James acknowledges that learning these skills can be difficult and motivation can wane. “I found it so helpful to frame my learning around something I’m interested in. It can be easy to lose motivation when learning but when you flip it from a generic project to something you enjoy it can really help.”
“That’s how you learn, by bumping into problems, googling a solution and asking people — this is still true for me!” After refining his portfolio and with the support of technical recruiters James landed his first technical job at Sky Digital.
I was keen to understand what work environment James recommends people aim for in their first role.“Look for a company where you’re going to be learning a lot. During the interview process, think to yourself, ‘Am I going to learn a lot from these people?’ — you want to be surrounded by smart folk. The place where you will learn and grow the most is where you want to be.”
James is candid in describing what it was like making the change into tech after committing time and a degree to another industry while friends and colleagues continued to develop their careers. “That was definitely difficult — you put all this time into one career (PR) and then you change. It can feel like you wasted a lot of time. Especially when I left my job and was learning full time — you have mates who are smoothly getting on with their careers, it can be difficult. I feel especially with tech, if people aren’t in that industry it can be difficult to explain the career change. In your early twenties, it’s easy to lose perspective that you are still just starting out in your career — it was definitely worth it in the long term!”
James emphasises the point that experience outside of tech can be hugely useful for going into the industry. “There are always things to take from whatever experience you’ve had. Whether you’re going into your first job out of university or you’ve had jobs previously you can bring so much from that. Communication for example is so important. I think that’s really helped me appreciate the wider context of businesses I’ve worked in.”
James goes further to describe the broad traits he sees in great technologists. “Empathy is a big one — people who have broad understanding not only of the technology but the end-user experience do really well.
James ends with his advice for those thinking of going into tech without a technical background. “Always keep in mind that although it feels that you are starting from zero — i.e with no technical knowledge — this isn’t the case. Whatever non-technical background you’re coming from you’ll have a skill set that you’ve developed. Whether that’s communication, presentation skills, ability to write grammatically correct documentation and even devising tickets. You have a lot to offer from day one — remember that!”