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#BuildingBetter: How to Grow a Career in Tech

Posted in: Highspot News

Do you have what it takes to work in tech?

Chances are that you do. But the tech industry, for all its mystique and quirks, can often seem out of reach, especially if you don’t know someone on the inside.

Yet ask any tech worker and you’d soon discover that no two journeys into tech are the same, which is why today we’ve asked three Highspot employees to share their career stories in order to demystify the world of tech — and help open doors for anyone who wants to join.

Gayathri Venkat, Engineering Manager, on Taking Career Risks

What was your journey into tech?

I am an electronics engineer by education, and early in my career, my original goal was to work in radar communication. But as I gained more work experience, I slowly started pivoting to projects for different areas. I began working more on the IT side where there was plenty of opportunity to grow. I did briefly pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity which gave me great leadership experience; returning to the corporate world afterwards, I realised I wanted to lead teams. As of today, I’ve been an engineering manager for four years and loving it.

What advice can you give to someone who is launching their career?

Whenever you talk to people outside of tech, they say, “Oh, that must be a difficult thing to do.” But tech doesn’t have to be a scary word. It’s a very big field. You can pick and choose the area within tech that is most suitable to you. If you don’t have technical experience, you can easily start in a role you know you’ll succeed in and slowly work your way into something more technical.

What advice can you give to someone who wants to earn the next challenge?

After launching and leaving a startup, I decided that I liked being a leader and that I wanted to continue to do it. However, the next role I took was an IC position; I was nervous to take a management role right away. As fate would have it, a manager role at my new company opened up and my manager asked if I was interested.

The amount of self doubt I had was immense. Would I be able to perform? I told my manager that I would take this role for a three-month probationary period — and if I failed, they should open it up to another person. But my manager had confidence in me even if I didn’t. And I’ve been a manager ever since.

If you’re interested in a new role or taking on new responsibilities, I recommend looking around to your peers and mentors who have done similar transitions and can give you the confidence needed to secure yours.

Jackie Duong, Product Manager II, on Finding Your Path

What was your journey into tech?

Growing up, my dad always encouraged me to ask questions and learn about how things worked. When things broke around the house, we worked together to understand the systems and fix it together. Early on, he introduced me to computers and taught me how those worked. In high school, I was required to take an introductory computer science class. I hated it at first, but once the class started to click, I fell in love with being able to solve problems with code and went on to major in computer engineering with a focus in computer science in college. There, I discovered that while I loved building software, I loved the people aspect of technology even more — which is how I ended up in product management.

What advice can you give to someone who wants to earn the next challenge?

There’s an idea that careers have to be very linear — you study one thing, take a job in that subject, and keep moving up. But that idea can be limiting; in any job, including tech, there are so many different types of roles. I encourage you to make horizontal moves, try something, and use your network to explore different roles or areas of interest.

What’s something that all businesses should keep in mind when hiring?

Creating space is so important. In all of my professional roles, I had the opportunity to see women across the company, including in leadership roles. It allowed me to look around and say, “I can see myself in that role.”

Additionally, think about how you can encourage diversity of thought. I have always appreciated being able to learn from my peers, especially those who have different backgrounds than me, as it opens me up to new ideas I may not have considered otherwise. In engineering, the same is true: you are not building a product for yourself — so including many perspectives and voices ensures your product works for everyone.

Katie Miche, Sr. Services Executive, on Having a Non-Traditional Background

What was your journey into tech?

I definitely did not have a linear path into tech. My degree is in wildlife technology; my first job was as a zookeeper. After my zookeeper contract ended, I decided I wanted to stay in Washington, so I found a job at a tech company for dog sitting called Rover. I figured I could still work with animals and tech seemed appealing. I ended up loving the work and continued my career in tech, moving between more customer-centric roles to more product-focused ones. Over time, I realised that I loved working with people, which is what pulled me to Highspot where I work as a services executive.

What’s something that tech companies can do to create a more inclusive culture?

Build a more inclusive work environment, especially when it comes to hustle culture. Many businesses celebrate long hours and often publicly. But you’re rewarding people for burn out. Instead, you should be rewarding people for their outcomes, which ensures employees can set healthy work-life boundaries — and that many types of people are able to succeed at your business.

What advice can you give to someone who wants to join tech from a non-tech background?

If you want to get into tech but aren’t sure which role is right for you, try to whiteboard out things you love and things you don’t. That helped me focus and find clarity into which types of roles I was interested in and how your skills might align. For instance, I loved SQL and writing queries but I didn’t want to do that full time.

If you know what you want to do but are having a hard time breaking in, invest in your network. Many startups rely on referrals, so it can pay off to go to conferences and meet people. Almost everyone finds it flattering when you ask about their career, so don’t be shy — be curious and ask questions about their journey and their roles.

There’s No Right Way to Be in Tech

Whether you’ve always loved computers or are finding a passion for technology later in life, we believe the world of tech has room for you.

If you feel the same way, then we’ve got great news: we’re hiring. Explore open roles across our company.