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Sam E. Lawrence
Sam E. Lawrence

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Why I Enjoy Working in Tech, and You Might Too!


I really enjoy working in tech. Across my career, not every company has been a good fit for me, nor I for them - but the software industry at large has been an amazing place for me to work. This essay attempts to paint a picture for those who don't work in tech, but are interested in pivoting into or starting their careers in the space.


I say this with full recognition of my privilege (cis/white/male) which has eased my path, opened doors, and granted me undeserved good will from strangers. This is not a comprehensive defense of tech as a sector, and I know that there are parts of this industry that are toxic, particularly for historically marginalized groups. Navigating your way into and through this industry will have some bumps, and you will face hard choices. It's up to you whether you choose to fight your own good fight or move along when you know that you're not fitting in with the company. I encourage you to spend your time and energy well.

With that said...

The Good Parts

For tech workers today, it's common to be able to work from home, salaries start high and can grow quickly. You can develop a career that is exciting, rewarding, and enlightening. However attractive all this sounds, for someone looking to get started in the sector, it can be challenging knowing where to start, what to ignore, and when to expect results from any preparatory study.

In my opinion, what is required is a willingness to not know things and then learn them, a willingness to fail and try again, and the ability to move on from projects and teams that aren't worth spending time on. Let me restate, it is important to be willing to be ignorant, and then work on learning new things. It's hard, but there are few other industries where someone with imagination and a willingness to work hard can create a positive impact so quickly, and can direct their own life with such dexterity. They literally pay you to get smarter every day, it's amazing.

One of the best things about working in tech is that you will be guaranteed to work with at least one smart person at every place you go. That might sound slightly obvious, but I can't stress enough what an amazing perk this is. If you consider yourself a curious, intelligent person - you may have noticed that a lot of working environments feel lonely. People can be very political, stupid, and replicate the drama of high school well into adulthood. There are plenty of jerks who work in tech, but among them, you're guaranteed to also find humble, rational, dedicated people who are a joy to work with.

Tech Structure

In most software organizations, QA sits closer to the Engineering team than teams like Support and Sales - and this is the main reason why I think it's a great place to start out. You can spin your wheels in Support and it's easy to get stuck there, being promoted up the ladder, but never really deepening core technical skills. If you're interested in helping people, Support can lead to a rewarding career, but if you're interested in the nitty-gritty work of building things, you'll want to get as close to Engineering as quickly as possible.

And just so we're clear on terms, here's a quick breakdown of a typical software team:

  • Support: Helping customer triage and resolve issues, via email, phone, or chat.
  • Development: The folks writing the code behind the product.
  • Product: Managers and designers who plan what the developers will build next.
  • QA: Testing the software before it goes out into the world, to catch bugs before customers can.

If you aren't sure where you'd like to get started - go ahead and apply to a diverse set of roles. Go on lots of interviews, and get comfortable with being rejected. Along the way, you'll learn more about various companies, how they're structured, what sort of work each team does, and where you might fit in best. This can be a painful process, but I recommend that you submit to it and trust it. I have been rejected in dozens of interviews.

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A Word of Caution About Remote Work

Working from home is not for everyone, and if you're accustomed to being around coworkers, or if you particularly enjoy the social aspects of your job, you may struggle to find your way in a fully-remote world. Not all tech companies work remotely, so don't let this warning discourage you from getting into the sector, but be aware that remote work is becoming increasingly common. Ask questions about the team's work style in your interviews, and examine yourself to determine what you're looking for, and what sort of environment you believe you can succeed in.

Getting Started

If you have a college degree, have some sort of other professional work experience, or know some rare technical skills - this may not apply to you, but for the average person who has worked as a mechanic or bartender or clerk, getting started in tech can seem impossible. I'll tell you how I got started and offer some ideas for how you might be able to move faster than I did.

There exist many 6-week bootcamps that promise to prepare you for a job as a developer. I think those programs work for some people, and I personally know at least one person who was able to kickoff a real career after a bootcamp, but they certainly aren't for everyone - and it's often an expensive way to find out which of those types of people you are. One thing they do provide is structured learning, which can be very difficult for people to manage for themselves. They also provide oversight and coaching, which can make a big difference in the learning process.

My Story

I learned how to code, mostly on my own. My learning would have happened much more quickly if I had taken a project-based approach, and if I had taken on better mentorship. I spent years stuck in the tutorial-loop, revisiting familiar concepts and picking up new fragments of knowledge, but never really "pushing through" to full mastery. Without question, I have learned the most technical skills on the job, in situations where my work forced me to solve a real problem. If you're teaching yourself programming, I recommend trying to build real projects, not just passively following tutorials forever.

Launch Your Journey

I hope some part of this is helpful to someone looking to begin a career in tech. I suggest you attend Meetups, go on LOTS of interviews, and keep tweaking your resume - paying attention to which parts get positive or negative feedback from hiring managers.

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