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.
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 like:
- 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.
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.
Unlike 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 (like 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.
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 out of 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, unlike 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 likely have what it takes to get your start through sales development.
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.
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 likely 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 like 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 like this:
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.
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!
By Jeremy Schifeling