Dev-XP-Session on Non-Traditional path to Tech Career.

Chat session for developers, designers and technology enthusiasts on how to break into tech from non-tech backgrounds.

Priscila Heller and Bryan Cross

27.06.18

Hello Everyone,

It's another exciting session 😄 and today we have two guests joining us Priscila Heller @Priscila and Bryan Cross @Bryan from GitHub.

Today we'd be talking about Non traditional paths to tech careers. Bryan and Priscila will be sharing their experience and are also available to answer our questions To get started, I'd love for you to introduce yourselves.

So quick introductions,

Hey everyone, Pri here! I’m from Brazil originally and have been living in the US for about 7 years now. I am a graduated Journalist, and I’ve had many different job titles in the past 7 years. I’ve been with GitHub for 2 years now and I am always happy to meet new people and chat!

Hi everyone, Bryan here! My tech career path has definitely been ‘non-traditional’… I was originally trained in University as an archaeologist, a career I pursued for the first 6 years after University. During that time, I was exposed to how my colleagues were using computers to expand their capabilities, managing and understanding the archaeological process. I became more interested in that aspect of the work, both because it gave me an opportunity to see ‘the big picture’ and also because the computer lab was air conditioned and digging holes in the jungle was very hot and miserable. After that I became a technical writer and then transitioned gradually to being a developer full-time.

Awesome!! This is interesting. Thank you for intro.

Lets get down to the business of today. We have questions from some of our members.

First Question

Judging from your previous experience and qualifications outside tech, how has the transition been? And the differences between the numerous fields ? @Priscila @Bryan

@Bryan
I think for me the key was to learn technical skills in a non-technical context. I don’t think it would have worked to just walk up to a software company with no skills and experience and try to get hired.

@Priscila
For me it wasn’t very smooth in the beginning. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that sooner or later somebody would see it too. The Imposter Syndrome was something I had to learn about and learn how to deal with what helped me the most was definitely being flexible, asking lots of questions and having in mind that everyday is a good day to learn something new.

@Bryan
I agree with Priscila completely. Even after 20+ years I still suffer from Imposter syndrome.

@cleopatra
so that's a thing? Imposter syndrome

@Bryan
It is absolutely a thing. But it’s also a sign that you’re humble and ready to admit, at least to yourself, that you don’t know everything.

@Priscila
Most definitely. I didn’t know about it until I started with GitHub, haha. The feeling that “this is too good for me” or “I don’t deserve to be here because everybody is so much better than I am” is what Imposter Syndrome is about.

But it’s also a sign that you’re humble and ready to admit, at least to yourself, that you don’t know everything. For sure! Imposter Syndrome can definitely be a great step in the right direction if you use it as something to work on and to be better about

@cleopatra
How would you use it ?

@Priscila
You need to be confident in what you know. For example: you know that you are great at interacting with people and understanding what they need. So that is a skill that your team can use.

@cleopatra
Oh ok.

@Priscila
Maybe everybody else is great at writing code. But understanding how that piece of code can help people is a skill that complements your team.

So you can learn something new, and you can teach what you know.

@acekyd
I agree.

@Priscila
the tech field can be very generous and kind in guiding you towards understanding your value and how unique your skills are ❤️

@Bryan
I’ve been fortunate in having a few mentors during my journey who really helped me to learn the trade. Most people who are competent enjoy their work and enjoy sharing their skills with others.

Question

Awesome. I was just going to ask about the items or things in place to help make your transition smoother ? @Priscila @Bryan

@Bryan
Be willing to take chances, be willing to work in a role that might not be ideal as long as it’s part of a plan to get where you want to go.

Seek out opportunities to learn/practice technical skills.

We didn’t have open source of GitHub back in the day, but the open source community (and online training) are a fantastic resource.

@Priscila
This is what helped me immensely:

- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: sometimes Google won’t have all the answers for you. Ask your team, use Forums and don’t be shy. Everybody started somewhere.

- Read something new and apply it in a way that you won’t forget: I learned lots of new Linux things as I did my job. So I took notes in a language that I would understand.

- Watch videos, listen to podcasts or read books that make you feel good. it is not all about tech 100% of the time. You need to take care of your 🧠 and ❤️ to be in good shape to learn more stuff.

@Bryan
It does take courage, but I have found that the vast majority of people are going to be cheering for you to succeed, as long as you show a willingness to learn and work hard.

@Priscila
To be very honest in the “ask questions” part… there are many trolls out there and you will find people who won’t be too willing to help. But as @Bryan mentioned, there are people who truly want to help and provide good resources. If you find a website, or a person who can be your mentor or who you feel like you can learn from, stick to it and forget about the challenges that won’t help you be better.

@acekyd
True.

@Bryan
Also, if you want to be in tech, you must practice everyday. Whatever it is that interests you, whether that’s coding, or writing, or testing, or infrastructure design, treat it like a profession and do it regularly.

Question

Any tips on finding and choosing a mentor? I'd assume one can't just go to everyone successful in their fields

@Priscila I have found amazing people and groups of people on meetup.com. You can find local groups who will meet regularly to work on projects and help each other.

@Bryan
A mentor doesn’t have to be a super-star, necessarily. Just someone who has travelled farther down the path that you want to start traveling down. And of course who is interested in paying forward the help that they’ve received along the way.

Meetup is a great place to find people.

@Priscila
It is! It is mostly free and you are working with people who have similar interests and that very likely started from scratch, but have learned a lot along the way.

From what I’ve seen so far, these local groups are a very rich resource to learn and ask questions.

Nigeria meetup Groups. You can find local groups who will meet regularly to work on projects and help each other.

Question from @Somto

Hi @Priscila and @Bryan would you advise I get a masters degree in Computer Science. I have a background in Architecture but I am interested in backing up my self-taught programming skills ? Does it help ?

@Bryan
I think you should evaluate the cost/benefits of getting a masters degree. I have only encountered a handful of people with advanced degrees in CS in my 20 year career. In fact, less than half of my peers have degrees in anything related to CS.

@Priscila
I think it depends on what career path you want to follow. Most of the people I know in tech are self taught and have certifications instead of degrees. But if you’d like to work in Education (teaching people how to program, or be part of a University), then I think a Masters is good way to go

Yes! Not having learned Linux ahead of time, or had the experience with it has been a challenge.
The way I have found to work around this is by learning Linux on my own time, during the weekend. I have used resources like Skillwise to purchase low cost online classes and I follow along with them when I’m not working.

@Bryan
It’s also helpful to figure out your own personal learning style. For me, classes are less effective than setting a task for myself and then figuring out how to do it.

@somto
Wow! Thanks guys! 😃

@acekyd
Less than half. Thats interesting!

@Bryan
if that.

I’m not in any way disparaging getting a degree in CS if that’s your passion. But if you haven’t, or if you already have a degree in something else, or if attending university is beyond your reach at the moment, it is absolutely not something that will prevent your success.

@Priscila
Agreed. Depending on what your career plans are, it might be worth it looking at certifications, like AWS, Docker, Linux, Databases. It all really depends on what you are trying to achieve I guess.

Question

Do you have any additional advice for anyone embarking on this journey/transition ? @Priscila @Bryan

@Bryan
Just do it. It’s not going to get easier by waiting.

@Priscila
I think this is a great time to be in tech! There are so many great opportunities out there and you can definitely find something that you’ll love to do! Be willing to work hard and show your uniqueness to the world. Be willing to ask for help and give help. ❤️

Yes! Not having learned Linux ahead of time, or had the experience with it has been a challenge.
The way I have found to work around this is by learning Linux on my own time, during the weekend. I have used resources like Skillwise to purchase low cost online classes and I follow along with them when I’m not working.

@Bryan
Be tenacious. There will be frustration and setbacks. Keep going 🚶🏽‍

Awesome! As we get to the end of the session, it's been quite insightful and I thank you for your time and knowledge @Priscila @Bryan.

Thank you!

@Priscila
Thanks guys! This has been great!

I am not very active on Twitter right now (I should definitely go back soon), but if you’d like to keep in touch, here is my info:
- Twitter: @talkopri
- GitHub: https://github.com/talktopri
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/priscila-heller-80a13621

Thanks, everyone for a wonderful session!! Until next time! Do have a wonderful day! 😃

Want to be part
of the conversation ?

Join the community