how to start a career in tech with no experience

Technology hasn’t only changed how we live, consume and interact. It has also radically advanced and increased the number of career options in the tech industry. Digitalisation has become a key driver of growth.

Choosing an area to get into can be overwhelming as technology is a broad field. Some major areas include computer science, web development, big data, mobile apps development, product management, technical writing, UI/UX design, product design, data analytics, data science, software engineering and cyber security.

“It’s a career defined by constant evolution, innovation and progression,” says Joshua Ferris, Regional Director at Michael Page Japan, who does tech recruitment.

“Technology is constantly changing, and once you master one technology, it is typically out-of-date, so you always need to study and learn new things. You are also solving business problems. Each problem is unique, and multiple technologies and methodologies can be applied to solve the problem. Hence, things have to stay fresh.”

There is a great demand for tech candidates in every job market globally. On top of that, there is not just a demand for techies in tech companies. Many industries are competing over this limited tech workforce. And that is also why a career in technology would likely provide you with opportunities to fast-track your career and get a highly competitive salary.

Related: Interview questions for software engineers and tips to nail that job interview

Diversity in tech

There are more women entering the tech industry.

Besides a wide range of tech jobs and industry options, the tech industry is also one that is diverse and inclusive. Until recently, the tech industry was regarded mainly as a male domain.

While the stereotype of the young, male coder dies hard, women are now pursuing technology careers in record numbers, encouraged by forward-thinking companies who understand the advantages of building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Michelle J Ma, Director at Michael Page Hong Kong, says, “It is still quite male-dominated for most functions, especially the more technical roles. I see more women taking up tech roles in business analytics, product management and transformation. The progression has been slow but steady in Hong Kong, compared to other markets and regions that are more vocal about having women in tech.”

Ferris adds that it is also still quite a male-dominated sector in Japan, but more female professionals are joining tech. For that same reason, older professionals and people from historically disadvantaged groups are warmly welcomed and included in the technology sector.

Another reason for moving into tech is that you’ll be picking up tech skills the market is desperate to access. “There’s a shortage of tech talent everywhere now,” says Ma. “And the demand is for all tech functions, not just software-related.”

Related: 5 most in-demand tech roles in 2022

two young adult Asian males talking and smiling, while walking down the stairs

7 practical ways to kickstart your tech career

Excited by the idea of a tech career but unsure where to start? Or are you worried you might get into an area you might dislike in the future?

The great thing about a tech career is that you can switch specialisations. The tech career path is not defined by your first tech role. We’re not saying that you should keep changing roles but that you can if you develop a new interest down the road. To get hired in the tech industry, here are some ways to get you started.

1) Sharpen the soft skills you already possess to stay competitive in the job market

From project managers to cybersecurity administrators, many IT personnel spend more time interacting with people than with machines.

“Ultimately, technology is being applied across organisations to serve business purposes. Tech professionals must communicate effectively to make the impact of technology significant, deployed adequately and aligned with the company’s vision, mission or goals. Empathy and active listening skills are the basics to start that effective communication by seeking to understand others first,” says Fiona Wen, Director at Michael Page China.

To develop soft skills like collaboration and communication, you could volunteer for projects that require you to interact with multiple people, from colleagues to customers.

Also, model the behaviour of successful people you encounter, whether your manager, a mentor or someone else. What makes them effective communicators? How do they react when put under pressure?

Related: The Future of Technology: Advice for Technology job seekers across Asia-Pacific

2) Earn entry-level IT certifications for tech jobs

invest some time and energy in earning an introductory IT certification.

Not everyone can learn new IT skills on the job. Instead of letting that frustrate you, invest some time and energy in earning an introductory IT certification.

CompTIA A+ is a foundation certificate that can help you establish a career in IT. It covers skills ranging from hardware and networking to operating systems and cyber security.

Depending on your areas of interest, other entry-level IT certifications worth considering are Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) and Microsoft 365 Fundamentals. You can also pick software programming languages like Python, JavaScript, C/C++ and PHP.

Related: #BecomingTechies: how I became a pioneer cybersecurity strategist in Asia

3) Be prepared to start at the bottom (and work your way up)

With an IT certification under your belt, you’ll be on the right path if you can put the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired into practice in entry-level technology jobs.

For mid-career tech professionals, that might mean taking a step down from your current role in terms of salary and seniority. However, if you’re passionate about technology and have the drive and determination to learn new skills daily, you will quickly move up the ladder in your new field.

4) Learn some technical skills in your free time

Take short courses about the different tech genres to help you find your right tech career path.

Aside from the introductory tech certifications mentioned above, there are countless online platforms where you can learn a programming language or the fundamentals of cloud computing courses at your own speed in the technology field.

Take short courses about the different tech genres to help you find your right career path. There are a lot of online resources for lessons. For instance, freeCodeCamp is a non-profit, interactive learning web platform where you can learn to code for free. And these can be added to your resume.

5) Build your portfolio

Besides taking tech courses, you can also volunteer for cross-functional, open-source projects and participate in hackathons or coding competitions.

These channels provide a platform for new techies to gain coding experience and build their skill sets. The skills you pick up would be useful to help you present yourself as a strong technical candidate when you get in front of a hiring manager.

6) Look for tech jobs in your current industry or organisation

A female Asian professional in a face-to-face job panel interview with two other interviewers

While there’s no age barrier to tech careers, and anyone passionate about technology should feel free to pursue tech jobs, it needs to be said that it can be challenging for someone older, say in their 50s, to get into tech at their age.

Wen explains, “Changes in technology can happen quickly, and that can require a lot of energy, time and effort to keep up in terms of upskilling. A better and safer choice would be to search for opportunities in your current organisation or sector, where you can use some of the hard skills you’ve already acquired. You could consider switching your job scope to something tech- or digital-related in the same company. You can also start by looking for skills in digital transformation in areas like digital HR and digital finance.”

Ferris adds, “Starting in their 50s might be challenging to pick up some of the fundamentals, but nothing is impossible. There is a severe lack of candidates globally, and we are seeing people transit into leadership roles.”

7) Begin your tech career by taking on contract roles

three female contract professionals having a laugh while working on their computers in a cafe setting

Contract roles are common in the tech industry as companies turn to contract professionals to flexibly manage or work on new projects as part of their business plans – even more, during the pandemic.

Contracting is a great way to get your foot in the door of desired companies, allowing you to prove your worth and show how you fit into the corporate culture. It will enable the employer to assess you for upcoming roles and allow you to experience the company or position before committing to permanent employment.

Contract or temporary work can help to enrich tech talent’s experience in project diversity and work experience, says Wen. However, in the long run, it can be challenging for employers to see you as committed when you decide to switch to permanent work.

Ferris adds, “In Japan, employers can still be quite strict on the number of job changes. They expect candidates to stay with employers for at least three years, so [starting your career with contract roles] can also work against a candidate in some cases.”

Ma says that candidates’ careers could get stuck at middle levels, and it becomes challenging for them to climb up the corporate ladder.

This comes down to what you want from your career. Contracting can provide constant stimulation for people who enjoy a diverse working life. Contractors often work on various projects across different environments, locations and industries, meeting new people in new companies with each new assignment.

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