How To Land a Tech Job (Even if You Can’t Code), with Albert Qian

Listen On:

Transcript

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List. Our show is brought to you by Mac’s List and by our book, Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond. To learn more about the book and the updated edition that we’re publishing in February, visit macslist.org/eBook.

Thanks for joining us today. When you hear the phrase “technology sector” you probably think about multi-million dollar companies like Google, Apple, or Amazon. You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley or Seattle to work in tech.

It’s no wonder many people move to these places to work for technology companies, however. This sector grows faster than the rest of the economy and the jobs pay above average salaries, but there are opportunities across the globe, not just California or Washington state.

It’s a field not just for startup founders, engineers, or coders. This week on Find Your Dream Job, we’re talking about tech jobs. Ben Forstag has an online site you can use to find the highest paying jobs in the sector. Cecilia Bianco has answers for what you need to do when any employer googles you. Finally, I’ll talk to an engineer who helps people find tech jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

First, though, let’s start as we do every week by checking with the Mac’s List team. Ben, Cecilia, how are you two doing?

Ben Forstag:

I’m doing great.

Cecilia Bianco:

Doing really good, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Good. It’s great to have you both here in the studio. Now, tech jobs. Before you all came here, did either one of you work in the technology sector?

Cecilia Bianco:

Yeah. I actually had an internship at a startup in college. It was called NOUO and it was a database for everything going on at the university restaurants, bars, and what to do on the weekend. It was an interesting experience.

Ben Forstag:

When I was in college, I was an intern at Compuware in Detroit. They are a software services company. I was in the marketing department so I wouldn’t call it a tech job per se but it was where I first learned how to use HTML which has been a great skill for me.

Mac Prichard:

I have not worked in the tech sector. I had the good fortune, way back in the early 80s when IBM first introduced their PC’s, to work at a non-profit that actually bought them. That was, in those days, bleeding edge technology. I learned all about floppy disks and Wordstar 3.0.

Speaking of discovery, let’s turn to Ben who’s out there every week looking for resources that you, or listeners, can use. Ben, what have you learned for us this week related to technology?

Ben Forstag:

Mac, since today we’re talking about technology I wanted to share two different blogs that I found, specifically blog posts, around technology. The first one comes from Glassdoor.com which is a resource we talked about last week. This comes from their blog which is around all kinds of workforce issues. This blog is the 25 highest paying jobs in demand. It’s a list of the highest paying jobs that there’s a huge demand for, as you would guess.

The key takeaway of this job post is that almost half of the jobs listed were in the tech sector. I wrote out the top tech jobs. They are software architect, software development manager, solutions architect, analytics manager, IT manager, data scientist, security engineer, hardware engineer, database administrator, and software engineer. I don’t know what most of the jobs do, I’ll admit, but these are all jobs where the average salary is well over $100,000 a year.

There’s clearly a lot of money and opportunity in the tech sector. Thirty years ago our parents or grandparents might have been urging us to go and be doctors or lawyers because they thought that’s where we were going to make a lot of money and take care of them in their old age. Nowadays, parents are probably urging their kids to go off to Silicon Valley and become software engineers and analytics managers because that’s where all the money’s at.

Mac Prichard:

That’s an impressive list. I know we’ll include that in the show notes, too.

Ben Forstag:

I’ll include this specific URL to this blog post in the show notes.

The key, I think, here is knowing the coding languages that are most in demand, if you want to get into the tech sector. I did a little bit of googling and what I found were the most in demand languages were SQL, Java, JavaScript, C#, C++, Python, Ruby on Rails, and iOS Swift.

Cecilia, I saw you shaking your head when I read that list. Do you know any of these coding languages?

Cecilia Bianco:

(laughs) No, I don’t. I did recently discovered that Mac’s List runs on SQL. While I have no idea how to run it or anything about it, I know what it’s called.

Ben Forstag:

You know we’ve got it. How about you, Mac?

Mac Prichard:

I’m doomed because I don’t recognize any of these languages. I have some Spanish but I don’t think that’s going to cut it.

Ben Forstag:

Ten years ago, I thought I was really advanced because I know HTML. No, I don’t know any of these either so I’m doomed as well.

Here’s the good news for all of us in this room and all of our listeners, you can learn almost all of these languages online, in your home, in your pajamas, and often for free, which brings me to my next blog resource for the week, which is a blog post on a website called hongkiat.com. That’s H-O-N-G-K-I-A-T .com. (I don’t know where these names come from!)

The blog is the top 10 websites to learn coding, interactively, online. There are a lot of different websites out there where you can take courses, where you can learn just about any one of these languages, and other tech skills. Some of these websites you may have heard of before, Code Academy, Codetree, Treehouse, or Khan Academy. Khan Academy, I know, has been making the news a lot recently because they teach just about any subject you want to learn.

The really cool thing about this is most of these sites offer at least some free training. You can scale up and pay for extras, but the baseline on most of them is free. The one reason I really like this hongkiat.com blog post is it gives a good summary of what each site teaches in terms of what languages you can learn, price point of what you can get for free and what you have to pay for, the teaching methodology, and the difficulty level for each online course. They have a matrix at the bottom of the blog post that displays all this information in a really easy and intuitive way. I would suggest you check out this blog post. It’s, again, the top 10 websites to learn coding, interactively, online. I will have the URL in our show notes.

Mac Prichard:

Great. I know that our listeners will look forward to seeing that. Thanks, Ben. If you have a suggestion for Ben for a resource you think would be valuable to our listeners, write him. His email address is ben@macslist.org.

Let’s turn to you, our listeners. Cecilia, our community manager, is here to answer one of your questions. Cecilia, what are you hearing, this week, from our listeners?

Cecilia Bianco:

This week our question is, “I have an upcoming interview and I’m curious how I should prepare my online profiles. What are employers looking for when they google my name?”

I think they’re looking for a few different things, but the main reason an employer is googling you is to check your credibility. They want to see what pops up when your name is googled. Are you saying who you say you are? Do your online profiles align with what you’ve said about yourself thus far in your cover letter, resume, and any other correspondence you’ve had with them. Especially if you’re applying for a tech job, this is important because you want to make sure what’s popping up in a google search, that whatever comes up shows your credibility in your field. Are you a part of online tech groups? Online communities that are having conversations around the technology sector? Are you tech savvy and active online in social media, and with tech writing?

Firstly, I think to prepare you should start by googling yourself and seeing what pops up. From there, you can focus on what you need to improve. Mac and Ben, I know I’ve googled my own name before, have you googled yours?

Ben Forstag:

I have. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’ve got a last name that is not very common and it’s probably the case that I know, or am immediately related to, any Forstag out there in the world. If you are a Forstag and you don’t know who I am, please give me a call so we can chat. I have googled myself. I get the usual mish-mash of old posts that I’ve written for Mac’s List, or other websites, my social media profiles, press releases I’ve written for other organizations.

I would like to make one quick addendum to your suggestion, though. When you google yourself, I think it really helps if you’re in blind mode or user mode on your browser because Google remembers a lot of your search history, and that doesn’t show you what everyone else out in the world is looking for or finds when they type in your name. If you use, I think it’s called “Guest Mode” in Chrome, or Blind Mode in other-

Mac Prichard:

I think it might be called Incognito.

Ben Forstag:

Incognito Mode in Chrome. That cleans the slate and shows you what everyone else in the world sees when they google your name. It’s a good way to see what other folks see.

Mac Prichard:

I have googled myself and it is a good practice because you want to see what others will see about you. I made a deliberate effort some years ago to make sure I filled out online profiles for common sites like LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook. Those are the ones that pop up.

Cecilia Bianco:

I saw a lot of the same stuff when I googled myself. Past work, past blog posts, and all my online profiles came up, which I think is a good thing. After you google yourself, you want to figure out where you can improve what’s popping up on Google. The first and most important thing to focus on is LinkedIn because you can get the most value out of an employer looking at your LinkedIn profile and it’s really common to want to see that. If your LinkedIn profile isn’t popping up, what you want to do is change the URL on your LinkedIn profile to include your full name. That way, it’ll make you a little bit more searchable. That’s pretty easy to do. You just hit edit profile and you’ll see it pop up so you can make a change to that long URL.
LinkedIn is very important to make sure that’s popping up. It’s good to have your profile setup and ready to go for an employer to see before you even apply for the job, because they might google you right when they see your resume. You want to be prepared for that. Once LinkedIn’s taken care of, you want to see what other social media accounts of yours are popping up, if they are. You want to make sure you don’t have anything on those accounts that you don’t want an employer to see.

If you’re using Twitter and Facebook, you want to make sure your privacy filters are set to only show things to strangers that you want them to see. They can be great tools to support your credibility because if you’re showing on all your social media platforms that your interests and passions and things you like to talk about are the same in what you’ve said in your job application, that demonstrates that you’re a credible applicant and that they’re going to trust you more. You want to make sure those are all cleaned up before you apply. If you don’t have time to clean them up before applying, just make sure your privacy filters are locked tight with just what you want them to see.

Mac, we’ve talked about this before. I know you’ve googled past job applicants. What were you looking for when you did that?

Mac Prichard:

Two things. One, I wanted to see that track record of accomplishment or experience in the area for the job that they were applying for. I think you’re making a really important point, Cecilia, about the importance of showing rather than telling. People can say that they’re interested in a topic or they have experience in an area, but if you go online and you see that they’ve actually done work and there are examples of that work then that’s very powerful.

The second thing I’m looking for is what clients and colleagues will see when they google that person because if I do higher than candidate, as an employer, they’re going to become part of the time. The image that they’re projecting to the world becomes part of our company’s brand. I want to make sure that that aligns with the values and the mission of our firm.

Cecilia Bianco:

That’s definitely really important. One last tip, the more profiles you’re active on and feel comfortable with an employer seeing, the better. This gives you the most control over what’s going to pop up into the Google search and what they’re going to see when they google you. Overall, the easiest way to control what an employer will see if they google you is to google yourself and then determine where you can improve.

Mac Prichard:

Good. Well, thank you, Cecilia. That’s excellent advice. If you have a question for Cecilia please email her. Her email address is cecilia@macslist.org.
These segments by Ben and Cecilia are sponsored by the 2016 edition of Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond. We’re making the complete Mac’s List guide even better by adding new content and making the book available on multiple eReader platforms. In February of next year, we’ll launch the revised version of the book and you’ll be able to access Land Your Dream Job in Portland and Beyond on Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other digital devices. You’ll also be able to get, for the first time, a paperback edition. Whatever the format, our goal is the same, to give you the tools and tips you need to get meaningful work. For more information, visit macslist.org/eBook and sign up for our eBook newsletter. We’ll be sending you publication updates, share exclusive book content, and provide you with special pre-sale prices.

Let’s turn to our expert guest this week, and that is Albert Qian, who is a high tech digital marketing and product marketing manager. He’s originally from Silicon Valley and he now works in Orange County, California. He’s also the founder of Albert’s List, a Facebook Jobs Community with more than 10,000 members that includes recruiters, hiring managers, job seekers, and more. Through the use of social media, Albert has helped fellow group members find work at companies like eBay, Google, and GoPro. Albert, thanks for joining us.

Albert Qian:

Thank you for having me on, I really appreciate the time.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Let’s talk about tech jobs. When people think about technology they think, “These jobs are in Silicon Valley, they’re for coders, engineers. If you don’t have a degree in electrical engineering you’re out of luck.” What’s been your experience?

Albert Qian:

My experience is that when you look at the entire technology and high tech ecosystem for what’s out there, there’s actually a lot of opportunities available even for people who aren’t engineers. I was out at the Golden State Warriors basketball game on Sunday and I ran into somebody who is a designer, so User Interaction Designing, UI, UX, that kind of thing, which is a really hot field right now in the area of high tech. You have a lot of people who need to design their websites, their web applications, there mobile applications. When I asked her what her background was she said that she was somebody who had gotten a degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis on education. I’ve seen similar stories where people who have psychology backgrounds also get jobs where they’re in project management, PMP roles where they’re working on, and with, engineers on getting a lot of products to market. There’s a lot of different areas.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s pause there for a moment, Albert. I can imagine our listeners thinking, “I’ve picked up my BA in Psychology. How do I make the leap into design work and doing user experience testing?” How do people make that journey?

Albert Qian:

I think the journey is made where you think about a product as just an end user, right? Many of us have smartphones today. We, no doubt, use a bunch of different applications whether it’s on our phone, or on the web, we’re all Facebook users, Twitter users, Uber users, things like that where we’re using all these different apps. The way where we can apply a Humanities degree into a technology job is by applying our very own experience. Obviously, there’s a little bit of knowledge in needing to know how some of this technology works and domain knowledge will always set you apart, but because we’re all the end user of so many different types of technology today, we can always have the power and the ability to share these with the technology teams that we work with, and take those ideas into fruition into a product.

Mac Prichard:

Technology matters but so does human experience and understanding human behavior is always a marketable skill in technology.

Albert Qian:

Right now, you see a lot of technology that’s out there on the market, a lot of prospective users. It takes a keen human eye to be able to look in-between, where you have the ability to use that technology, the solution to be able to really get users to come and user the product and stay using the product.

Mac Prichard:

For people who don’t have psychology degrees, I know there are a lot of other opportunities in technology. Can you talk a little bit about that and the kinds of backgrounds and skills that help people thrive in this sector, outside of engineering.

Albert Qian:

I’ve seen people who have English degrees get jobs where they’re doing things like technical writing, they are marketing specialists where they focus on writing collateral, or doing blogging content for a lot of technology companies that realize that they need to find a way to reach a broader audience. There are folks who can go into technology sales. If you’re able to speak the language and also use your charisma in being able to sell technology products to others, that works as well. There’s everything along the lines of the post-engineering process. Once you create a product, you’ve got to find a way to sell it. Selling the product includes everyone from product marketers, to sales folks, to people who manage social communities, to people who do the accounting/finance stuff in high tech, and really everything in-between.

Mac Prichard:

How do you see people break into that world, Albert? Whether it’s after they’ve graduated or perhaps they’re mid-career and they experience in another field but they want to break into technology. What do people that stand out or are successful at that do?

Albert Qian:

I think understanding the important of a particular domain is important to start out with. I think knowing what and why the technology is important is something that people are always looking for. Even though we live in such a technologically connected world a lot of people are great at using the technology but they don’t understand why the technology is important from a business perspective.

Mac Prichard:

Albert, when we’re talking about the domain, explain that for our listeners?

Albert Qian:

A domain would be a technology area. For example, one that I’ll use is cloud computing…

Mac Prichard:

There’s a lot of opportunity there and it’s important to know the field that you want to focus on. What about training if you want to break into technology, there are code academies out there, online training schools, how helpful can those be to people who want to work as programmers, particularly those who didn’t have that training in college and, maybe, want to make a career switch?

Albert Qian:

I think it’s an interesting way to go about switching from one career into another. I’ve spoken to people who have taken these courses and people who are naturally interested in programming and they see people in these courses … I’ve seen the example where these types of courses can really be beneficial for somebody who is interested in coding. One of my friends from college decided to go and take one of these 12 week boot camp courses. Now, he leads a technical team at a startup out in Santa Barbara. That’s an example of where it is successful. Another one of my friends took one of these courses as well and now she has transitioned from an account management sales role into a product management role for a company out in Boston, Massachusetts.

Have there been successes? Absolutely. I think, on the other hand … I’ve spoken to programmers, as well, who look at this type of audience and they question whether they really get a lot of effective training out of it. On one hand, while you do know how to code, your ability to be creative within this coding knowledge is somewhat limited because you’re working from a very limited perspective where, maybe, understanding coding isn’t necessarily a natural forte of yours. This goes back to the original point where within technology and the technology sector, there is not necessarily a need to just become a programmer and that’s just technology in its whole.

As we’ve discussed throughout this podcast … If you have the skills to be able to write, you can be a marketer, you can be a technical writer. If you’re a person who can talk to people and to a very good job on that, you can be a salesperson. You can be an account executive, you can be a business development individual within any of the companies that work in tech out there. If you have in degree in, say, accounting or finance, you can go work in a money perspective in many of these different companies. You can do very well for yourself. Programming doesn’t have to be the end-all, be-all. However, there are a lot of different resources out there for people who want to pursue that path.

Mac Prichard:

When does it make sense for people to get training in programming? If they want to be a programmer? Can that be an asset if they want to be a project manager or work in marketing or sales or communications in tech?

Albert Qian:

I certainly think that being technical is very helpful, especially in an area where you might interface with a lot of engineers. If you are a web marketing individual and you want to launch a product, being able to talk about the interactive features of a website may help a lot. Being able to talk about how something can be marketed as a product marketer when you’re interfacing with your social media manager who may know how to code can be really helpful once in awhile. A lot of the jobs these days are merging together. Your technical writer may need to know how code works and write about how that works from purely a writing perspective.

Mac Prichard:

Coding can help, and other skills matter a lot, too. If someone is thinking about getting training in coding, and you mentioned your two colleagues that have had a positive experience, what advice do you have for people who are shopping around for either an online course or a boot camp or a code academy? What should they look for?

Albert Qian:

For the boot camps that exist in 8 to 12 week increments, a lot of them have interesting payment plans where either you give them the $15,000 to start and they put your through that process. Or, there are ones that take a portion of your salary when you start. That’s one pricing model that exists out there. Another model out there that exists are the massive open and online courses, the MOOC’s, that exist. You can go to websites like Coursera, or Code Academy, or U-2-me.com and you can pay for anywhere from $30 to $200 to $300 course where you can do self-directive learning on coding. I think when you’re doing the coding learning process, it’s always important to have a project in mind that you’re doing.
If you’re just doing the code to learn how to code, you don’t really get much out of it. If there’s a website that you’d like to make, or a business that you have that you’d like to improve upon and develop a web application, or a mobile application, I believe that’s usually the best way to take and the best course of action to approach with when it comes to learning how to code and gaining technical knowledge.

Mac Prichard:

Have a project that engages you and actually produces a result. Stepping back to shopping for a course, you mentioned 3 different options, and they have 3 different price points, obviously, but are there any warning signs that people should look out for when they’re considering signing up with one of these boot camps or an online course?

Albert Qian:

There’s a lot of financial consideration. For example, there’s a lot of these coding academies that have popped up in the last couple of years that have already seen their doors close. If you’re learning how to code and you go to one of these coding academies that ends up closing after you leave, you may be no better than where you began. I think name recognition counts a little bit. I think understanding the practical outcomes of what you’re learning is also important as well. If you’re going in and you know you want to do front end web development, knowing the right types of languages that you’re going to be taught is a very important first step. That’s one thing as well. Looking at reviews from students who have attended in the past and seeing where they’ve landed and going with that as well.

Mac Prichard:

Look for companies that have a track record, have good reviews, and can talk about their outcomes and how they’ve helped students.

Albert Qian:

It also doesn’t hurt … If you do want to go on Coursera or u2me and you find yourself a $15 course that teaches you how to code, you can’t really lose with that. Having a little bit of extra knowledge never hurts.

Mac Prichard:

Let’s move on. In our earlier conversation before this interview, what struck me was when we were talking about how people find tech jobs, you brought up a lot of techniques that I hear about any job search. One point you made that stuck with me was that networking still matters. Can you talk more about that and how networking can make a difference in getting a tech job?

Albert Qian:

Networking can make a difference because you put yourself in front of a live person. If you email people, they have the option to ignore you. If you call people, they have the option to never return your voice mail. Putting yourself in front of another individual and putting your best foot forward is always a plus. Humans respond very well when they see somebody that impresses them. Going out there and giving out your business cards in a reasonable method, obviously, and immersing yourself in front of a lot of people who speak tech, perhaps even a lot better than you do, is really a great way to start. If you’re in a major metropolitan area around the country, there are quite a few, actually, events one can attend on a bi-monthly basis. They can meet up with people who work in technology.

Mac Prichard:

Ours is a national audience. I know you’re in California, but are there groups that you see that operate across the country that our listeners might want to check out?

Albert Qian:

Yeah. One major one that I’ve gotten to know a little bit here in my time in Orange County is called Workbridge Associates. They host an event in all major cities across the country called Tech In Motion. Tech In Motion is a monthly networking event. Sometimes, they have content, sometimes they don’t. Various technology professionals in technology marketing, people who program, all get together to share insights, exchange business cards, and get to know each other.

I think, just from my understanding, they’ve got people in Seattle, Portland, the Bay Area, LA and Orange County, Chicago, Tampa Bay, New York City, Austin, Texas, and so many more.

Mac Prichard:

Excellent. We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes. We’re coming to the end of our interview, Albert. What else would you like to share with our listeners?

Albert Qian:

I’d like to invite any of your listeners to look at joining Albert’s List. We, are you’ve mentioned, are that marketplace where we bring together job seekers, recruiters, and numerous opportunities. Like what you do with Mac’s List. We have a main California group that you can find under Albert’s Job Listings and Referrals. We also have groups that cover Seattle, Austin, Chicago, and New York City. We invite you to join. You can go to our main Facebook group at bit.ly/findyournextjob. That’s B-I-T . L-Y / find your next job. All one word. You can also visit us online at albertslist.org. We currently just have a signup page for our email list. We send out emails every 2 to 3 weeks which includes everything from an update on the jobs report that the US Labor Department sends out every month to highlights of jobs that have been posted in our group, to upcoming live networking events, mainly available in the San Francisco Bay Area, where you can meet other professionals and get referred, and just get to know the people in your community.

Mac Prichard:

We’ll be sure to include both of those links in the show notes. Albert, thanks so much for joining us this week.

Albert Qian:

Definitely. Thank you, again, for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Great. We’re back with Ben and Cecilia. Now, what did you two thing of the conversation with Albert? What were some of the most important points you heard him make?

Cecilia Bianco:

I really liked what he had to say about applying for a tech job just with experience with human behavior and human experience and what a user experiences on a website. I think that’s good to have in your mind going into an interview at a tech job. I think it can be a lot more valuable than I ever thought it was from what he said.

Mac Prichard:

I think you’re right. Working the technology sector isn’t just about coding. The experiences and values that can serve you in one field, whether it’s marketing, sales, project management, human resources are also valuable in the technology sector. What about you, Ben?

Ben Forstag:

I think Albert went back to one of the golden rules of job searching which is networking and how important it is to network within the field that you’re interested in exploring. I like the way he put it when you show up at a networking event, it’s really hard for people to ignore you. It’s an opportunity for you to present yourself in a positive light in front of people who matter and decision makers at companies.

Mac Prichard:

I agree. It doesn’t matter what the sector might be. Human connection still matters. People always will tend to hire people they know or people that are recommended to them by people they trust.

Well, thank you both, and thank you, our listeners, for listening. We’ll be back next week with more tools and tips you can use to find your dream job. In the meantime, visit us at macslist.org where you can signup for our free newsletter with more than a hundred new jobs every week. If you like what you hear on our show, you can help us by leaving a review and rating at iTunes. This helps others discover our show and helps us help more job seekers. Thanks for listening.

When you hear the phrase “technology sector” you probably think of multi-billion dollar companies like Google, Apple, or Facebook.

But you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to work in tech. There are opportunities across the globe, both in offices and working at home. It is one of the fastest growing labor sectors and the jobs pay above-average salaries.

And it’s not just for startup founders, engineers, or coders. The experiences, skills and values that serve you in one field–whether it’s marketing, sales, communications, HR, or anything else–can be used in the diverse tech field.

This week’s guest is Albert Qian, a high-tech digital marketing and product marketing manager, and founder of the tech-centered job community, Albert’s List. Albert has helped professionals around the country find rewarding work in the technology space. In this episode, he shares tips on how you can make the jump into big tech.

This Week’s Guest

Albert Qian is  the founder of Albert’s List., an tech-centered online community with more than 10,000 members that includes recruiters, hiring managers, job seekers, and more. Through the use of social media, Albert has helped fellow group members find work at companies like eBay, Google, and GoPro.

Resources from this Episode