This article was originally posted on Educative, Inc. It was written by Jessica McKeirnan, a contracted writer and proofreader for Educative's courses.
So you’re thinking about switching careers away from software development. That’s understandable. It’s a hot field right now with great growth potential and seemingly endless opportunities. But that doesn’t mean you have to love programming all day every day.
There are tons of ways to stay in the tech industry (or not) and still use the valuable skills you’ve mastered as a software developer. This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully, it will get you thinking about what your next adventure could be!
In the tech world, technical writers are the explainers. The people who document code so other developers can understand it better, or make documents that explain products to customers. There is a wide range of how technical your writing needs to be. If you choose a backend job, you might be reading and documenting code all day. If you choose a consumer-side role, you might not be reading code at all. There are even industries outside of tech that use technical writers to help mediate between experts and consumers if you want to put your analytical skills to the test in another field.
These roles are more focused on interpersonal communication. You will own your product or project and ensure that the people creating it have what they need to succeed. Product managers are usually in charge of individual services or physical products while project managers are typically in charge of bigger, full-scale projects. A background in software development could be very useful in a position like this, especially if you need to communicate with the technical team. The faster you understand how your product/project works, the faster you can talk to other departments, customers, designers, etc. to help your team succeed. This is another job that exists in many industries so you have a choice as to how close you want to stay to the software.
Companies need people who understand enough about tech that they can explain it to others, whether that is customers or other team members. Similar to technical writers, content writers focus on explaining how things work to people who might not have any experience with computers or programming. This work is especially important in a world with so much industry crossover. User-facing technical writers might focus on how-to guides or synthesizing lists of resources to give quick and efficient fixes, but a content writer will find a way to create interest for a target audience. You might work on blog posts that explain what you did as a software developer or write curricula for companies like Educative who help teach students new skills.
Penetration testing deals with ways to better prepare computer systems from cyber attacks. A pen test engineer gets to do ethical hacking to solve problems and protect vulnerable systems. You get to attempt breaching application systems to find weak spots and then write new code to fix those issues. This job is great for people who like to solve problems practically and work within a set of specific goals. Cybersecurity is a big issue, so there’s a great need for talented people to improve the world’s security systems.
Data scientists are problem solvers. They handle massive amounts of data and find ways to synthesize it into meaningful and useful solutions to problems that developers might not even know exist yet. Sometimes data scientists are told what they should be looking for (ways to increase sales, what categorizes the audience that most uses the product, etc.), but other times they are left to their own devices to research trends that the company may find useful. This job can be found in a number of industries, so you might be able to work in an industry that really interests you. If you enjoyed math and statistics in school or a previous job, this may be the path for you.
This is a high-level job that focuses on company-specific problems. As a solution architect, you would be in charge of developing a solution with knowledge of the problem, desired outcome, and specifics of the corporate structure. You would be the bridge between the executives and the people who are actually fixing the problem. The system architect will then be in charge of implementing the solution. They are usually pulled into a project when there are many risks involved if the solution were to be implemented incorrectly. While the solution architect can think more abstractly about a solution, the system architect is responsible for the technical implementation and will be more practical about what can and must be done.
User experience (UX) designers are in charge of making sure that users are enjoying their experience with your product. That may be physical details of an object, the way a web page is laid out, or the length of time it takes to scroll all the way down to the bottom of a page. In short, UX designers are in charge of making sure the product was easy, enjoyable, and accessible for the target audience. If this job sounds interesting, you might find yourself doing a lot of research, making decisions about what matters most to your customers, and testing new features to make sure they fit your standards.
It is easy to confuse UX and user interface (UI) designers, and in fact, the two often work closely together. However, where UX designers are concerned with usability for a target audience, UI designers are concerned with making sure their product will stand out as the clear front runner in the market to new customers as well as the target audience. They will ask questions like: was the color scheme consistent? Were the navigation features intuitive? UX designers will often be concerned with getting in their customers’ heads - making profiles, determining their priorities, and creating stories to show how their customers will use the product. UI designers will take data like this and apply it to the product directly, and often aesthetically.
Database administrators work to protect sensitive data (financial records, purchase histories, etc.) and help different institutions access these datasets. This job deals with making materials accessible while also protecting the privacy of the customers. These jobs are predicted to be on the rise for the next decade. Since this position crosses over into many departments or teams, it’s great for those who like working with people and becoming highly specialized in Big Data.
If you enjoy math and algorithms, you may find your path leading you towards quantitative trading. These financial wizards will focus on short term investments. They use math to create models of market trends and then apply the model to historical data in order to determine the most likely market outcome. This job is both logical and creative with a real-world impact. Because of the heavy use of models and programs, it is usually a requirement for this job to have a strong background in programming.
As you go into the next year with your eyes on a new job, remember to branch out and consider opportunities you might not think of right away. There are a lot of creative, exciting jobs out there for developers of all skill sets and interests.