(Photo by Brian James Kirk)
Earlier this week we told you the story of how three staffers without a strictly technical background joined tech companies. But if companies want to open their doors to that broader talent pool, how can they do that?
A networking and hiring event Wednesday from Haddonfield, N.J.-based cloud services company Linode yielded some lessons as part of a panel that this reporter moderated titled “Tech Transitions.” Four tech employees with a mix of backgrounds spoke to an audience of about 150 on the ups and downs of a professional pivot into the tech space.
Here we share part of their thoughts on how large organizations and startups alike can roll out the welcome mat for professionals interested in taking a tech role.
1. Check that job description.
Elsiever UX designer Meghan Kelly, also known in tech circles for her work with Code for Philly and Girl Develop It, knew right off the bat what could be easily fixed to be more inclusive: job descriptions.
“That could be more friendly to career changers,” Kelly said. “If employers are willing to take someone who’s a newbie and work with them, they need to say that and extend an olive branch.”
Kelly also pushes for the “I do, we do, you do” method, also known as scaffolded instruction as a way to make an employee become familiar with their new task at hand. “More than an onboarding: [have] a learning plan.”
2. Be aware: it’s going to be hard.
Rebecca Braglio, a former defense attorney with 12 years of experience in the legal space, said she persisted in her intent to transition to the tech space. Her passion for pets led her to put together a website for pet owners called The Philly Dog.
“Employers should be cognizant that someone’s not going to know things that are very basic,” said Braglio. “There are questions I needed to be asking that I didn’t even know I should be asking.”
3. Mentorship, mentorship, mentorship.
“I had a great experience with my mentorship,” said Linode’s Brittany Hanks. “I still talk to him several times a week and ask him questions. You shouldn’t feel like it ends after your onboarding because in IT and tech in general learning never stops.”
4. Put yourself in their shoes.
Linode’s Jesse Alter brought yet another premise of social work into his tech career.
“In social work you’re told to start where your client is and understand what their strengths and motivations are,” Alter said. According to the Trust and Safety Team Lead, the best mentors are people who customize their relationship in terms of what their mentees’ skills set is.