We all know that the tech industry is where the majority of our jobs are heading, but how do you make a leap into an industry without any prior experience? While it might seem daunting, forging a sparkly new career in tech despite having spent the majority of your professional life to date in an entirely different field is within your grasp. Just ask Crystal Martin.
After studying Nutritional Sciences at college and training to become a teacher, Crystal realised that she wanted to find a profession that married up her interest in science with her creative side. Suspecting that something within the tech sphere might meet her unique requirements, Crystal was introduced to CoderGirl, a LaunchCode educational program designed to help more women in St Louis, Missouri, enter the field of tech.
“I got involved in the tech scene in a funny, weird way,” Crystal recalls. “Through that program, I started learning to code. Once I learned about all the opportunities at LaunchCode, I thought, ‘I want to give my time to this organisation for free, how awesome would it be to work there!’”
Now, two years later, Crystal is the CoderGirl program director. Following a year-long program, previous CoderGirl graduates have gone on to enjoy careers as software developers, web designers and developers, data and business analysts, data scientists and more despite having little or no prior tech experience. Unsurprisingly, there is more demand for the course than the non-profit can cater for (there were more than 800 applicants for 150 places this month), which says much of our collective appetite for the cyber sector.
“Just try it,” Crystal urges anyone considering dipping their toe in tech. “You never know what you’re good at or what you may love until you try it. If you’re interested in something, you owe yourself a chance to explore it.”
This sentiment is mirrored by Sce Pike, a seasoned entrepreneur turned data scientist. Despite majoring in fine arts and anthropology at college, Sce’s career began as a web designer before founding Citizen, a Portland, Oregon, company that initially served to improve the user experiences of smartphone companies. While Citizen was a success, Sce’s focus shifted onto “the next thing in technology” and landed on the Quantified Self movement – or what she dubs ‘The Internet of You’ – which essentially describes the act of individuals tracking their own biometric data.
“I found this new area of technology fascinating, the fact that we can collect so much data because of the little computers and sensors we carried in our pockets,” says Sce, who began offering Citizen employees the opportunity to track (and offer up) their sleep, diet and exercise patterns in order for her to create a happier and healthier company.
Did she ever envisage when she was studying art that a career in data science was a viable career option? “Honestly, I just happened upon it by following my passions and relentlessly pursuing the things I loved and was good at,” Sce admits. “Everything going forward will be about data,” she continues. “Data is the matter of preemptively choosing to collect information and analyse that information into something meaningful and then telling a story about it. In any profession, this can be done. If it’s something someone is passionate about they need to make the choice to take the leap and do the work. It’s not easy work but it’s definitely interesting, especially if you can weave a story around it.”