Recommendations for Anyone Getting Started in Technology (or starting again)

I have the pleasure of talking with individuals entering the technology field.  There has never been a better time to have a career in technology and I’m happy to mentor or engage with anyone wanting to give it a shot.  I thought I’d put together my top tips into a list that will help anyone get off the ground in the technology field.

  1. Be intentional about your purpose and who you want to be. If you haven’t thought about your career in the context of your holistic life I’d recommend you start there. Think about who you are, who you want to be, and how your career aligned to that. We naturally segment our life into work and personal and I’d urge you to instead think about your life as a whole. We don’t turn off who we are at work, nor more than we turn off who we are at home. Certainly there are requirements of a job that need to be accomplished under a certain context, but if the job prevents you from living out the life you are called to, then follow that calling. If not, then you’re living a life which is dishonest to yourself and won’t achieve your overall desired outcomes.
  2. Be intentional about your technology direction and set a course to learn it.  This decision is based on many factors, but I recommend you try, experience, shift, learn, shift-again, repeat.  The best thing about the technology ecosystem is it is always growing and changing.  You will not sit still or be bored.  Find time to allocate to your technology direction and you investment in learning. Get going!
  3. Get a LinkedIn account, which is basic blocking and tackling of any job search, but also a way to learn about what is happening in the business community you care about.  Start finding out who you know, what they talk about, and how you can benefit the community. Put together a profile that includes your work history, but more-so, your interests, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it.
  4. Get a Twitter account and get engaged in the online community around the technology that is interesting to you. There are a lot of social media platforms and this will surely evolve over time, but for now Twitter is a great place to get connected to others in the technology ecosystem that are thinking about, writing about, and talking about interesting things that will engage your mind and spirit in the career.
  5. Setup a blog to capture all of your learning.  Think about how you retain knowledge. If you listen you have a level of retention. If you listen and take notes, you have another level of retention. If you listen, take notes, then teach you will really learn it. I recommend that everyone start a blog first because it helps their own learning process, second because it engages the community, and third because it helps you/your company. Start a blog, write at least once per week, and don’t be afraid. This is for you, but it will also end up being for someone else too. Think about, “what would I need to know if I was going to do this again”. “What would I want to know if I was doing this for the first time.” Write it down.
  6. Find a mentor.  A mentor is important because you need a person who can be your guide. Having someone who has been through the steps you’re pursuing before and can provide you direction is critical to growing a career in technology.  You also need someone who can provide hard feedback and help you change behavior where necessary. The best thing you can do with a mentor is to be transparent and take feedback well, understanding that good feedback is provided because the person cares about you.
  7. Find an internship, as early as possible.  If you’re in high school, great.  If you’re in college, great.  Don’t wait, find an opportunity to get involved in the technology area that you’re excited about and learn about it. I started my first internship the summer after my freshman year of high school and never stopped from there. You need an opportunity to DO the thing you’re excited about. Think BIG. Use the opportunity to push forward and learn by doing in a company. Tenacity, perseverance, and go-get-it attitude are the keys to obtaining and being successful in an internship. Experiment and find out how it works. 
  8. Create a personal project that will provide both a learning experience on your blog and benefit to others.  For instance, an IoT bird feeder, a bike tracker, an Azure governance best practices environment, an app for a non-profit. Start with someone that will provide value, because then you will commit to it. If you focus your time on something that doesn’t provide value, it will be difficult to see success and will be boring for you. Create a personal project that brings your technology passion to life.
  9. Get involved in the local community and find a way to contribute.  The goal of being involved in the community is not to find a job or to prospect.  The community is a way to learn, connect, and engage bi-bidirectionally. The local community is those you live around, who work in companies near you, who might even live on your street. We are naturally desiring to be connected and don’t exchange the online community for the physical community. You need both.
  10. Don’t assume that entering the technology field is just about technical skills.  It’s not.  Your success in technology will be more based on your communication, both verbal and written, as well as your emotional intelligence.  Start thinking about how you can understand the connection between technology and people, technology and the business, technology and outcomes.  If you just think about the tech you’ll be lost in making a difference.
  11. Don’t assume that knowledge is meant to be locked away. It’s meant to be shared, after all that’s how you got to where you are! Become a part of the community and actively share. The technology space is not a zero sum game and we are all better off when we share information instead of holding it.
  12. Ask yourself the question “what can I do now?”.  The growth in the technology field, as well as at any employer will focus on how you learn, engage, and provide value. 
  13. Organize your time intentionally at all stages of your career and understand that your job is only one part of who you are.  If you organize your life based only upon what you do professionally, you may miss out on who you want to be.  You are unique and have a purpose.  A technology career is one way to live out that purpose, but the career is only part of how you bring about in the world who you are meant to be.  Think about your time and your commitments holistically and begin with the end in mind.
  14. Have a growth mindset. This means to keep challenging yourself to be more, to learn more, to engage more. The fixed mindset becomes comfortable in its current position and knowledge. The growth mindset is never satisfied with its current position and is always seeking to learn and understand what’s next.
  15. Don’t get impostor syndrome. This is where you’re afraid someone will find out you don’t know everything… that you are a technology poser. The secret is that everyone has areas of technology they don’t know and that’s ok. The field is just to big and deep to know everything, even in a particular discipline. Be ok sharing you don’t know, but find out who does. Being dishonest about what you know doesn’t do you or the person you’re working with any good.
  16. Be a leader, regardless of if you are a manager. A leader leads, whether it is in knowledge, positive attitude, feedback, or questions. You don’t need to have people directly reporting to you in order to be a leader. A leader emerges regardless of the reporting structure.
  17. Be charitable. A charitable person in the technology space goes a long way. This means two things, charitable in what you give, and charitable in what you assume. As you grow in your career, or even on the second day, always be willing to help and provide from your gifts. Being charitable in what you assume is to have a preference toward assuming good about the other person’s intentions. This assumption may not always be right, but it will usually lead you to seek to understand vs. seek to blame or create unfair understandings of other people.

Let’s do this!

Nathan Lasnoski

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