Let’s start off with a 4-part story.
- Your friend works for a well-known company in an up and coming city on the 12th floor of the building. What happens when you get to security? They ask for your photo ID, and just in case it’s a fake, they may even take your picture to put on your visitor In addition, they may call your friend to make sure your visit is expected. You go upstairs, he shows you around his nice office, then the two of you head out to lunch.
- You mention a restaurant that you have heard of, and that you would like to try. Your friend discourages it because there tend to be undesirable characters hanging outside the place. He suggests another restaurant, and you go there instead.
- The restaurant menu items are attractive, and you are not disappointed when the server returns with your meal. You never met the chef personally, but your meat was done well, as requested. You and your friend catch up, then start heading back to his office building.
- You stop at the nearest drugstore to pick up an antacid. Since the lunchtime crowd brings heavier foot traffic than usual, a manager opens up another register. You and your friend are both happy that you can spend some time together, and get back to work.
What do all these scenarios have in common?
I just used normal, everyday experiences to illustrate, at a high level, technical concepts such as multi-factor authentication, denial of service attacks, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), internet protocols, load balancing, etc. When people have that AHA moment, they realize that technology can be fun. They realize that we don’t have to begin the conversation with 0s and 1s. Those things can come later. But first, it is best to ignite the passion for technology, so as to not discourage them before they even get a chance to explore the field.
For several years now, there has been a movement afoot to encourage more people to join the ranks of technology. Formally and informally, I’m one of the advocates for that. Where I depart from the norm, is that the avenue into technology should necessarily be coding. By all means, if someone is inclined to code, that’s all well and good. However, there are 3 basic issues to consider before heading straight for the nearest coding boot camp.
- Is the market flooded? In other words, how would you stand out from the armies of new cohorts that crop up every few months?
- Will you get a job at all? You may learn the latest and greatest languages and frameworks, but who’s hiring for that? Do you know how that fits into other technology? Are you willing to accept a non-coding job?
- Is your job more prone to being outsourced? Now this is not a worry of only career Many established careers have been upended by outsourcing.
Sometimes graduates of these coding are sorely disappointed that they get job offers that may pay more than what they were doing before, but they are not coding. They wonder if the steep price was worth it.
When I am invited to speak or attend events like the Women’s Leadership Forum Reception above, I take the opportunity to tell people that tech is still a great career choice. I make a point to highlight how someone with a non-traditional background can potentially make headways into the field. For example, legal, pharmaceutical, educational and other backgrounds could lend themselves to improving the design of products meant to serve their fields.
Coding is only one of the many opportunities available to work in technology. It saddens me that so many people who could qualify for one of those equally well-paying opportunities are not even aware that they have what it takes. Sometimes I am able to help them start the journey, to make a career change, or use technology to enhance their business. If you are one of those people, don’t count yourself out without talking to someone like me first.