November 2, 2018, by Carla

Careers beyond Coding: Working in Technology without a Tech Degree  

By Olivia Kaluna, BSc Management (2017)

There’s a common misconception that a career in tech is for someone who is purely data-driven. For someone who the thought of writing some break-through code is enough to get them out of bed in the morning faster than free pizza.

While there is a growing demand for developers in our ever-increasing digital world, there is also a myriad of positions available for those, like myself, who have a passion for tech, but prefer working creatively and collaboratively.

I chose a management degree because I didn’t have a ‘dream job’ in mind. I didn’t know what I wanted to do post-graduation and I wanted to keep my options open.

I’ve always had an interest in tech, and specifically more philosophical and psychological angles. For example, technology and ethics, or how humans interact with technology. I assumed – wrongly – that these areas were left to academia and research. While I explored them in my dissertation, I didn’t think I’d ever have been able to investigate these ideas in a graduate role.

Finding a graduate programme

With a passion for tech but not for technical tasks, I began to consider my options. I was adamant that for a career in technology I’d have to learn to code or complete a computer science conversion master’s degree. Even after finding technology graduate programs which accept non-tech grads, I remained sceptical. Configuring firewalls or building laptops isn’t the aspect of tech which excites me.

Diving deeper, I looked beyond pure IT companies and into healthcare and retail technology where I would have the opportunity to consider how tech underpins and supports a whole organisation. I opted for a rotational scheme where I could try out different roles.

Throughout the application process, my lack of a tech degree wasn’t a barrier. I could demonstrate my passion for tech by explaining future trends and how I felt these could impact the business I was applying to. Most recruiters are looking for candidates with the right character: you can train people in technical skills and knowledge, you can’t change someone’s nature.

My Experience on the scheme

I got a place with Dunelm. On their graduate scheme, I haven’t found my lack of technical experience a hurdle. I have been completing non-technical roles, such as business analysis, project management and coordinating transformational change. Nonetheless, I have been supported in developing technical skills through an apprenticeship, after expressing an interest in cyber security.

Although I don’t think I’ll pursue a career in cyber security specifically, hackers and protecting data are becoming an increasing concern. Having a basic appreciation for the work involved in protecting a system will help me to influence my team to ensure security is embedded in new projects and processes.

My top tips

  • If asked in an interview “where do you want to be in five years?” don’t be afraid to say you’re unsure. Rotational graduate programs are a fantastic opportunity to learn where your skills and interests lie
  • Culture is crucial. You invest so much time into your work, ensure you find an organisation where the values resonate with your own

Interested in careers beyond coding and want to know more? Olivia will be on campus on Wednesday 14 November for ‘Working in Tech without a Tech Degree.

Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your CareerWork experience