Is It Too Late for a Career Switch in Tech?

There has been a lot of hype about working in tech over the last couple of decades, and the industry is still growing rapidly on many fronts. At the same time, there are some skeptics who’re convinced that this is nothing more than a bubble waiting to burst. Which, at this point, is quite the unrealistic outlook on things, considering that tech is more tightly integrated into pretty much every aspect of our lives than ever before.

If you’ve been considering the prospect of joining the industry yourself, it’s understandable if you have some reservations about the idea, especially if you’ve already been in your current line of work for some time and have an established track record there. It’s important to understand that tech is not a magic wand for success – there are definitely lots of people working in the field who’re able to move up quickly but doing it with the sole expectation of profiting fast is likely to lead to burnout and other problems. And that brings us to our first point.

Why Tech?

You should have a clear idea of why you want to enter the field in the first place. Different people have different motivations for that, and they’re all valid. The important thing is that you figure this out for yourself. Do you like the idea of solving complex problems and exploring approaches that nobody has tried before? Or maybe you’ve been involved in a field that has been heavily affected by tech, and you felt inspired by seeing all that progress with your own eyes. Or, in the case of some people, you’re just a fan of new tech and want to be as close as possible to those developments.

Identifying your motivation is more important than you might think. It will provide you with important guidance in the beginning and will help you figure out what skills you should be building on first. Not everyone who works in tech actually does technical work on a daily basis. There are plenty of opportunities in the field for auxiliary positions, including those that don’t require any technical knowledge. If you know why you want to do this in the first place, it will be much easier to develop your abilities in the right direction. 

New Opportunities Are Cropping Up All the Time

It’s also important to note that the field is going through so many active developments right now that you simply don’t know what might emerge tomorrow and take the world by storm. There are already plenty of opportunities available to those with an interest in the field, but more keep coming up on a regular basis. This means that you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you don’t see a way to fit into the whole landscape at the moment. It’s entirely possible that things will change for the better not too long from now. You just need to keep an eye on the market.

A little extra research can also go a long way here, because it can provide you with valuable hints about potential upcoming trends that might be worth keeping an eye on. If you’re interested in the field but don’t see any good opportunities for yourself in it right now, just wait and keep observing things from a distance. Sooner or later, you’re going to recognise an option to join in.

You May Have a Knack without Knowing It

Don’t fall for the trap of assuming that your skills are insufficient to even get started. You can’t be sure of that before actually giving the field a try, and as we said above, there are enough alternative options for approaching tech to make this argument invalid by default. You never know when you might discover that you’re good at some specific aspect of tech work that turns out to be highly valued.

Good mathematicians are a great example. They’re in high demand right now, and there are many indicators that this trend will continue in full force over the next years. That’s because analytical systems, especially AI-driven ones, are among the hottest developments in tech at the moment, and many companies have started to realise that relying on technical aptitude alone is not sufficient at this point. With that in mind, if you feel like you can fit in through an alternative contribution, this is definitely something worth exploring.

Gain the Right Qualifications

Lacking the right professional qualifications can be a notable obstacle in the beginning, and it’s something you should plan around carefully. Some positions don’t require a degree, at least initially, so you might be able to get your foot in the door without one. That said, going the extra mile to obtain proper qualifications will go a long way towards improving your chances and opening new doors to you. In some cases, it will be pretty much impossible to get hired in certain positions without a proper educational background. And in some companies, even a bachelor’s degree is not enough – there are various examples of companies where a master’s is the minimum requirement for even being considered for an interview.

It can be difficult to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree if you already have a full-time job or similar obligations though. That’s where online education comes in play. It has been a very popular trend in recent years, and its growth was accelerated by certain events. 

For anyone with a relevant bachelor’s degree and hoping to progress further in their career, earning a Master of Computer Science online from an institution like the Worcester Polytechnic Institute is a great approach these days. In some cases, you won’t even have to attend a single in-person class or exercise. And while you might have some reservations about the final result, the truth is that online education has started to get even better than traditional forms lately. Many universities have started to offer online courses at least partially, and in some cases fully. It’s very likely that this trend will continue to develop for some time to come.

The Importance of Practical Experience

On the other hand, no amount of education is going to make up for a lack of actual practical experience. Tech is a peculiar field, because it usually comes with some strict requirements about your qualification and background, but at the same time you’re also expected to put in a lot of effort into improving your skills on your own time. Many experts in the field enjoy tech as a hobby, and it’s not rare to find people who program applications in their free time just for fun.

Whether this is healthy for the industry as a whole is an ongoing debate with plenty of arguments on both sides. It’s not even a matter of companies specifically looking for those types of candidates. Whether you agree with the practice or not, you have to understand that applying for a job will usually put you next to people of this type. And when an employer is faced with two candidates with relatively equal educational backgrounds, but one is an avid hobbyist coder while the other one isn’t, there are few reasons to go with the latter candidate over the former. The sooner you pick up a side project and start chipping away at it, the better your prospects are going to be. 

Leverage What You Have

We touched on this above, and it’s a point that definitely needs more attention for some people. You might already have various skills that are considered valuable in the tech sector without even realising it. It’s important to take a careful look at your profile as a candidate and figure out what your strengths are. Coming from certain backgrounds can make you very attractive to companies in the tech field. Legal and accounting experts are two common examples of that. With so many companies working on apps that offer services in those fields, having the right background combined with some technical knowledge can make you stand out from the crop very easily.

There are also some personal qualities to consider here. The tech industry has an unfortunate fame for awkward interactions and people who don’t enjoy socialising too much. This has been changing in recent years, and many agree that at this point, it’s an overblown stereotype. But still, bringing some additional social skills to the table can make you a more attractive candidate than most, and it will also open some additional doors for you. In some cases, it will help you move up through the ranks more quickly. 

Opportunities for Synergy with Other Fields

Tech is a field that’s pretty deeply rooted into various other industries at this point, and if you have an interest in some of those, this can be a great opportunity to get started with tech. We already mentioned legal and finances above, but there are numerous other options: Healthcare, logistics and transportation, security, communications – the list goes on and on. If you have an affinity for any field that’s tangentially related to tech, this can be a great opportunity to leverage some additional skills to improve your profile even more.

Keep in mind that some of those sectors have become quite saturated though, so you might find it difficult to break into them if you don’t bring anything exceptional with your profile. In this case, you might want to brush up on your core skills through some training courses or additional materials, ideally something that can provide you with actual credentials in the end. That way, you’re going to improve your exposure to potential employers in tech and will get a wider range of options to pick from when it comes to the actual job you’ll be doing.

How to Move Up

Moving up in the sector isn’t just about raw technical skills. Far from it – those will only get you so far. As we mentioned earlier, certain other aspects of your personality might prove more important here, like the ability to communicate well and blend in with new organisations. Moving up in any large company is a political game more than anything else, and you should get used to that as early as possible. You’ll occasionally have to make certain moves that you may not agree with on a personal level, but that’s a completely separate topic.

You can look into building your skills in the direction of management and leadership if you want to boost your professional qualifications. Just keep in mind that this might not impress anyone in the end. Sometimes, those decisions are made purely for personal reasons, and you won’t even know all factors that lead to them. This can be discouraging to those who just want to focus on their work first and foremost, but it’s an important realisation if you want to move up in the field.

What the Future of the Market Holds

It’s hard to tell where the industry will be five or ten years from now. Everything around tech is moving very fast at the moment, especially with technologies like AI on the horizon making a huge impact on many industries. There are various predictions about the future development of the sector, but one thing is common between all of them – they are all more or less positive. Many people anticipate that tech is going to go through a major revolution over the next years, once AI has really picked up the pace and gets integrated into various circles on a fundamental level. On the other hand, we’ve got various other emerging fields like VR that seem extremely promising. It will certainly be interesting to follow where this all leads.

If you’re still on the fence, try to pick up a hobby project that can give you a good overview of what this kind of work will hold for you. You may realise that this is something you’ve wanted to do for a long time – or alternatively, you may give up on your aspirations early on. Talk to people in the field, explore different opinions and angles. Remember that in the end, this is a huge field, and it’s full of different people with their own unique views, not all of which will align with yours.