How I got one of my first tech jobs without a technical background.
As I recently celebrated my birthday, I thought I would share my story of getting one of my first tech jobs with you. The reason I’m sharing my story is that I want you to know if you want to be a Cloud Architect and you focus on the right areas, you can get hired. There is an incredible number of opportunities for you, provided you do a few things, towards building a wonderful career.
Approximately 25 years ago, I was a nurse practitioner working in an internal medicine office. I had my own office where I would see patients and I really liked it. Somehow, I stumbled upon computers and networking and found that I absolutely loved them beyond anything I could even imagine. One day I woke up and said to myself, “I have to have a career in networking.”
What did I do once I had this epiphany? Everyone told me I needed a certification called an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). I took a bootcamp and got the certification, but there were still no opportunities for me. Then, everyone told me I needed to learn cisco. Which was logical, because it was networking, not systems. I became a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) then a CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional). I took this brutal, 10-day bootcamp for $11,000! I was there from 6:00 am – 9:00 pm. Inside of the 10 days, I finished four CCNP certifications. That was a lot to learn! Since I was always fascinated by system design (architecture), I also became a Cisco Certified Design Professional.
Now I had three professional-level certifications and started applying for jobs, I was confident in my chances. But something happened; I applied for and was rejected from five jobs. Although most people would continue applying and keep up the job search, I stopped. I am of the philosophy that it is insane to waste your time or efforts to keep repeating the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different outcome.
Upon reflection, I realized all the hiring managers said the same thing to me. They consistently told me that I didn’t have relevant experience or degrees, and asked how they could hire me given the situation. While I pondered a resolution to this roadblock, I found out about tech recruiters. Specifically, I became aware of their ability to introduce candidates to hiring managers and bypass HR. This was life-changing for me, as my main obstacle to this point had been HR.
Next, I called a tech recruiter and sent them my resume. We spoke on the phone. The recruiter shared with me the various areas I was lacking, which prevented him from placing me. I asked him to share with me the ideal criteria I would need to meet given that I already had certifications.
Guess what. The recruiter spent 45 minutes with me telling me all kinds of things. I took down extensive notes and thanked them for their time. I followed up the call with a nice gift to show my appreciation for their time and knowledge. Now I wondered if other recruiters felt the same way. So, I called recruiter after recruiter throughout the country.
By the time I was done, I had spoken to about 50 recruiters who all told me the same thing. My next thought was if companies desire a specific set of skills in the perfect candidate, and I’m missing some of these skills, how do I become what the hiring manager desires. This is critical as the hiring manager makes the hiring decisions. I did a gap analysis of my current skills versus what employers desire and then built a get hired plan. I went on my first interview and was hired. What I learned in this process helped me get the other jobs in my 25-year career. And guess what, since implementing this plan, I have never interviewed with a company that did not give me a job offer. This is all due to what I learned from speaking to these IT recruiters
Below are the key takeaways from my efforts.
What Do Hiring Managers Really Desire?
Can you do the job?
First and foremost, hiring managers want someone that’s technically competent. What does technically competent mean? It means someone that can do the job. This is much more important than the number of years you have in experience and it’s much more important than any certifications you can describe. At the end-of-the-day they want to know: Can you do the job?
Can you be trusted?
Employers want someone they can trust. They don’t want someone that lies to them. When you interview for a position and lie or bluff your way through an answer, it tells the employer they can’t hire you because you can’t be trusted. A hiring manager is not going to ask a technical question they don’t know the answer to. You can’t bluff or lie your way through an answer without them knowing you’ve done so. As soon as you do this, the interview is effectively finished and so are your chances of being hired. So, don’t be afraid to tell an employer, that you do not know a particular topic. Then point them to your abilities and areas of expertise – control the interview, don’t let the interview control you.
Are you energetic and motivated?
Hiring managers want someone that’s very energetic and motivated. Why? No one wants a sleepy or lethargic person working for them. They need someone that’s ready to take charge, get to work, and solve their business challenges with enthusiasm. Show potential employers that you’re ready to take on whatever task is in front of you.
Are you a safe employee?
Employers need to know that you “know what you know” and “know what you don’t know”. Over my 25 years in technology, I’ve seen countless catastrophes because someone didn’t know versus what they didn’t know. There are countless examples where employees would go on a network and play around with things, they were totally unfamiliar with causing a multitude of catastrophic outages. These outages have cost organizations money, time, and brand damage with existing and new clients. Hiring managers can tell if you are confident in your knowledge through your response to questions. Just as important as confidence in the things you know, is the confidence to tell a hiring manager when you aren’t knowledgeable in a specific area. Not only will the employer feel that you are safe, but they will also trust and respect you due to your honesty.
Can you inspire the team?
Hiring managers want to know that you can bring out the best in others. You should work on your soft skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy for others. Employers also want to know you’re willing to go above and beyond in all you do. Most organizations know that about 20% of the people do 80% of the work. They want to know you’re going to be in the top 10%. In addition to being at the top in performance, you should strive to be known as the person that doesn’t get angry and is easy to please. Being at the top in productivity, easy to get along with, and empathetic for others; will bring inspiration to your team and coworkers. So, both technical competency and soft skills are integral to a successful career.
Assess yourself, fill in any technical competency and soft skills you need to become the cloud architect hiring manager’s desire. Build a map from point A to point B for yourself. That’s how I successfully earned my first job, and how you can get your first Cloud Architect job. That’s how you can move from another industry into tech; and how you can go from no experience to being hired in tech. Make sure you find out what someone needs, and then figure out how to get there. If you do this you will get the cloud job of your dreams.