Startups, tech companies want to pay to train you

These Top Tech Companies Are Hiring First, Training Later

Startups, tech companies want to pay to train you

Madelyn Tavarez doesn’t have a computer science degree. She studied economics in college and interned in finance-related roles before taking a 10-month coding course called Access Code, with C4Q. Now Tavarez works for Pinterest–as an Android engineer.

But first, she started as an apprentice Android engineer.

Despite high demand for tech talent, big-name employers tend to pick their new hires from predictable talent pools in their own backyards. A recent analysis by Paysa found that companies Snap and Apple recruit heavily from Stanford, while Microsoft and Amazon stick to Seattle’s own University of Washington. Not exactly a recipe for a workforce to mirror these firms’ global user bases.

So the odds were high that Tavarez would’ve wound up just another millennial barista with a bachelor’s degree, instead of one of three candidates chosen hundreds for Pinterest’s new apprenticeship program–an approach to training nontraditional tech talent that other businesses, including Airbnb, LinkedIn, and Visa are now testing out.

A Sea Of Potential

Pinterest launched its apprenticeship program in early 2016 to widen the 1,200-person company’s access to self-taught coders, coding bootcamp grads, and others who may not have had the advantage of attending top schools or working at brand-name businesses. According to Pinterest diversity chief Candice Morgan, Tavarez and two others made the cut due to “promise, passion, and a stated interest.”

To get there, Tavarez went through several rounds of interviews, first remotely and then in person.

The latter included a tech screening with a Pinterest staffer present in a mentorship role, allowing Tavarez to show she knew the basics in a lower-pressure environment.

But she also had to go through a full day’s worth of showcasing her knowledge of software architecture, coding, and algorithms, just any other tech hire.

LinkedIn’s “REACH” apprenticeship program is similar.

According to the initiative’s executive sponsor, Mohak Shroff, who also serves as SVP of engineering, applicants had to submit a portfolio software project, then do a take-home technical assignment, followed by in-person interviews.

With more than 700 applicants, Shroff admits narrowing down to 31 apprentices was “agonizing.” This first-ever cohort of 29 started a six-month tenure at LinkedIn in April. The company hasn’t yet announced how many were offered full-time jobs.

Last June, Airbnb started “Airbnb Connect” for its engineering and data science teams.

Apprentices were all people from underrepresented backgrounds who had two to five years’ experience in non-technical fields.

Three apprentices in engineering were sourced, Tavarez, from C4Q, while Galvanize, another tech education company, helped Airbnb recruit for eight additional data-science apprenticeships.

A company called Andela, which launched in 2014, is tackling the apprenticeship idea from a supply side.

It helps connect talented engineers from across Africa with some 100 partner companies Viacom and Gusto, so those firms can build distributed teams.

Much as an in-house apprentice program might, Andela trains its developers extensively over a six-month period before placing them at employers.

Once apprentices are installed in their new positions, the real work begins. At LinkedIn, Shroff says, apprentices generally meet one-on-one with team members at least once a week.

They also have mentors who spend several hours each week either sitting right next to them or nearby.

In addition to dedicated coaching time, Shroff says each apprentice learns casually in team meetings and discussions.

According to Morgan, Pinterest also spends a lot of time in coaching. Each apprentice gets a manager as well as a mentor over the year-long apprenticeship period, which can take up to 50% of engineers’ time–a “big investment” for those mentors, Morgan notes. Mentors are trained separately to help their charges get a sense of belonging inside the company.

Still, Tavarez recalls having impostor syndrome at first. “The typical new graduate has four years of computer science and related internships,” she explains, “I felt so behind in the beginning–everybody’s brilliant.

” Eventually, though, thanks to a very reassuring mentor with 12 years’ experience, Tavarez learned to get over it. “I just had to give myself time,” she says.

“I wasn’t used to being one of the people who didn’t know everything.”

An apprenticeship program at Visa operates a bit differently, according to global employer brand communications director Stephanie Matthews, but is no less labor intensive. It starts earlier, drawing candidates from high school and early college who wouldn’t otherwise have exposure to tech jobs.

In a pilot program with the Springboard Initiative, a tech training organization, 14 student apprentices spend time in the Visa University Learning Labs and shadowing programs. Each one gets managers, teams, and a “buddy” to help them.

Additionally, Visa’s HR team meets monthly with each apprentice, their manager, and a Springboard staffer to discuss performance.

A Worthy Investment On Multiple Fronts

If there’s any resistance on staff to such apprenticeship programs or grumblings about preferential treatment, none of these program directors are aware of it. In fact, says Shroff, the reaction at LinkedIn has been positive.

“This is not an undue investment,” he explains, especially since early-career hires always take extensive on-boarding no matter what; usually it takes six months to get them up to peak productivity, he estimates.

In fact, Shroff says he’s surprised at how quickly LinkedIn’s REACH apprentices have gotten up to speed and begun succeeding, through the sheer force of “massive potential, grit, and determination.

” This energy has allowed some of them to surpass peers from traditional backgrounds and prompted several team leaders to request “more of that,” he says.

Meetesh Karia, CTO at the Zebra, an Andela partner, says that over their year-long partnership the Africa-based engineers have helped the Zebra gain a competitive edge, thanks to their high-quality work, energy, and enthusiasm. “The Andela team has raised the bar for passion for our Austin-based team,” says Karia.

Shroff also points out that the apprenticeship program has helped LinkedIn rethink what the “typical” candidate should look and what it takes to succeed.

For her part, Morgan believes Pinterest apprentices’ nontraditional backgrounds have helped them approach design and user experience a different way.

Morgan credits Tavarez’s economics degree, for instance, for helping her optimize decisions with limited resources.

All three of Pinterest’s first apprenticeship cohorts are now employed full-time, and six more are apprenticing with the company right now. Shroff says that of the 31 apprentices LinkedIn offered jobs to, 29 accepted. Visa has also made full-time hires from its apprentice cohort.

But while programs these seem promising tools for companies looking to diversify their workforces, it takes care and an eye toward inclusion.

Tavarez says that she and the two others in her group at Pinterest all relocated from the East Coast, and didn’t have built-in support networks in the Bay Area.

Shroff says LinkedIn worked hard to encourage its apprentices to network, not just to learn but also to advance their careers.

Christina Sass, Andela’s cofounder and president, believes the apprenticeship model is key to economic growth. “America’s lack of technical talent will be the greatest challenge facing the tech industry over the next decade,” she says. Indeed, Code.

org estimates that one million computing jobs will go unfilled by 2020, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and college graduation rates from the National Science Foundation.

“Without enough engineers,” Sass argues, “American companies are unable to grow and unable to create more jobs.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of the story said that LinkedIn hired all 31 apprentices. They have not disclosed how many were hired full-time yet.

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5 Tech Company Jobs That Don’t Require Coding

Startups, tech companies want to pay to train you

Tech companies routinely grace lists of the best places to work…which is great if you already work at one of these firms.

But if you’re on the outside of the tech world looking in, you might start to wonder whether there’s a spot for you in there—especially if you don’t have a background in computer or data science.

As a non-coder who’s spent 10 years in the tech world, I’m thrilled to let you in on a little secret: Not only are there non-coding jobs available at tech companies, but they actually make up the majority of all jobs in this industry!

To jumpstart your own tech career exploration, here’s a crash course on five roles inside tech companies that don’t require any technical expertise—plus advice on how to take your first step into the tech world.

1. Tech Recruiting

One of the great things about the tech industry is that it’s growing fast. Every day, thousands of new job descriptions get posted from Silicon Alley to Silicon Valley (and everywhere in between).

In order to power this growth, the tech industry needs an army of talent scouts to go out and find great employees. That’s where tech recruiters come in: They scour the internet for great talent, conduct phone screens with top prospects, and then seek to persuade the ideal candidate to sign on the dotted line.

Clearly this role requires a unique blend of research and interpersonal skills. For example, in the span of a couple hours, you could be meeting with a hiring manager to understand their needs, cold emailing dozens of prospects who match those needs, and then negotiating with a star candidate over salary and stock options.

What makes recruiting in the tech industry unique is that the roles you’ll seek to fill are always changing. You may find yourself going after growth hackers, blockchain developers, or self-driving test leads—all jobs that didn’t exist a decade ago.

So if you’re game to meet and win over amazing people—even if they do work that the rest of the world is still struggling to understand—be sure to consider this path into tech.

Find Tech Recruiting Jobs

2. Product Marketing

Once a tech team starts to come together, the natural next question is: “What should we build?” Since developing innovative products is at the core of the tech industry, companies are always trying to come up with great new ideas.

To lead this investigation, tech firms employ a special kind of marketing whiz—the product marketer.

While product marketers conduct lots of traditional marketing activities, including developing ads, their most important function comes earlier in the product development process. Because that’s when they go out to their audience (anyone from students to CEOs) and try to learn everything they can, asking questions :

  • What’s your biggest goal?
  • What’s your most daunting challenge?
  • What would help you overcome that challenge and reach your goal?

They share that information with their counterparts in product management—the more technical role that actually leads the development of new products. The goal for everyone is to start working on the next iPhone or Tesla, rather than the next Fire Phone or Juicero—in other words, to make a product that customers actually want to buy!

So if you’re a great observer of human behavior, an incredible influencer of teammates, and an all-around strong marketer, product marketing just might be your way into the tech world.

Find Product Marketing Jobs

3. Business Development

While learning about your audience is a great start to launching a successful product, it may not be enough to guarantee a big hit. You may need to join forces with other organizations to deliver the best possible experience for your customers. That’s where business development comes in.

Un a traditional salesperson who’s focused on selling, a tech business development pro is all about building a partnership. Take one of the most legendary deals in tech history as an example:

When Apple was developing the iPhone, traditional cell phone carriers imposed onerous restrictions on innovation. For example, you had to call a special number and enter your password just to listen to your voicemail.

But Apple also realized that Cingular (now AT&T) needed something unique to stand out from the carrier competition.

So the two companies established a business development partnership working together to roll out unique features ( Visual Voicemail) in exchange for Cingular getting exclusive access to the iPhone for the first four years. (Full disclosure: Both Apple and AT&T are clients of The Muse.)

What makes this such a classic business development deal is that it was all about finding what each company could bring to the table that would make them both stronger.

If you’re the kind of person who loves to build new relationships, explore partnerships, and negotiate mutually valuable deals, business development could be the right fit for you.

Find Business Development Jobs

4. Sales Development

Another potential pitfall on the road to tech success is the assumption that your product is so good that customers will magically come the woodwork to buy it.

But the reality in the vast majority of cases is that no matter how awesome your product is, you actually need to get out there and sell it. That’s why tech companies often have sales teams that are even larger than their engineering departments!

This means tons of opportunity not only for those with deep sales expertise, but also for people just starting their careers. That’s because, un the roles described above, sales development usually requires little to no prior experience.

Often known as “the tip of the spear” in tech sales, sales development representatives are the fearless hunters who send the first email or make the first phone call to a prospective client.

And while they don’t get the glory of closing these deals (since they often transfer the relationship to an account executive after setting up a demo), they do get invaluable experience talking directly to decision makers in their company’s key target audience.

If they decide to switch roles, they can bring critical insights that would make them a strong fit for product marketing or product management jobs. If they prefer to stay in sales, of course, they’re well-positioned to graduate into account executive roles.

So if you’ve got the courage to pick up the phone and make a cold call, ask great questions, listen carefully, and push hard for results, you ly have what it takes to get your start through sales development.

Find Sales Development Jobs

5. Customer Success

So now our tech company has successfully grown its team, built a product that people want, and sold it to the world. What more could be left to do? Only the most important thing in the tech industry today: Keep customers subscribing.

We’re now fully in a Software as a Service (SaaS) world. Gone are the days when Microsoft would sell you a new copy of Office in a box every five years. Instead, Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Salesforce, and most other software companies sell their wares on a subscription basis.

This development is great for cash flow since it means happy customers keep paying each and every month. But it also means that unhappy customers can walk away at any moment.

That’s why the customer success team was created. Focused on understanding new customers’ goals, project managing their software rollout, and then proactively reaching out to head off potential issues, customer success managers are all about keeping customers happy—and paying.

And just to be clear, this is not customer service—the reactive team that responds to incoming questions and issues. Instead, customer success is all about taking initiative and driving results.

So if you’re the kind of person who loves understanding others’ goals, providing world-class training to adult learners, and project managing complex rollouts across large organizations, customer success may be your cup of tech tea.

Find Customer Success Jobs

How to Get Started

By now, it should be clear: Great tech careers aren’t limited just to coders and data scientists. This industry really is wide open to people with all sorts of talents and experience.

So if you’ve been a marketer, chances are you can be a tech marketer. If you’ve recruited top talent, you can ly do the same in the tech industry. And even if you haven’t taken on one of these roles in a different industry before, you can position your past experiences and showcase your transferable skills to make the case that you belong.

If you’ve been dreaming about working for one of those tech companies on the “Best Places to Work” lists, check out these roles, find the one that matches your talents and interests, and go out there and get it.

To get started, I highly recommend reaching out to people doing these jobs today. A few solid informational interviews will help you discover what these jobs look at specific companies so you can make sure there’s a good fit before you take the plunge. They’ll also get you connected with insiders who can potentially serve as references and guides during the interview process.

Stumped on how to find people to reach out to? Check out my curated LinkedIn searches for tech professionals working in each of these fields:

Then craft a message that makes it clear you’re looking to learn from their expertise—not just trying to get a job. Your note could look something this:

Hi [Name],

I was thrilled to come across your profile because, as someone considering a career in [role, i.e. product marketing], I’m eager to learn more about the role at [Company].

Any chance you're free for a 15-minute chat next week? I’d love to learn from your experience and see if I'm headed in the right direction.


[Your Name]

Enjoy your conversations and make sure you ask good questions. By the time you’ve had a few chats, you’ll be one step closer to pivoting—or making a full-on career change—to join this exciting world!


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