What is important with the water cooler?
If all of these “Days in the Life of a Googler” TikTok has convinced you to take the leap into big tech, just know you’re not alone~. The tech industry attracts millions of applicants each year, and with good reason. With perks ranging from gym access to free lunches, whopping salaries, and opportunities for advancement, Tech really knows how to dodge a potentially great career opportunity.
But the application process is known for being particularly competitive, and getting your foot in the door isn’t easy – especially if you’re applying without a strong technical background. Don’t despair though, because as always we’ve got some great tips from people who’ve landed jobs at companies like Google and Spotify, so read on!
After earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration, Yasmeen Afifi worked in a few marketing-related positions before applying to Spotify’s AMP program, the rotation program for aspiring marketers. She now works in the Experiential Marketing team at Spotify.
The opportunity for Ashley Edwards to work as a US Partnerships Manager at Google News Lab arose after a long career in journalism that included senior positions at publications such as the New York Daily News, Mic and Refinery29.
Both Afifi and Edwards credit a wide range of transferrable skills — rather than specific technical skills — as key to attaining their current positions.
“I have no technical background at all. I don’t know how to code. I’ve never taken any programming course. [Google] really values people from all different professional backgrounds,” Edwards told Sidekick. She has entered her new industry with research, organizational and data analysis skills acquired elsewhere, all of which come into play in her current role.
Afifi also has no technical degree or background and cites her transferrable skills as project management, stakeholder communication, organization, people management and the ability to build and develop relationships. She says those strengths helped her get the job and succeed at Spotify.
As you begin the application process, Afifi and Edwards recommend looking for non-technical positions open at large technology companies in areas such as communications, marketing, and social impact.
Use the opportunities available to you
Researching what initiatives and programs different companies have developed to attract and retain a diverse range of talent is a great way to learn about technology companies.
For example, both Google and Spotify have a range of programs to mentor people from underrepresented groups and to attract job seekers with unique backgrounds and skills.
To get a closer look at what these programs look like, Sidekick spoke to Rachelle Olden, a senior marketing executive working on Google’s upcoming Tech Equity Collective initiative. Google created the program after the killing of George Floyd, and its mission is to “accelerate black representation and genius in the tech industry.” The collective works with industry partners and other technology-focused organizations to connect with Black-identified, tech-savvy individuals.
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Spotify is also working to bring underrepresented and emerging talent to the company, Lashanti Jenkins, global head of campus and diversity recruiting, told Sidekick. For example, the team’s Tech Fellowship is an intensive 18-week program that helps aspiring software developers gain the skills and experience they need to secure a full-time job. Spotify also offers rotation programs, a global summer internship program and more – all designed for people from different backgrounds and at different stages of their careers.
“When you start to think outside the box, when we start bringing in individuals who have evolved [their] skills from another channel, [those individuals are] will bring the difference to the table. You’ll look at projects differently,” Jenkins said. “So when we bring those two differences together, it organically breeds creativity and innovation and really helps us to evolve and push the needle.”
Olden agrees that Google’s efforts to diversify its workforce are having a bigger impact across the tech industry.
“Tech Equity Collective benefits not only Google, but the entire tech industry. And it benefits other tech companies,” she told Sidekick. “If Black people bring genius and innovation, companies like Google [get] some of the broadest, most brilliant ideas.”
Networking can also be a helpful tool (but make sure you do it right!) as many big techs get multiple coffee chat requests a day and need to use their time wisely.
Edwards explained: “Just be polite and come up with specific questions. Don’t just say, “Hey, help me get a job here.” [Be] rather, ‘What did you do to get a job here?’” Simply put, his person. Afifi also recommends doing plenty of research and asking interesting questions to get the other person’s attention when you meet.
Knowing how to market yourself and your skills is another important step when entering a new industry. Don’t do what Afifi regularly sees, which is applicants downplaying the skills they already have. Instead of focusing on the skills you have Not think about how your skills from your current job can be transferred to your dream role in big tech.
“I think candidates should really base themselves on their transferrable skills,” Afifi said. “You could be a server, you could be a lawyer, you could be anything, [but] You must rely on the transferrable skills included in this job description. [and explain] how these skills translate to the job you are aiming for, as there will always be some overlap. And there’s always a way to market yourself for that role.”
Finally, get creative. Life doesn’t have a template, and neither should your resume. Letting your personality and creativity shine through can help you stand out in a sea of hopeful applicants. – MW