to future career-changers:
“There's no one-size-fits-all playbook. It isn't necessarily linear. You may need to really explore a handful of new interests, and opportunities really, to better understand yourself and understand what's fitting for you. And it's going to take work and dedication. It may take you a few months, it may take you a few years. But what matters is that you keep trying new things. Even if you decide to stay in your current role for another few years. Everything you try in your career is going to lead to somewhere new, and it may often be places you can't even predict.”
Links and mentions from the episode:
- Sameer on LinkedIn
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