A tech training classroom

Can you switch careers and start from scratch? Some thoughts…

Most of my time these days is spent teaching and developing teaching material for some advanced technical topics such as Kubernetes, serverless and machine learning, and most of the people I’m teaching have already been working in tech for a number of years. The sheer volume of things to learn about can be daunting for someone new coming into tech, especially if they’re attempting a career change or have no formal computer science education.

A career change is an enormous undertaking. It will require massive commitment, a great deal of time and a lot of faith. But I fundamentally believe anyone can do it, and start working in tech! So where do you start?

In recent years, the lack of skills in the market has prompted companies like IBM and Meta to produce some very slick online courses that can teach you everything you need to know to get started in some specific tech areas. Often they will assume no prior knowledge and will guide you through everything you need to know at a foundational level, with guided lessons and activities. These include Google’s Cybersecurity Professional Certificate, Meta’s Frontend Developer Professional Certificate, and IBM’s Full Stack Software Developer and DevOps programmes. You can find links to these and more at Coursera’s Find Your New Career page.

And don’t forget that you can “audit” any Coursera class for free if you don’t want to pay right now (or at all). That just means you won’t get the certification or the feedback, but if you’re just there to learn you’ll still have access to everything you need.

While these courses are great, they do require you to have at least an inkling of the career direction you want to take up front. Would you want to spend 6 months learning full stack development, only to discover a yearning to be a data analyst? These courses also take a very vocational approach, focusing on specific skills for a specific role in the industry.

For me, the joy of learning comes from a life-long personal interest in tech. How is it put together, and why does it work the way it does? Exploring some fundamentals of computer science might help you to decide if tech really is for you, and you might discover which aspects of it inspire your own joy along the way.

One of the best online courses for doing this is Harvard’s CS50, taught by the incredible David J. Malan. This course takes you through foundational building blocks but also throws you in at the deep end with C, explores data structures and algorithms and even covers some basic web and cybersecurity concepts. The course has been taught to thousands of people around the world through Harvard’s OpenCourseware or Edx (both have free options). It’s a great way to find out what excites you about tech, and if you want to continue your journey afterwards, it even offers specialisms in web development, Python, game development, and of course AI.

What was your path into tech? Did you switch from another career, and if so, how? I’d love to hear from you if you have other amazing educational resources to share.