How to Decide if Tech Is for You (And What to Do Next)

What career is right for me? It’s a question everyone asks at some point in their lives (usually more than once!).

And while some people are lucky enough to get the “right answer” the first time and spend their entire careers working on their passion…the rest of us typically need a little trial and error. Or, you might have multiple passions and want to pursue them all sooner or later.

Career-changing is completely normal and healthy — but there’s no denying that it’s also intimidating. Especially when you’re changing to a whole new industry, like tech.

But you know what? The most interesting lives don’t go in a straight line.

Eileen Ho

Eileen Ho’s didn’t. After studying Elementary Education in undergrad, she took a job as a middle school math teacher. Then, three years ago — after nearly eight years of teaching — she got inspired by a comment from a student.

“It happened when I was teaching and we were talking about coding with kids,” Eileen says. “And they asked me if I could teach them how to code. And I said, no, because I don’t know how, and they asked me, why don’t you know? And I was like, I don’t know why.”

Learn more about Eileen’s story by listening to the episode below!

Learn to Code With Me        
S5E1: How to Decide if Tech is For You (And What to do Next)          
TRANSCRIPT

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This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

Laurence Bradford 0:06
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Learn to Code With Me podcast. I’m your host, Laurence Bradford and today’s episode is all about how to determine if a tech career is right for you. But first, a quick word about this episode’s wonderful sponsors.

Laurence Bradford 0:23
Xojo is a development tool you can use to build apps for desktop, mobile and more. With Xojo, app billing is easier and faster than ever even for beginners. Learn to Code With Me listeners get 20% off with the coupon code ICanCode. Try Xojo free at xojo.com/learn to code.

Laurence Bradford 0:42
Fullstack Academy is a leading coding boot camp that helps great people become great developers at top companies like Google and Facebook. Visit fullstackacademy.com to explore the curriculum, read reviews and discover what students can build after 17 weeks at Fullstack.

Laurence Bradford 1:00
Today’s episode I talk with Eileen Ho, who is currently a software engineer at LinkedIn. However, Eileen didn’t study computer science in college. In fact, she studied elementary education and then worked as a teacher for several years before transitioning into tech. At a certain point in her career, she made the decision to switch. And that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today, how Eileen came to the conclusion that tech was right for her. We’ll get into how she approached her career change how she handled stereotypes, and of course, how you can apply her learnings and insights to your own journey. Enjoy.

Laurence Bradford 1:41
In today’s episode, I talk with Eileen Whoa, who is currently a software engineer at LinkedIn. However, Eileen didn’t study computer science in college. In fact, she studied elementary education and then worked as a teacher for several years before transitioning into tech. At a certain point in her career, she made the decision to go into a tech career. And that’s exactly what we’re going to chat about today, how she came to the conclusion that tech was right for her, and how you can apply her learnings and insights into your own journey.

Laurence Bradford 2:10
Hi, Eileen, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Eileen Ho 2:13
Hi, Laurence. Thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 2:14
Yeah, really excited to have you here. And to kick off the first episode of season five, which is really exciting, because this season is going to bring me to my 100th episode ever the podcast, so I just want to give you an even more special thanks for being like the first person this season.

Eileen Ho 2:31
Wow. Thank you. And congratulations.

Laurence Bradford 2:33
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. So I love your background, because so many listeners on the Learn to Code With Me podcast, studied education in one way or another, and worked as a teacher, some overseas, some in the US in all different kinds of capacities. And of course, now you’re a software engineer at LinkedIn. So I’m curious, what factors did you consider before deciding to transition into a tech career?

Eileen Ho 2:58
So I think The biggest impact for me was that I live in Silicon Valley. Now I’m originally from the east coast. And just being around this energy and seeing that tech companies were a real thing, and people were excited about it got me interested. But before I started the change, I had to consider like, how would I even be able to get into this world? It was very daunting to think, how could I possibly learn everything that I needed to? I didn’t have the right background. So a lot of the things I had to consider beforehand was how could I learn everything? And how much would that cost me? How much time would it take?

Laurence Bradford 3:39
So how long ago was it when you first started thinking about this? If you could give us like a little bit of a timeline to paint a picture for the listeners?

Eileen Ho 3:46
Sure. I want to say it was around three years ago that I started to think about it. It happened when I was teaching and and we were talking about coding with kids and they asked me if I To teach them how to code and I said no, because I don’t know how at all. And they asked me, Why don’t you know? And I was like, I don’t know why. And I started to look into, maybe I should try to figure this out. And so around three years ago, I started taking some online classes to see if this was something that I would actually be interested in. And around that time, I also discovered the existence of coding boot camps. And so I started researching them. And it looked like a really amazing opportunity. It looked like it fit the bill for what I was looking for, where I could learn a lot really fast and that it wouldn’t take too much of my time or money. And so I probably studied on my own for six months because I had to pass interview questions and Cody challenges to even get accepted into my boot camp. And around last January of 2017, that’s when I was finishing up my boot camp, and I began my job search and I When I found about LinkedIn reach program, and I applied to that, and started my work as a software engineer last April.

Laurence Bradford 5:07
Awesome, so thanks so much for giving that timeline, so about three years ago, and then you were learning from online courses and other free or cheap resources for six months, you then went to a coding boot camp. And after I finished, you did a program through LinkedIn, which is called the reach program. Could you explain to the listeners what the reach program is?

Eileen Ho 5:28
Sure. So the reach Program isa program where we’re trying where LinkedIn is trying to bring in talent from non traditional backgrounds. So when I was part of the program, they were piloting it last year, and it was their way of trying to see okay, we believe that there’s talent out there and let’s try to find it from people who have, who don’t have, you know, a computer science degree from Stanford or Berkeley. And so it was an apprenticeship program, which means that they give additional support for those of us who were new to the industry. And we could really just dive in into being a software engineer.

Laurence Bradford 6:05
Nice. I definitely want to talk about that a bit more. I don’t want to jump too far ahead, though. But I’m curious, how did you find out about that program to begin with, like, because I know just from my own research and time over the years of being in tech, there are so many opportunities out there. But when I first started out, I was like, I had no idea where to go where to look, I didn’t even know something like that could have existed. So how did you figure out about that?

Eileen Ho 6:31
Absolutely. I think that’s one of the hardest things is to find out about these kinds of programs. When I was first doing my job search, I had been searching on LinkedIn itself googling for jobs. And I’d stumbled across I think Pinterest had a diversity program. And that looked kind of interesting. And so I was like, wondering what other kinds of programs are there. And it just so happened that at this time, my husband works at LinkedIn and he found out that the reach program was happening. And so he told me about it and encouraged me to apply right away. So in that sense, I was definitely very lucky to hear about it so soon. And I know that we tried that the reach program itself tried to reach out to boot camps to encourage people to apply. And over the past year, it’s been a lot of networking. I’ve had a lot of people just ask me about the program and experience and I think just word in general is getting out there about these different kinds of programs.

Laurence Bradford 7:29
Yeah, that’s really exciting. And do people move there to do the program because I know you were in Silicon Valley to begin with, but are there other people or have there been people since that will relocate just to do this apprenticeship?

Eileen Ho 7:41
Oh, yes, absolutely. There are people from New York, Seattle. They flew in for the interview itself, and we’re starting a new round and I’ve met people also from different parts of the country is definitely definitely has a high appeal.

Laurence Bradford 7:57
And what was the interview process? Like or the application process to get chosen for the program.

Eileen Ho 8:03
So for my round, it was more of a pilot round. So things are definitely different. Now, I will say about the application process was that since we have a non traditional background, the application process is also less traditional. We wrote essays to show more about our personalities and our background experience and just trying to show that perseverance and drive to learn, which are other qualities that can make you successful as a software engineer in the tech industry.

Laurence Bradford 8:32
Perfect I’m sure people will be interested in hearing more about it will definitely include links to the reach program in the show notes and I’ve written about it before, I believe on Forbes and I know there’s been other coverage in the press on the program. So we’ll make sure for the listeners to include information on it because it definitely sounds like something really exciting that I’m sure a lot of people would want to look into. But getting back to the topic at hand and kind of going back towards the beginning of your journey. When you were considering making the switch from elementary education into software engineering or something else in tech, what kind of what questions and what other things were you considering? To make that leap? Aside from just, oh, I’m doing some courses online, and I like programming. Was there anything else you thought about?

Eileen Ho 9:17
Um, I think the biggest thing for me was a period of self reflection. When I was teaching at this time, growth mindset was a huge theme in our school, to the point where I was not grading kids on whether they got the right answer or not. I was grading them on their thought process and whether they could explain how they got the right answer. And we let kids take tests over and over again to until they could show mastery of it. And by emphasizing that growth mindset with my students, it made me reflect on my own and how I thought about myself. I spent, you know, the whole year telling kids don’t say you’re not a math person, right? Don’t box yourself like that because intelligence can be grown, we can work towards it, we can build it no matter what area it is whether you had a previous interest in it or not. And after telling my kids that I kind of was reflecting, like, what have I been holding myself back from by telling myself those things.

Eileen Ho 10:15
And in fact, before I even became a math teacher, I’ve been told myself, like I used to say all the time, I’m not a math person. And so it’s kind of ironic that I ended up becoming a math teacher because I realized I love teaching it. I’m actually good at math. And I just never let myself think that before. And the minute that I said, like, maybe I am a computer person, because I’ve spent my whole life saying that I’m not. And I just felt just the windows of opportunity, just fling open, you know, I just suddenly had this whole world that I could explore and get really excited about. So I think that’s kind of a consideration is just that self reflection, like, what do you think you would really like to learn? What would you really excel at? And what would you get excited about and think about like, what are those obstacles? I’ve always held you back. But really, it was just all in your head. could be it could be really empowering.

Laurence Bradford 11:07
Yeah reminds me of this pillow that is really random, but a pillow that I saw online. And it said something like 99% of the things I worry about never actually happened to me. It’s sort of just the same mentality and I can totally relate when I was in college. I never thought I was computer person either. I thought I’d be terrible at Tech. I also similarly thought I was really bad at math all throughout my education and you know, in lower school and in high school, and then on the LSAT is I remember I scored significantly better on the math section and it just totally blew me away because I never thought yeah, I never thought that what would happen and that this like leads perfectly into the next thing that I want to talk about is this stereotype that people have to be I’m using air quotes good at math in order to become a programmer or just to work in tech in general. This is something I get asked all the time in emails, and I see it on like discussion forums and whatnot. What are your thoughts on that?

Eileen Ho 12:07
I love this question so much. There is a preconception that people already have about what it means to be good at math. When I was teaching students, it meant that you could solve things really fast, you know, you’re really good at doing mental calculations, you could solve things really fast. And you always got shaders on your test. And that’s not actually the case. And for me, what I wanted my students to get out of math class was to be just good problem solvers. And I think being good at math means that you can look at a problem. And you can figure out what it’s asking what kind of solution with this need, and to solve the problem, you should be able to reflect on Okay, what do I know? And what do I need to know? And are you good at looking up things that will help lead to a solution. And in that sense, I think being good at math is definitely a skill that’s helpful to be taught. engineer because you know you have you are presented with situations and and bugs and problems to solve every day. And I don’t know that every single person that I work with would know immediately how to solve it, but we know how to look things up, we know how to think about what we already know, and try to apply it and grow it. And I think in that sense, maybe maybe good problem solvers would be a better way to phrase it instead of saying just good at MMA.

Laurence Bradford 13:25
Yeah, yeah, definitely. It makes a ton of sense with I think it’s just like being curious and being so I don’t know if self starter is the right word I’m looking for here but being able to go out and take initiative and research these problems and come up with creative solutions to to solving them. And yeah, I liked what you said it and I am so happy that teachers in school are having this mindset that you have that being good at math isn’t just being fast because that’s definitely what I think with someone’s good at math, they can do like you know, multiplication and division really quickly in their head, and all that kind stuff, which is completely different from from what this entails. So when you were getting into tech and you were whether in the the coding boot camp or actually even even before that maybe when you were thinking about doing a coding boot camp, were there any other stereotypes that were out there that you thought were maybe true and then realized that they weren’t true at all?

Eileen Ho 14:21
Oh, absolutely. You know, I used to imagine software engineers just sitting in a dark room, you know, by themselves with their headphones on with just the light of the computer screen, just typing away and associated with the computer all day. And I think that’s a view that a lot of people have, and it just blew my mind. As I began to research I started visiting, you know, tech companies and seeing what the campuses were like, even working through my boot camp I was blown away with by how collaborative working in tech is. I mean, it’s no man is an island here you have to work with team members to build these products. In solutions, you’re going back and forth. You’re talking about ideas. you’re sharing knowledge. And it’s me being a social person. Being a teacher, you talk all day and you’re associated with so many people. I was just so surprised by that and pleasantly surprised, because that’s something I love about my my day.

Laurence Bradford 15:22
Sit tight podcast listeners, we’re taking a quick break to hear a word from our sponsors.

Laurence Bradford 15:28
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Laurence Bradford 16:34
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Laurence Bradford 17:19
Yeah, I’m sure a lot of folks that are listening, I’m really relieved to hear that because a lot of the listeners are much earlier on in their journey maybe in the first 1234 months, and maybe feel that they’re too extroverted to work at a computer all day. So I think hearing that is probably very reassuring to them. So on that note, you you mentioned that you’re a social person, of course, being in front of a classroom all day takes a ton of energy. It’s like you’re presenting, you know, for from from, you know, eight to three or whatever the school hours are, did that help you be be a better programmer, being kind of extroverted and having that outgoing side of yourself and Was there anything else aside from that, that ended up working in your favor when you got a job as a software engineer?

Eileen Ho 18:06
So for the extroverted social side, I think it definitely helped when I was in boot camp and learning. I think for on my end, that it was helpful to just kind of have no fear about approaching other people and talking with them about like, oh, how did you do this? Or like, I have a question here. And because you learn so much when you’re working together and collaborating with someone, my Bootcamp, we were pair programming all day, and that’s how we learned. And I thought that was as fast as a teacher, as an educator. I thought that was fascinating. And how much my just watching my learning grow through that process. And transitioning into the software world. It’s also it’s also useful, it’s also really useful right to, to kind of not have that fear of reaching out to people that you need to. And not to say that, you know, introverted people wouldn’t be able to do Same thing, but I just personally feel that, you know, I like making those connections. And so it was just a nice bonus to be able to do. Speaking for other qualities that could I could transfer over as a teacher, I would say communication is a surprising one. And I realized that while I guess as an engineer, you don’t spend all day talking or following up with students and teachers and parents on just various things that you’re doing. And that’s something that’s actually really useful in the tech world because you’re working on piece of a project together, and you have to update your team, your superiors, other teams that are doing something like in collaboration with you. And I found that it was just really easy for me to either verbally, you know, give updates and make them really clear and precise, or to just send emails and say, you know, this is what happened. This is what we’re planning to do in the form in the future, things like that.

Laurence Bradford 20:00
Yeah, I think communication is something that helps in any job role. Because no matter what, I’m sure there’s a few exceptions, but you’re going to be communicating with people, whether it’s your teammates, if you’re at a full time company, if you’re working for yourself or you’re freelancing, then you have clients to communicate with, which could be quite different. And in some ways, at least, in my opinion, could be maybe a bit more challenging to communicate with a client who’s like, you know, paying you directly for a project rather than your your peers. But yeah, communication definitely super helpful. And I’m sure that the experience talking with students and with teachers has transferred or transferred over well into communicating with colleagues and all of that. So let’s go back to the reach program for a bit how long were you in that program for because you mentioned you’re in his coding boot camp, I’m going to guess that was for like three to six months and then how long did the reach apprenticeship last?

Eileen Ho 20:58
Sure. So My coding boot camp was three months. And then I started in reach about, like three to four months after that. So when I was doing it, it was again, I’m speaking to the pilot of this program. So it’s different now. And you can find more details on the LinkedIn website related to reach. So when I did it, it was a six month apprenticeship before we converted to a full time software engineer.

Laurence Bradford 21:22
And when did you start to feel like you truly knew what you were doing? And I’m asking this because it’s a common question I get from readers and listeners is how long does it take to learn to code? How do you know when you’re ready to get a job? How do you know when you’ve you know, using air quotes again, made it and that was something I struggle Yeah, I struggle with that a lot. When I started out, I’m really curious on your thoughts, like what did you feel like you made it?

Eileen Ho 21:45
Yeah, um, okay. So there’s kind of two sides to this question or two parts that I would answer. One is, I don’t know that I’ll ever feel, you know, that I, I’m there. And I think that’s part of this continuous learning. learning process. And the fact that, you know, this is only a few years in for me, I have so much to learn. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to check off in a box to say like, Alright, that’s enough. I’ve learned enough. I’ve made it.

Eileen Ho 22:15
On the other hand, I think the moment where I really felt accepted by my coworkers, as a software engineer was really significant. And it was actually really early on, it was even during my apprenticeship, and one of my co workers just asked, like, Oh, hey, I need your bandwidth to pick this up. Like, we need this work done. And I just stared at him. And I was like, I don’t know, do I have bandwidth? Like you? Shouldn’t you tell me. I was like, I’m brand new. I’ve only been here a month or two. But that kind of acceptance and having you know, your coworkers view you as like, okay, you are a contributing member to the team. I want to ask if you can, like help out with this thing. That just felt so great. And it just felt so motivating to say okay, yes, I yeah, I can figure it out. Like, I’ll I’ll look into it and let me help you out with that.

Laurence Bradford 23:02
Thanks so much for sharing that story. That’s, that’s great. And, yeah, I loved what you said about never really feeling like you’re there. You’ve made it and just having that, you know, continual drive to learn new things. And I feel exactly the same way and pretty much any aspect of my life. I never feel like I’m really there. It’s always ready to go while you’re doing such a great job with you know, XYZ I’m like, oh, wow, really? Oh, man, because I guess you’re not seeing what’s going on behind the scenes, but, but I’m glad that it looks like I know what I’m doing, right?

Eileen Ho 23:32
Yeah, yeah. We’re always going to be our top of our own worst critics, you know?

Laurence Bradford 23:37
Yeah. 100% 100%. So, yeah, again, thank you so much for sharing that. And I don’t like a higher level. I’m curious how has tech changed your life? So how has this the reach program the coding boot camp being apprentice being a software engineer at LinkedIn, what impact has it had?

Eileen Ho 23:53
Um, yeah, this, this whole transition has had a huge impact on me, and I’m going to Go back in time a little bit. When I was in high school, I was in a show choir. And it didn’t. And it was the top show choir and I had an audition. It’s tough to get into it. But there was a moment my senior year where we had a performance upcoming, and my choir director decided to only pick a certain number of students to audition for solo parts. And I remember I’ve still feel emotional about this. I was so distraught about the idea that I wasn’t even good enough to be considered. And that affected me a lot for years on end afterwards, and I love music I perform and I sing. But I after that happened, my confidence shattered you know, I ran I literally ran away from an acapella audition in college like they were calling my name and I was running down the hall because I was like, No, I’m not good enough for this. And so the idea that like a boot camp, And the reach program just opens up these opportunities to everyone, right saying that you don’t need to fit any certain mold that we already have in our head is really empowering. And I think there’s something about that, that just makes me feel, you know, more inspired.

Eileen Ho 25:17
I have much like so much more confidence in myself. And I don’t feel as afraid to take risks. And I would say that being a part of the reach program and and feeling the empowerment of just having opportunity available to you, I’ve done so many things that I just never would have thought that I would have done. This past year, I took an algorithms class at Stanford, just because I was like, Yeah, I can do that. Right, because everyone else has done it. And now I’m among the software engineers. And thinking about that I just am blown away because I would have never considered doing something like that, you know, a year or two ago. I auditioned for a community theater play, which we just had an opening weekend this weekend, and I was prepared. On stage, and that’s also something I never thought I would I would have ever done. You know, it was been 20 years since I did a play back in middle school when I was a kid. So like things like that I think just has this kind of test skating effect where you just feel I feel I feel just more open to taking risk and seizing the opportunities that are out there.

Laurence Bradford 26:21
Wow, awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. And it looks like you know, you’re this like, super woman now that’s taking algorithms classes deferred and being in plays and all that great stuff. What is it? So you mentioned this cascading effect, which is, which I can totally relate to myself because I’ve had some of those moments in my own life where it’s like when you get that one little opportunity and chance and then you can just kind of build off from there. And it just really affects everything what like you mentioned? What what was there a moment where you really saw that like, kind of click and change like you’re like, oh, wow, like were you had this newfound confidence or was it sort of a slow build over time and you can kind of like work towards it.

Eileen Ho 27:01
Um, you know, I really think it was the moment I got accepted into the reach program. I, I just remember, behind so happy during those first few months because everything was just so exciting, and I just felt like the possibilities were endless. a funny story that I had visited LinkedIn before I started my boot camp. And I remember being in the office and just seeing the energy and everything here. And I was and I told myself, I said, Okay, I’m going to go to boot camp, I’m going to work really hard. And I’m going to work really hard at my first job. And and maybe like five years, I’ll be ready to apply to LinkedIn. So the fact that I was already here right away, was, you know, literally, like a dream come true. And so I think there really was like a big moment. I felt that possibilities open up, but it’s definitely just been accumulating for sure over over this past year.

Laurence Bradford 28:09
Yeah, don’t you love that when it just feels like all the stars align all the stars aligning in your favor. And I mean, that’s really amazing that you had that experience visiting and you wanted to be there, maybe in a few years and instead it ended up being almost right away or, you know, after the coding boot camp finished and you got the opportunity to reach program that’s, that’s really something and I have another question I want to ask just because I know people are gonna be thinking this but with the reach program and the apprenticeship, it’s it’s a year it’s a year long, right? Um, so when I went through it, it was six months alone. And then are you sort of given a job afterwards or do most people get like a full time job afterwards? Or is it kind of split?

Eileen Ho 28:50
Yeah, so most people they just offered and you kind of like sub gone with your team in the transition is really seamless. The main difference was, uh, you know, our title was no longer apprentice software engineer. Now we were a software engineer. And we were still working on the same products that we were before.

Laurence Bradford 29:13
Okay, perfect. I assumed that just wanted to double check. And I’m sure people were thinking as well like, is this kind of just a coding bootcamp at LinkedIn? Or is this like, you’re actually well, yeah, LinkedIn?

Eileen Ho 29:22
Yeah, no, it’s absolutely I I’m so impressed with how much LinkedIn is just invested in this program, you know, and it’s and people come in knowing how to code. The difference, you know, is, is not having that, that traditional background that everyone who goes you know, gets a CS degree in college has, and they’re so committed into making this successful for everyone who goes through it.

Laurence Bradford 29:45
Amazing. Well, Eileen, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find you online?

Eileen Ho 29:51
Um, well, it’s probably you can find me on LinkedIn. It’s Eileen Ho. I’m happy to connect and answer any questions and talk in person, even if you’re in the area. I’ve done that the past year and it’s really exciting to hear about other people’s journeys and to share mine as well.

Laurence Bradford 30:07
Amazing. Thank you so much again for coming on.

Eileen Ho 30:09
Thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 30:16
If you’d like today’s show, I would really appreciate it if you left a rating and review on iTunes or whichever podcast player you’re tuning in on. Ratings are extremely helpful when it comes to the show’s rankings. And by leaving a review, you would be helping me reach more listeners and spread valuable knowledge about breaking into the tech industry. To leave a review on iTunes. Go to learntocodewith.me/iTunes. That’ll take you straight to the iTunes page. And right there you can leave a rating interview. Thank you so much for supporting the show.

Eileen Ho’s Journey to Software Engineering

Once the spark was lit, Eileen began taking online classes to see if this was something that she would be interested in. She quickly discovered coding bootcamps, which were attractive as she liked the idea of learning a lot of information in a little time, without it costing a fortune.

coding bootcamp

Eileen studied on her own for six months to build a good foundation of coding fundamentals, so she could pass the program’s interviews and coding challenges. The bootcamp itself took three months, and after graduating in January 2017, she felt confident enough to start applying to jobs.

That’s when she found the LinkedIn REACH program. Through the program, career-changers can get a paid LinkedIn apprenticeship, allowing them to get on-the-job mentorship and technical experience to prepare for a career in engineering.

Eileen applied to LinkedIn REACH, interviewed, and joined the program in April 2017. After six months, the company welcomed her as a full-time software engineer — a role she still holds today and wouldn’t even have dreamed about three years ago!

How to Know if a Tech Career Is Right for You

If you’re still in that “spark” stage and wondering what’s next? What tech job is right for me?, then you’re in the right place.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer: “Go be a software engineer too! Done!” There is a wide range of jobs to choose from in the tech industry — programming, cybersecurity, data science, and more — and different people have their own unique talents and preferences.

But there are ways to narrow it down to figure out what jobs would suit you best.

Start by taking an audit of your skills and passions. Often, there will be a way to combine them with a tech career. For instance, if you’re coming from a career in banking, you could move into fintech or even cryptocurrency jobs. That’s what Fullstack Academy alumni Cristina Colón did, moving from Wall Street to the FinTech company Hightower, building apps in the commercial real estate space.

Think about your other strengths. Great programmers are creative, detail-oriented, problem solvers, and team players. Does that sound like you? Listen to other episodes of the Learn to Code With Me Podcast to get an idea of what different tech careers are like and see what appeals.

programmers working together

Consider what kind of employment you’d ideally have. Would you love to work at a startup or a more established company? Freelance or open your own business? Research what kind of demand exists in that area. What kinds of specialties do they need? Browse job openings at your dream companies.

Then, like Eileen did, I recommend trying out free or cheap resources before committing to something like a bootcamp or computer science degree, to see if you like it first.

I’ve compiled several resources pages to help with that part:

Choosing a career can be a job in itself, but sometimes you just have to start by throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Eileen’s Tips for Your Transition to Tech

Here are some key takeaways from Eileen’s interview that we can all benefit from.

1. Don’t let your own assumptions limit you.

While you’re thinking about your skills and strengths, don’t underestimate yourself! “I’ve spent my whole life saying that I’m not a computer person,” said Eileen. “And the minute that I said, maybe I am a computer person, I just felt just the windows of opportunity fling open. I suddenly had this whole world that I could explore and get really excited about. Don’t box yourself like that. Intelligence can be grown, we can work towards it, we can build it, no matter what area it is, whether you had a previous interest in it or not.”

2. You don’t have to be “good at math.”

As a math teacher, Eileen knows all about what it means to be “good at math,” and it’s not just being able to do quick multiplication in your head.

“For me, what I wanted my students to get out of math class, was to be just good problem solvers,” she says. “And I think being good at math means that you can look at a problem, figure out what it’s asking and what kind of solution would this need, then asking, okay, what do I know? And what do I need to know? You don’t need to know the solution to every problem, but you need to know how to look things up, think about what you already know, and apply that.”

3. Opportunities are available; it’s just up to you to take them.

As Eileen experienced first-hand, opportunities are there for those willing to seek them out. “The idea that a boot camp, and the REACH program just open up these opportunities to everyone says that you don’t need to fit any certain mold,” she says. “It’s really empowering. It gives me so much more confidence in myself, and I don’t feel as afraid to take risks. This past year, I took an algorithms class at Stanford just because I was like, yeah, I can do that!”

software engineers collaborating

4. There will be obstacles. You can overcome them!

When you’re making any big life change, there are bound to be times when you struggle to grasp a concept, or you feel a lack of time or resources, or someone doesn’t believe in you, or you don’t believe in yourself. But here are a few people proving that you can move past whatever stereotypes or obstacles present themselves:

  • Madison Kana went from a fashion model to a front-end developer
  • Fernando Hidalgo went from a teaching assistant to a data scientist
  • Zac Otero went from a high-school dropout to a Salesforce admin
  • Elvis Chidera learned to code on a Nokia phone from the age of 11
  • Michael Tombor is learning to code alongside a full-time job, a wife, and two kids

Listen to their stories to get inspired during the moments of doubt on your journey.

5. You’ll never stop learning (and that’s a good thing).

Even once you’ve landed the job, Eileen says it’s perfectly normal to never quite feel like you’ve “made it” and that there’s always more to know. But that’s part of the beauty of tech, which is always changing! “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to check off in a box to say, like, all right, that’s enough. I’ve learned enough, I’ve made it,” she says. “And I think that’s part of this continuous learning process.”

 

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