I, very intentionally and strategically made the career transition in 2021 after deciding in 2019 that I wanted something different. I needed work that allowed me to exercise my problem solving skills and allow me to be somewhat creative.
Long story short (because I’ve told it several times), after getting the tech role I wanted, I faced many challenges. But- I’ve also experienced some of the most satisfying and fulfilling workdays of my career.
As a Business Systems Analyst and Smartsheet Consultant, my role requires me to build solutions for business units within the organization I work for.
What that means is, I help businesses analyze their processes and determine the best way to provide a more streamlined and efficient workflow utilizing Smartsheet and other relevant applications. This requires design, build and implementation for the client.
In today’s rapidly changing tech landscape, businesses are recognizing the importance of having solid technology solutions to help reduce inefficiencies and make better decisions.
You should be aware of this too and think of innovative ways to contribute to solving these problems. Whether you want to be in the corporate world or an entrepreneur, there’s space for you at the table.
Black women in tech:
Women represent only 27% of the tech industry; Black women represent about 3% of that. Provided that Black people are only 13% of the entire US population, it’s actually not too bad; however, I think we can get that number up.
To be honest, making my transition was quite tough, it didn’t seem impossible, but I did feel like a fish out of water just trying to make something stick.
Like many of my peers who reach out to me asking, who, what, when, where, and how to get into tech, I had those same questions with limited resources or a clear understanding of what I needed to do.
Lucky for me, my older brother (also in tech) steered me in the right direction. I wish I had gone to him sooner to avoid the 2 insanely embarrassing moments I experienced during a meeting with a VP and an interviewer.
One day I’ll have the courage to share. Today is not that day.
Understanding the challenges:
Okay. So basically, with anything and everything in life, there will always be a challenge. The biggest challenge Black women in tech face is not feeling adequate enough. Imposter phenomenon is a real thing in our community.
And this is not exclusive to tech careers, this includes all careers that are not traditionally held by Black women.
A recent example that stood out to me was, a close friend of mine had the opportunity to interview with an employer and didn’t feel qualified enough to do the interview.
It was like she had counted herself out before the interviewer could because she didn’t check every single box on the requirements list. After a few pep talks and a good nights rest to sleep on it, she decided to interview and was ultimately offered the role.
Many Black women in tech also experience low or unequal pay, microaggressions, and prejudices that might undermine their skills and abilities.
♦♦♦ However, it’s extremely important to know that with every problem, there is in fact a solution! Below, I want to empower you by sharing a few steps to help you navigate challenges you might face in the workforce. ♦♦♦
Step 1: Build a strong foundation
There are a few ways that you can get this step done. Whether you’ve just made the transition or if you’re trying to make the transition, building a really strong foundation is crucial.
And it doesn’t mean that you need to know everything; it just means you need to have clear intentions established and a plan to execute.
Without this, you may find yourself wandering aimlessly, which is not a terrible thing if you’re in the discovery phase of transitioning to a new career.
For individuals looking to break into tech, do the following:
- Write down your current skill set and identify any new skills you wish to develop
- Think about the kind of lifestyle you want to live considering cost of living, traveling, family, hobbies etc.
- Do some research on the type of roles and level of experience needed to achieve the type of salary you would need to support your lifestyle. Below are a few of my favorite resources:
~~Glassdoor – A platform where you can find information about roles, companies, salaries as well as reviews from current and previous employees of these companies.
~~LinkedIn – A social media platform geared towards professionals looking to network, find work and hire.
~~Facebook – I know…. But hear me out, the key to Facebook is groups. If you join the right groups, you get to connect with everyday people keeping it real about how they are navigating in their professional lives. And many times, in my experience they are willing to chat 1 on 1 to provide assistance.
After you’ve completed these steps, write down your plan. Start taking courses to build upon your current skillset and/or the new required skills of whatever role you’d like to target.
Next, work on completing a few personal or professional projects that showcase your skill set. My opinion is to always have personal projects or even something like an elevator pitch that communicates to potential employers/clients that you know what you’re talking about.
Most importantly, make connections by networking your ass off. My introverted girlies, this part hurts, but unfortunately… this applies to you too babes.
Lastly, hire a professional to create a top notch resume for you, create an interview script Q&A, and start applying like crazy.
For individuals who have just made their transition to tech, it’s equally important to build your foundation.
You proved that you have the skills to get your foot in the door. Now it’s time to build upon that foundation and solidify your expertise in your chosen field. Build a solid foundation by doing the following:
- Attend networking events to get to know other individuals in your profession. This is great for learning new tips and tricks of the trade and making meaningful connections.
- Get certified sis. Even though you’ve made it into the field of your choice, it’s important to lean into continuous education to ensure you’re up on all the trends of the profession. Never stop learning and growing. This is how you will set yourself apart from the competition in the long run.
Step 2: Navigating the industry
This was the hardest part for me. I’m not going to tell my embarrassing story yet but I will stress the importance of knowing what you want to do.
My DMs on all social media platforms look a little bit like this: “Hey, I want to get into tech, what’s a good course I can take or certification that will get me started?”.
Here’s an FYI that will save you sooooo much time as you’re seeking new tech roles, do lots of research on the different tech fields, roles, job functions and culture.
Figure out where you see yourself excelling and what specific role you desire to have. Doing this first will make your interactions with professionals who can help much more efficient as they’ll be able to advise you on a solid path forward.
Here are a few fields to consider:
Now, within these fields you also have roles that could be technical or non-technical.
A few technical roles that require specific technical skills are:
-Developer (Any kind)
Here are a few non-technical roles in tech that require some technical knowledge but may not require technical skills:
-Customer Success Manager
Pick your industry and your role based on your interest and skills and you’re well on your way!
Step 3: Overcoming obstacles
This is very simple. When you come to an obstacle, consult your mentors (FYI – find a mentor), your colleagues, chat GPT, a reliable family member or friend, create a plan and get past it.
You will run into obstacles whether it be not finding the role you want within a specific time, getting low pay or placed with weird management, discrimination and the list goes on and on. The only way these obstacles can turn into real problems is if you decide to quit. So… keep going.
Step 4: Building confidence & self-esteem
Build your confidence and self-esteem by continuing to educate yourself on your profession. Maintain a solid fitness, morning and night routine and do things outside of work that you love.
Ask plenty of questions when you don’t understand something and never be shy about speaking up.
Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness, it shows that you are confident and eager about gaining an understanding of a particular subject.
Practice all of these daily and before you know it, your confidence will be through the roof.
Step 5: Black women in tech – achieve success
In conclusion, step 5 in your journey is to empower yourself to achieve success as a Black woman in tech. In this ever-evolving and growing tech industry, never be afraid to just go for it. Do proper research, get qualified, and start putting yourself out there.
Social media and GenAI are great tools to assist you on your journey when used responsibly. The way to achieve success is to just keep going! What’s guaranteed is that you’ll miss out on every shot that you do not take.
Use this guide as you embark on your journey, create a plan and execute like a boss!