IT careers for the technically challenged

Technology is rapidly expanding as a sector in the job market and it requires a constant influx of talent and skills. But what if you are not a tech genius who chooses coding and hacking as their main pastime?

Technology is rapidly expanding as a sector in the job market and it requires a constant influx of talent and skills. Coupled with all the attention AI, machine learning and other hot tech topics are getting in the media, it is the sector most people want to work in.

Cloud, software and automation are beginning to transform, and in many cases replace, conventional jobs of factory workers, service workers and others. The stock market and investors value technology and software enterprises higher than any others, meaning that CEOs and founders of such companies are in all the lists of top billionaires. The next generation aspires to become the next Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

But what if you are not a tech genius who chooses coding and hacking as their main pastime?

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 Techies have a huge amount of skill and talent but what about the rest of us? Is there a way into the world of tech that opens the door to a successful career and a chance to leave an impact? Most of us often don’t realise that there are many jobs in the tech industry which do not involve coding or in-depth technical knowledge.

You would be expected to know at least the basics of what’s happening in tech and have a level of technical literacy, but the main reason for hiring you will be your existing skills and experience from a different industry.

Before we delve into the different jobs you can get in IT that will happily let you get away with being a non-techie, we need to debunk the two main myths that tend to deter people from pursuing a career in IT.

Myth #1: All IT jobs require coding skills

For some reason, many of us imagine IT companies as places that are filled with the ‘tech guys’ we see in films and television programmes. The ones that zoom into a photo just by looking at it, or are able to type a complex code that releases a nuclear programme by smashing random keys on the keyboard for 3 seconds (we can have a heated discussion about how realistic that is in another blog post).

The point is, we often misunderstand IT and tech companies. Yes, their product will use technology, but you don’t get an award winning digital business, or save millions of £ in otherwise wasted effort just by typing code. Someone has to understand what a modern digital business looks like, how people wish to purchase and use products, how do they want content presented and where in the business time and money are being misspent or wasted. These roles are, at their core, people-based and not normally fulfilled by the techies.

Are techies necessary? Absolutely. There is no tech without it. But technology, from apps to electric car manufacturing, require multiple experts in various areas working together to bring the final product to market. And there is a lot of non-coding work to be done.

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Myth #2: All IT jobs require an IT-related degree

Keeping our ‘tech guy’ stereotype in mind (let’s call him Steve), we assume that everyone that works at tech companies has a degree in something to do with computing or technology. Steve probably has a masters in advanced-coding-without-ever-looking-at-the-keyboard and his colleagues all come from top universities with 1st Class IT degrees. If you’re familiar with The Office, you know exactly who would loudly proclaim, “FALSE!” to this myth.

Yes, if you want to get into advanced coding jobs, a degree in the subject would certainly be an advantage. But since this blog is for those of you who are not aiming to become programmers and coders, an IT degree is not necessary. Researchers, accountants, marketers, project managers, technical writers and so many other roles found in tech companies have their own relevant degrees and courses, and the doors are very much open for such experts to join tech companies.

Many people still enter IT without a degree because on the whole, the sector is a genuine meritocracy - if you are good at presenting imaginative solutions to problems, can listen and understand what people and organisations are trying to achieve, then you can build a successful non-techie career in IT.

A brief disclaimer is needed before we head into the job descriptions of these roles. The non-coding members of teams are hired to carry out specific roles that they are experts in, not because their CV says, ‘I’m a tech enthusiast and I love IT. My favourite companies are Apple and Google and my dream is to become the next Steve Jobs.’

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It’s fine to like Apple (Android fans might disagree, we can have an Apple vs Android debate another time) but it is important that you have an area of expertise – whatever it may be.

And so, in no particular order, here are 9 rewarding careers in IT without a line of code involved:

1. Product Manager

Product managers (or product owners) are responsible for strategy, design, and execution of either the whole product strategy or a product line created by the company. Out of all the roles on this list, it tends to require more experience, and while coding isn’t essential, having some understanding will be beneficial.

They lead the development of a product, and come up with new product ideas. They strategise while the other teams ensure implementation.

They begin with an idea and form it into a tangible product through a series of collaboration with customers and software engineers. They are in the intersection between the business, the customer and the engineering of the product. The goal is to make sure the product is profitable and strategically aligns with the business, and ends up meeting the customer needs and wants as closely as possible.

A big selling point of this role is the satisfaction of seeing an idea become a product that is then rolled out to (fingers crossed) happy customers. A disadvantage, although it depends on you as a person, is that as in the Product Manager role, you seldom hold any authority over the design, engineering or any other person.  

Product Management is the fastest road up towards the senior leadership. Coming up with a highly profitable idea that is a great success in the market is a strong push towards a promotion. Many Vice Presidents and C-level executives started out in Product Management.

2. Project Manager

In some ways a Project Manager is similar to the Product Manager role although it is not entirely the same. Anything can be a project so it is not as product-focused as the previous role. Project Management opens doors to a wider spectrum of work purely because projects come in all shapes and sizes and are not necessarily production oriented.

Project managers are in charge of delivering every project on time within budget and outlined scope. They tend to have a background in general business skills, management, budgeting and analysis. It is important that you can bring out the best in people and projects that you oversee. You thrive when planning projects and working with teams.

Project managers supervise individual projects from the planning stage all the way to implementation, and are naturally apt at seeing the big picture without neglecting the smaller details. They work across teams, bringing together engineers, marketers, product specialists, and more.

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3. Program Manager

Program Managers (there are many PMs on this list but they are not the same) tend to work on a few projects simultaneously. They ensure that all the dependencies are resolved in a timely manner and nothing hinders meeting the product delivery deadline.

Program Managers spend a good proportion of their time in various meetings, checking up on status updates to ensure that everything is progressing well. You’re essentially a supervisor of the product schedule, communicating between various teams to make sure it all works together.

The exciting part is that ‘boredom’ will not be a commonly used word in your vocabulary. There’s always something happening and you will be able to meet and collaborate with various teams and people in different areas of your company. If juggling multiple tasks is a challenge you are keen to take on, if planning and scheduling is your second nature and if you always like having something to do, this is the role for you.

The drawback is that you have very little authority and most of the time you have no direct reports underneath you. It is important to be able to leverage your influence and communications skills to persuade others.

 

4. Technical Writer

This is where some understanding of tech is rather useful because you need to be able to write about intricate, often complex technologies in a way that is understandable for the average person, not just for Steve the ‘tech guy’. This is a valuable skill and is so important to the success of any company. If Apple’s advertising consisted of highly technical reports on the functionality of its iPhones, it would be a difficult product to sell. So if you have a flair for writing and an ability to translate complex ideas into clear and concise explanations, you are likely to do very well in a technical writing role.

However, there’s plenty of technical content to write that is not related to coding, whether it’s manuals, press releases or instructions.

 

5. User Experience (UX) Designer

Have you ever visited a website just to leave it straight away because the layout is confusing or you’ve got no idea what the page is for?

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User Experience or UX is all about making sure such interactions are eradicated and replaced by positive experiences that make people stay and interact with the website, and in the end, make a purchase / sign up or reach any other goal set by the organisation.

If you’re an analytical thinker, with a natural ability to spot and articulate the strengths and weaknesses of products, an ability to understand the needs of users and sifting through data to reach actionable conclusions, UX design could be the place or you. In addition, you’ll be able to make the users’ lives easier and gain a strong satisfaction from a job well done.

UX designers are in charge of the feel of the website and crafting a positive user experience. You would spend your time ensuring that everything works properly and especially that it works in a way that is easy to understand and navigate.

User experience (UX) designers create the website/app experiences with the end user in mind. The main goal is an ever-increasing user satisfaction.

A few main responsibilities include:

  • User research: understanding users by using a multitude of tools
  • Information architecture: working with an information architect, finding the best ways to structure content on a website or app
  • Data-driven design: all of your suggestions and decisions need to be based on data from your research. Are website visitors leaving the ‘about us’ page because they are faced with an irritating pop-up every time? Knowing this will allow you to make the necessary changes.
  • Wire-framing and prototyping: building test versions of websites/web apps

 

6. User Interface (UI) Designer

UI (user interface) designers focus their efforts on the visual designs for websites and apps. They design the appearance as well as how the interface functions, often closely collaborating with the UX (user experience) designer. In fact, it is not uncommon to see these two roles combined into a single job.

UI is similar to UX, but the focus of UI is narrowed down almost solely to the design of the interface.

UI designers tend to focus on the visual design throughout the whole process. You would make sure that the interface is consistent, whole and that all its components fit together in the best possible way. You would deliberately design each element of the site or app to make sure they all work together.

UI design is focused mostly on creating a clear, functional, attractive and easy to navigate interface for the user. It’s a brilliant tech-career choice for graphic designers or other artistically-inclined professionals.

7. Information Architect

Do you ever find yourself on websites and thinking to yourself about all the ways in which it could have been set up better? You might be very well suited to the information architect role. Another sub-specialty of design and user experience, this career focuses on optimising the structure and organisation of a website.

Information architects focus their time on designing the structure and organisation of content for a website. They look for the best way to present content to website visitors with the goal of providing a positive user experience; therefore they work closely with the UX and UI designers. They use information collected from usability tests to help figure out the best way of organising content and information.

As an Information Architect you would work across the whole project lifecycle from information gathering and developing concepts, all the way to producing deliverables and quality assurance. Most of the work will be focused on producing information architecture documentation (site maps, navigation models, user journeys and wireframes) for websites and apps alike.

8. Data Analyst

“Big data” is a buzzword we now hear everywhere, and for a good reason. Jobs related to data science are said to be in increasing demand and most everyone is hiring.

E very business collects data, there is no future without it for modern companies. It might be market research, logistics, sales figures or various costs. Data analysis jobs are for you if you enjoy analysing data sets, noticing and examining trends, and interpreting them to communicate the findings in plain English. Ultimately, the goal is to help the company make better and more informed business decisions.

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Mathematical skills are crucial for becoming and succeeding as a data analyst, specifically having a working knowledge of statistics. You should have well-developed analytical skills and be able to gather, structure and disseminate large sets of data.

 

9. Technical Recruiter

Technical recruiters are the people responsible for hiring technical employees such as programmers and developers. This is what we do here at Certes and it is astounding how much IT knowledge and exposure you can get by recruiting for IT positions. Matching companies with candidates and making sure that the skill and experience levels match give you a wide exposure to the latest news and developments in IT, giving you a chance to stay on top of all that is happening in the industry. Plus, it allows you to grow your network within the IT community, leading to future opportunities.

Despite not working directly with technology or coding, you’ll have to have at least the basic foundations of the tech concepts nailed down, simply because you need to be able to confidently hold a conversation with IT companies and potential clients.

As with any recruitment role, a big part of the job is representing the client company and making sure that the people you choose have a well-matching personality, skills and experience.

You also need to be very comfortable with a high level of communication, both in terms of people skills but also being able to grasp and use technical language confidently. But don’t worry - IT recruitment agencies always provide training in this and don’t expect that you come in with a prior knowledge of IT concepts and key terms. It is a bonus if you have a basic understanding or even some experience working in a technology field, but it is not a mandatory requirement.

So there you have it – 9 rewarding careers in IT that don’t require you to be a techie. If you’re interested but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us – we pride ourselves in successfully matching candidates with IT careers, both techie and non-techie.

 

 

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