Nontraditional backgrounds don’t preclude success in the tech industry.
This was the case for ANU Consulting Founder Veronica White, a former project manager. Following her time in high school, White pursued higher learning. However, her educational route was cut short in September 2006 after she became pregnant with her daughter following just one semester of school.
Life was not easy, especially being a single mother, she says. White started doing various jobs including customer service roles for a decade.
“It was very entry-level work, and it was hard,” White, 33, told AfroTech.
White would eventually scale into a business analyst role and later land a team leadership position at DaVita Kidney Care after moving to Hawaii. This marked her entrée into project management.
“I got kind of my first introduction into what project management was and what that looks like,” White said.
She was nudged to pursue project management as a career path by her aunt, who was a software engineer and understood how the tech space could be a gateway toward financial freedom.
“She was in tech, and she knew I was having a hard time and I hadn’t gotten into medical school, and I wasn’t making any money barely,” White explained. “So, she was the one who said, ‘Hey, this is something that fits your natural skill set and it’s lucrative.’ She told me out the gate they make good money, so I felt comfortable because I trusted her, but also because I was so unhappy with where I was.”
White used a $2,000 loan from her sister to take a two-week project management course titled, “Project Management Professional.” She quit a position paying $17 per hour to do so and became certified in January 2021.
Three months later, White landed a six-figure role as a senior research develop project manager.
“My life is changed,” White expressed in an interview with podcast “Tech Is The New Black.”
She later transitioned to another tech company earning a salary of $163,000 with a $13,000 sign-on bonus as a senior project manager.
Today, she runs her own business full-time.
White’s story shows that you can come from industries outside of tech and still create your own lane — and be successful!
Finding your footing doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. The journey ahead may just be at the tip of your fingerprints, and you simply need some direction to reach your destination.
AfroTech has compiled a list of tips to help those who come from nontraditional backgrounds veer into tech.
Look into certifications you can gain to perform a skill in tech. A degree in technology could take years to acquire while some certifications can be completed in as little as a few weeks.
You will need to pass an exam to obtain a certification showcasing competency in an area of technology.
While learning new skills should not be neglected, you can also tap into your current strengths. There are transferable skills that could be applicable to tech roles such as teamwork, relationship building, prioritization, and responsiveness, to name a few.
“The other part is really understanding the current skills that you have because a lot of people are afraid to transition into these types of roles because they feel as though they don’t know the landscape of tech,” White said. “So really look at the skill sets that you have already from your experience. Are you naturally organized? Are you a good communicator? Do you already know how to lead? Those types of things.”
You Don't Have To Work At A Tech Company To Be In Tech
While you develop skills, also note you don’t have to work at a tech company to be in tech. You’ll find certain skills transfer across industries. For White, she was employed with a healthcare company while earning $163,000 as a project manager.
“I was working for a healthcare company doing tech there,” White explained. “I was a project manager. So you don’t have to be at Meta, you don’t have to be at Twitter, you don’t have to be at Amazon to be considered someone who works in tech. I mean the digital transformation age is now, and all of these companies with their antiquated processes and their antiquated ways that they do things have to transition into the digital age, and they need people who have experience that the end user would have.”
Attend Industry Events
Consider attending industry events, locally or in other states. This can be a great way to gain access to entry-level positions at companies.
AfroTech Conference will be held in Austin, Texas, in November 2023, and it has helped some Black professionals such as Alaere Jituboh land jobs. As AfroTech previously told you, she secured a job with GoDaddy on its foundations and digital care team.
“Be open, be curious and let your passions lead you,” Jituboh told AfroTech. “Remember: It’s more about you interviewing them than it is about them interviewing you. So don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and walk away if you feel it’s not a good fit.”