There are several factors that make tech startups the most exciting companies on the planet right now:
- Dramatically reduced cost of starting one, due to cloud computing.
- Penetration of software into every corner of every industry.
- Borderlessness. Instant, global reach.
- Near-infinite scalability.
- An explosion of venture capital and crowd-funding.
Tech startups are popping up to solve problems in every corner of life, doing things you’ve probably never even thought about. Career Hackers is a monthly customer of so many different software tools, most created by companies that didn’t exist ten years ago.
While each company and product is unique, the startup ecosystem shares common traits, and work experience in any tech startup is a massive advantage to your career, especially early on. The kinds of skills, mindsets, and networks you build are more valuable than anything you can learn in school or what you gain in an older firm that’s beyond the scrappy, high-growth phase.
The world is changing, and the best and brightest are “breaking smart” to take advantage. Getting real-world experience at a tech startup is one of the best ways to orient yourself to the opportunities emerging.
But what if I don’t know how to code?
That’s the best part. Tech startups aren’t just for techies. If you want to learn to code, go for it. But if you’re not wired that way, don’t worry. Opportunity at tech startups abounds, even for the non-technical. In fact, many tech startups have a larger number of non-tech employees than developers.
No matter how awesome the product, someone needs to build a sales and marketing system to get the product in front of the right audiences. Someone needs to interact with customers who also aren’t tech-savvy and help them out. Someone needs to design graphics, write blog posts, manage social media accounts. Someone has to do operations—manage payroll, accounting, event planning, and on-boarding of new employees. The number of problems to be solved are too many to list, and many of those have nothing to do with writing code.
These are highly transferable experiences and skills. Sales, for example, is probably the single most important soft skill in the world. It requires good written and verbal communication, emotional intelligence, confidence, persistence, creativity, and willingness to fail. Those traits are in demand everywhere, and they are a must for anyone who wants to start their own company or become a freelancer.
That’s the kind of stuff you gain working in a non-tech role at a tech startup. You have to. They can’t afford for you to be sitting around memorizing rules.
There’s no major for this
If you want to get into the world of tech startups as a non-tech person, there’s no college major, certification, or course that will do it for you.
The best way is to get experience as soon as possible.
Come in as an entry-level employee. Be eager to learn and take on the grunt-work. Soak it up, go above and beyond, observe, ask questions, do all the little things you do know how to do (even taking out the garbage if it needs to be done!) while you learn the things you don’t know yet.
Those who avoid tech companies for fear of not being technical enough will miss out as software-powered solutions proliferate. Those who know how to apply some of the most fundamental human soft skills to the world of tech will have no shortage of opportunity.
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