You know we’re all about supporting people at every stage of their career. We recently had a question asked of us about how someone without a University level education can get a job in the tech/software industry. So, a group of our members got their heads together to help out.
They all agreed that the biggest challenge in this situation is landing your initial job, but equally, all agreed that there are plenty of ways to get your foot in the door.
We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide, packed with hints and tips to start you on your journey. Now, when we say comprehensive, it really is! So, please treat it as a pick and mix selection -use the bits that work for you, ignore the rest.
Preparation & Planning
- Start by speaking to a variety of people in different roles to help you to decide what you really want to do.
- Once you’ve done that – get a mentor or several mentors. Ask them for their advice on which skills to work on first and what the best resources are. The best place to start is of course https://meetamentor.co.uk/
- Research companies that have training programmes or hire people for junior positions and find out what their requirements are. Don’t be afraid to spark early conversations with some of them to find out more.
- Combine the information from your target companies and your mentors and turn it into a game plan!
- With your game plan in mind…
- Choose 1 or 2 books focused on your specific area of interest
- Look for online tutorials and complete as many as you feel able to
- Find out who the top 3 influencers are in your area of interest and start to follow them
- Consider online courses & certifications
- Get some experience by practicing on a personal project. You could even write what you learn on a blog
- Contribute to an open source project
6. Spark up relationships with a few good recruiters. Work to learn from every interview and every rejection (yes, there will be plenty of those so embrace them and learn from them).
Networking & Work Experience
- Go to a few hackathons, practice with others, and see what they do that you can learn from
- Get to some meetups; tell your story and keep in touch with people
- If you have the time, contact conferences or meetups and offer to volunteer; organisers are often well-connected people so they may well know someone who can help you.
- Find a way to tell your story – once you’ve told enough people, eventually one of them will know someone (or be looking themselves). Just like dating, the more people you meet the more chance you will have of finding ‘the one’.
- Do anything you can to get that work experience including offering to work for free – we know it’s not possible for everyone, but it will open doors that would otherwise be closed.
- Sticking with the theme of work experience… there are lots of good internships around, these are a great place to start.
- We mentioned getting involved in personal projects, a great tip is to go and present this at a conference *we know someone who did this and got offers – no degree required!
- One big company that help folks get into tech is Sky. They offer a free four-month programme called Get Into Tech for people (specifically women in this instance) who don’t have degrees in Computer science but are looking to break into the industry. http://getintotech.sky.com/
Bob *not his real name
Bob told me his dream was to get an internship at CERN, I told him to get out there, get to events, speak to people about what they did and tell his story – he told me that night he was 100% going to do it.
He followed through too, he went to events every week, often several a week – there was barely an event I went to that I didn’t see him at. By the end of the year everyone knew him.
He wasn’t especially outgoing or confident, he was quite introverted and called himself shy at first; never-the-less he kept introducing himself to as many people as he could and kept in touch with them. By the end of his second year of university he had a number of job and internship offers – he got his internship at CERN (he got a fair amount of help with his application letter too through his new network).
If you don’t have a degree the fact is on paper you’ll never compare to the hundreds of graduates out there, but the point is that you’re running a different a race in this situation.
Often a meeting with a warm first impression and a genuine story can go further than even the shiniest of CVs.
Still don’t believe us? Meet Jon…
I was in a similar position 17 years ago. I quit my job, went and did an MSc in Computer Science and worked my behind off for a year to get up to scratch as a programmer. Once I graduated, I was walking into a job market just at the end of the dot com crash in London, and no one was hiring graduates, regardless of qualifications.
It was pretty tough, and I was very fortunate to have a part time job I could use to pay some of the bills and a girlfriend (now my wife) who was fine with me not paying my way for the 10 months or so it took to find a job.
In the end I did work for free for 6 months, and it was this that eventually helped land my first job in a start up as a Java developer. If you’re hard working and dedicated the hardest bit is getting that first job.
Some of the best people I’ve worked with have not had Computer Science degrees, and a few have had nothing much after O-levels. Yes, that’s right, *O-levels* (for those of you who are too young to remember, these are the predecessors GCSE’s). Because those people with very little formal education ( but a lot of experience) tend to be much older. We exited the “pioneer” stage of the IT industry and formal qualification expectations have inflated by quite a lot over the last 20 years.
So, in summary, with planning, networking, the right support and resilience, a lack of a degree shouldn’t stop you achieving your dream of working in tech.
If you want to take the first step, visit www.meetamentor.co.uk and sign up for a mentor