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The Only Thing Stopping Your Successful Tech Career Is…

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Let me guess: you’re so over your current career, and—from everything you’ve read and heard—tech sounds like a dream path for getting to where you’d rather be. Working on interesting, creative projects in a cutting-edge industry? Check. Getting paid a salary that can actually help you get ahead on your bills? Check. Being able to work a flexible schedule from outside a traditional brick and mortar office? Check on that, too. So why aren’t you already learning tech skills, like yesterday? Whatever reasons you feel are holding you back from pursuing the tech career of your dreams, I bet they have something in common with what we hear from our students on a daily basis.

The good news is, no matter how real and overwhelming these reasons might seem to you, they’re not nearly as big a problem as you might think—in fact, they might not even be a problem at all. So sit back and read on as we round up the top five reasons you haven’t started your tech career yet, and you’ll see why each of these myths need to be returned to the Fiction section—stat!

I Don’t Have the Time

Perception of time can derail any kind of career change —specifically the amount of time needed to learn the skills and acquire the credentials or certifications necessary for taking on a new job. Flashbacks to years spent languishing in college classrooms are enough to send even the most iron-willed career change prospects running for the hills, and an industry like tech—with its arcane sounding acronyms and terminology—seems like a particularly intensive time commitment.

The Facts:

But feel free to breathe a sigh of relief—it won’t take that long to learn the basics you’ll need to break into tech. Unlike careers that really will take years to transition into, tech is realistically approachable within a year or less of training—a statement that’s been consistently affirmed to me by tech professionals. Whether it’s a tech pro like Wendy Zenone, Application Security Engineer at Lending Club, who worked adjacent to tech in marketing and established her foundational tech skills through a 12-week coding bootcamp, Blair McKee, Digital Marketing Manager at DNS Made Easy who entered tech in a non-technical role as a copywriter and taught herself web design over the course of a year, or Matt Hubbard, Director of Operations at Fullcontact, who worked in foreign policy and landed his first tech job before he’d even finished taking classes in information systems, I have yet to hear a story where it took someone multiple years to gain the skills they needed to start in tech.

The serious time investment in tech comes more on the back end, after you’re already employed. Although it’s a short timeline to get started, once you do start working in tech you’ll begin a lifetime of learning, adapting, and improving—it’s simply part of the industry. As Izzy Piyale-Sheard, Community Manager at coding bootcamp Lighthouse Labs, told me, even instructors with 20 years of experience at his company are still constantly learning. The upside with tech is that all this learning is on the clock and built-in as part of the job. So if concerns about time have been holding you back, let them go. The time is now!

It’s Too Expensive

Even if tech skills don’t come with a prohibitive time investment, what about the money? The term “tech” brings to mind self-driving cars, commercial space flights, and inflated real estate markets. That all sounds expensive, so it must mean learning tech skills is ridiculously pricey too, right? Wrong! While there will, of course, be a money investment if you attend coding bootcamps or enroll in coding classes online, with average yearly college tuitions for state schools coming in at a staggering $14,210, any amount you pay will be a fraction of what it costs to get a conventional degree. What’s more, there are two significant factors that ease the sting of paying to learn tech skills.

The Facts:

The first is the fact that entry-level tech jobs have a track record of returning on their investment within months of employment. In speaking with Skillcrush alum Chi-Chi Ross, she told me that she landed her first tech job two months after she started a Skillcrush course (and three weeks before the course was even finished). “I was able to make back the money I spent on the course and keep earning significantly more that I’d been able to make before,” Ross said. “Once I started working at my new job I more than doubled what I was making—in fact I saw a 108% increase in my income.”

Similarly, Emily K. Olson told me that by the time she finished learning HTML and CSS through Skillcrush, she’d already landed a remote job with a New York City based company, allowing her to make back the money she’d spent on classes while working from her home on the West Coast (in between travelling the world). “Not only did I earn back the money I invested before I really had a chance to miss it,” Olson said, “but learning tech skills has changed the way I feel, the way I see myself, and improved my life overall for the better.”

However, even when a return on investment is imminent, it doesn’t mean you won’t miss the initial cash until then. But there’s good news on that front too: unlike what you might remember from college or other certification programs where high tuition was accompanied by outrageous materials and textbook fees, free tech resources abound! Whether you’re learning tech skills or once you’re working in the industry, so many of the tools and information you’ll need cost absolutely nothing. Of particular interest if you’re just getting started are free blogs and forums like Codrops and Stack Overflow where you can find tutorials, web design blueprints, Q&A forums and more, all totally free of charge. So don’t believe the hype—99-percenters can afford to learn tech skills, too!

I’m Not Smart Enough

When people want to assure someone that a skill or task doesn’t require any exceptional level of intelligence or know-how, they often trot out the old cliche, “it’s not rocket science.” But when we’re talking about tech, it’s not as easy to dismiss that way. Computers, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and all the apps and software that run on them sure seem pretty “rocket sciencey,” which leads to doubts that those of us who aren’t already rocket scientists or preternaturally gifted with genius IQs are simply “not smart enough” to learn tech skills. This fear seems to come from a misunderstanding of tech more than any genuine intellectual challenges, and “smart”—more often than not—really translates to, “I’m not good at math,” something that might seem to be a requirement for tech, but totally isn’t.

The Facts:

When it comes to thinking that math is a big part of tech, no one will fault you for that preconception—I mean, the whole thing is built on 1’s and 0’s—but it really isn’t the case in practice. When I interviewed tech pros on the subject last summer, Monica Lent, Lead Front End Engineer at SumUp, told me that she personally struggled with math all through school. “I was terrible at geometry, terrible at algebra, didn’t complete calculus. I’m even slow at arithmetic,” Lent said. Still, that hasn’t stopped Lent from managing a team of five web developers and proving that math and computer science aren’t the only direct routes to a tech career. Web Developer Charlotte O’Hara, who also described having no background in math outside of basic arithmetic, says this is possible because most web development projects don’t rely heavily on math at all. According to O’Hara, critical thinking and an eye for design are far more important as a web developer than math calculations.

Even so, it’s also important to remember that your own perceptions of being “smart” or “good at math” are often just that—perceptions. Ultimately, my previous look at math and coding led to a 2017 Science Magazine study that suggests our perception of our ability (and not our ability itself) is a huge determinant for success. So rather than convince yourself what you can’t do, think about what you can do, and couple that positive attitude with the encouraging examples of others who have paved the way before you.

It’s Too Risky to Make a Change

Yeah, your job sucks, but you know it’s there and you know what to expect from it. What happens if you take the time and spend the money to learn tech skills, but then can’t find a job in tech? And even if you do find a tech job, can you count on it being secure going into the future? For the risk averse, this kind of gamble might seem too high stakes—but it turns out, tech isn’t really a gamble at all.

The Facts:

I recently looked into the question of tech job security, and the first thing I found was data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics listing software/application developers as the 5th-place growth job between now and 2026. What’s more, of the 30 occupations listed, developers came in second place for median salaries ($100,080). This paints a pretty clear picture that tech jobs will be plentiful and high paying for the foreseeable future. And, as Dasha Moore, Chief Operating Officer and Founder at Solodev explained to me, tech job growth doesn’t just mean more numbers of the same kind of jobs—instead, it speaks directly to the fact that tech is continuing to penetrate more and more industries and positions, meaning more opportunities and greater job security with every passing year. As tech becomes increasingly entrenched in every aspect of business, government, manufacturing, healthcare, etc., the concern should become less about whether investing in tech skills is risky, and more about how risky it is not to!

I’m Too Old

A question we hear a lot when helping with customer support at Skillcrush is whether prospective tech learners are “too old” to learn tech skills. Interestingly, the “old” in this question is all over the map, as it comes in from enquirers aged 16 to 65 (and all points in between). On one hand, it’s a very easy question to answer (simply, “no”), but this age issue often becomes a very real (if very unnecessary) obstacle in learning tech skills (or making any major career changes). As someone who started working outside the home again in my 40’s after 12 years as a full-time parent, I can speak to the fact that I let the “too old” hangup get in my way for a long time.

The Facts:

Last September we started a blog feature titled “Who Codes?”, looking at diversity in the tech industry (believe it or not, tech consists of a lot more than the proverbial dudes in their 20’s high-fiving and wearing hoodies), and—over the three installments we’ve run so far—four of the six coders we’ve featured are in their 40’s, well outside the stereotype of the tech wunderkind. One of those 40-something coders—Jill Caren, owner of digital agency 2 Dogs Media LLC—didn’t even start coding until she was in her 30’s. After spending a lot of money hiring someone else to build a website for her retail business and being disappointed with the final product, Caren taught herself PHP, CSS, and HTML so she could be the designer, and—in the process—realized web development was what she actually wanted to be doing career-wise (and what she’s still doing successfully today).

Precisely because tech skills are so accessible, and—as discussed above—are neither prohibitively time consuming or expensive to learn, any time and any age is the right time to add them to your toolkit. If you let your age fears win, all that happens is you’ll be another day older tomorrow, but you won’t have started learning tech skills—and even then, you STILL won’t be too old to start!

Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

Get Our Free Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners

Make a plan for learning the tech skills you need to land a new job with this 60+ page FREE ebook!

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