What you don’t know about starting a tech career

young person working on a desktop computer

Considering applying to the Ten10 Academy? Get some first-hand advice on what it’s like to start a new career in IT from Academy Consultant Gregg Hobson

Hi, I’m Gregg Hobson and I joined the Ten10 Academy shortly after completing a master’s degree in computing. I’m currently placed at one of the world’s leading engineering and management consultancies, as a member of their Digital PMO team. I found the idea of transitioning from education to work intimidating, and you might be experiencing that yourself. Whether you’re someone who has studied tech previously or are completely new to the field, I hope to provide you with some insightful points to guide you on your way.

Here are four things you don’t know about starting a tech career:

1. It’s not all about coding

While having coding skills is great, it is by no means the ‘be-all and end-all’. Don’t rule out having a successful career in IT if you struggle to learn programming languages. You simply need to find a role within tech that suits your skills and interests. This is something I’ve experienced since joining my client – whilst I have some coding abilities, and there are a lot of chances to utilise them on my project, coding has never been something that I wanted to solely pursue.

Instead, I have a greater aptitude and interest in understanding a broad range of technologies and the processes that they are involved in. This has seen me move into a project management office (PMO) role where I frequently work with members of the team who have much better programming language skills than myself.

It’s all about figuring out how to get the best out of your skills and abilities and finding a role that you enjoy. If you’re in a position where you’re unsure of what the best career path is for you, become a sponge and soak up all the information you can. Whether that’s being employed in a position that allows you to experience different roles (as I’ve fortunately been able to do) or checking out webinars, online courses, and online content. The amazing thing about a tech career is that it’s so broad. The number of industries it spans, and roles that encompass it, means there’s almost certainly a career out there well suited to you.

2. Your soft skills matter

This leads me to my second point, which is the value of soft skills in tech. Having vast knowledge of technical skills is a great thing to have under your belt when starting any career, but being equipped with soft skills means you can use your technical abilities and knowledge more effectively to make an impact on your project.

Soft skills are especially important for IT professionals as they rarely work individually. They constantly interact with other employees, clients, and vendors. This means they require strong verbal and written communication skills to successfully communicate their ideas to others and minimise (or even eliminate) misunderstandings.

Working on a large project has given me a large pool of colleagues that I may need to communicate with on any given day. For example, I regularly communicate with members of the team who are in India and the Philippines, which requires further consideration from me when scheduling meetings and allocating tasks due to the difference in time zones. As such, understanding the needs of your colleagues, as well as demonstrating good interpersonal skills, will allow you to work more effectively together and build professional relationships which will see your career prospects grow.

two colleagues working on a laptop

3. You’re never going to have all the answers

Starting any new career can be intimidating. It seems now more than ever you hear about the feeling of imposter syndrome and the anxieties associated with beginning a new job or role. With the vast number of programming languages out there and the competitive nature of the industry, tech is no different.

One important thing to keep in mind if you’re experiencing this is that no one expects you to know everything. Starting your career in tech is very much a learning experience and you should treat it as such.

Firstly, if there’s something you don’t know or are unsure of, ask questions. Whether this be to your line manager or other members of the team, you should never be afraid to reach out. Also keep in mind the fountain of knowledge that you have available via the web, which contains a wide variety of valuable resources for you to utilise. There’s been countless times working on my project where I’ve been asked to do a certain task or activity, that I’ve had not the slightest clue about how to perform. In these situations, I always turn to my best friends Google and YouTube to figure out the best way to tackle these tasks.

It’s all about having the right attitude to be able to find out these things for yourself and using this as an opportunity to build out your skills and knowledge.

4. Don’t forget to get involved

Remote working is increasingly popular for professionals in the post-COVID era, especially those within tech. This is a great thing for individuals who can use this to give themselves a better work-life balance, while also maintaining their productivity levels.

Client placements can now range from full on-site or in-office positions to hybrid or even completely remote roles. I’m someone who has benefited from this since joining my client as I’ve been able to cut out lengthy commute times. However, it’s important to remember the value of face-to-face contact. Not only can it generate higher quality work, but also it can create those work relationships that can ultimately lead to a much happier work life.

This doesn’t mean that you must be in the office five days a week. But when there’s an opportunity to participate in something, whether that be a particular workshop, charity event or social, make the effort to do so. It’s important to build these connections early in your career with members of the team and really get your face out there. This will also give you a much bigger pool of people that you can ask for help on any tasks you’re struggling with. You’ll soon realise that social events and after-work drinks are well-earned when you’ve been dealing with piles of work and tight deadlines all week. So at least try and enjoy it!