Need Experiences for Your Next Dream Tech Job? No Problem! | Life In Tech by Bessy Tam

Need Experiences for Your Next Dream Tech Job? No Problem!

Published on 24 September 2019 by Bessy Tam | Filed in Career

Have you ever struggled thinking "I don't know how to get into tech. I don't even have experience in the field, where do I even start?"

No fret! More often than not, we forget that there are a lot of opportunities while we are in our current job or company to gain experiences and skillsets that are relevant to our next role.

For example, as a(n)


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This type of experience is also important when it comes to gaining experience and also feeling challenged in your role.

For me, I find satisfaction in my job not only because of the industry that I'm in or the salary that I earn from it (6-figures by the age of 24), but also the impact we bring, community that we have, and career that we can build.

Working in tech for 6+ years has allowed me to find this satisfaction and feel challenged beyond my role.

By taking advantage of the flexibility, transparency, and autonomy that working in a tech company brings, I’ve also managed to get unique experiences in 7 different areas of work, move abroad, and get access to C-level within the 100K+ people company that I work in.

That’s why today, I wanted to share 5 strategies that you can use to gain relevant experiences for your next career jump:

1. Network with a Purpose

A strategy is to share your goals and passions internally. However, you need to do this with a purpose - both with the right people as well as with the right intention.

First, you can talk to people who have been in your company for 4+ years. These people may know of specific people, projects, and roles you may not have heard of before but could benefit your cause or passion.

For example, when I knew I wanted to move abroad, I talked to my ex-manager who has been in the company for 10+ years and asked him if he knew anyone who worked in the US. This allowed me to gain trust through this 2nd degree connection and get hired abroad.

Secondly, you can search for people who are working on specific projects or fields that you’re interested in learning more about. Companies (even yours!) always have a directory or internal network where you can search for anyone in the company, no matter where they are in the world.

Reach out and set up a 30-minute coffee chat to talk to them and learn more about their experiences. At the same time, share your relevant experiences and skillsets as well so that they can socialize your impact within the company and possibly craft an opportunity to work on a project with them.

2. 20% Projects or Rotations

Google allows employees to devote 20% of their time, or essentially a Friday, to work on “20% Projects.” This was how engineers created Gmail and Google Maps, this was also how I gained experiences in 4 different areas of work across Learning & Development, Marketing, Product Specialization, and Strategy & Operations within my company.

Sometimes, this is also called “time-share” where you share a portion of time within your week with another department or team internally.

Sometimes, this can also be a “rotation” where you work on another team 100% of your work days for 3 months.

These 20% projects are awesome because it allows you to (a) gain tangible skills/experiences in case you wanted to pivot to another career (b) make an impact based on a challenge or problem you see and (c) work on something you really care about.

Get coffees with other teammates in different departments, leading with, "Wow! I saw your project on XYZ and it's super cool! If I set up a time on your calendar for 15minutes to learn more about your personal experiences in this, would you be down?"

Set it up on the calendar and take as many notes as possible. Try to even use some of the informational interview tactics I taught (Video) to learn more about what you should ask.

Make sure to work with your manager and the other team you’re working on the project on to define your work scope. Then socialize your projects with surrounding teams to gain internal support and maximize impact.

3. Start a Side Hustle

39% of working millennials have a side gig according to a CareerBuilder survey. While 7-in-10 of them don’t want to turn it into a full-time gig, side hustles can boost your creativity, technical skills, and leadership experiences - all of which are essential for a successful and happy career. In addition, you can leverage your side hustle to earn extra money on the side.

Side hustle can range from building a product (eg. an app or consumer product) to freelancing (eg. coaching or marketing on Upwork) to working on fun projects (eg. growing a social media page or writing).

Ultimately, a side hustle helps (a) solve a problem in the community and (b) leverage your unique skillsets to serve that need.

For example, I started my site helping people get into non-tech roles in tech just because my friends and acquaintances frequently asked me for advice. This allowed me to challenge myself, dabble into a new field, and stand out amongst other peers on LinkedIn while working in my 9-5 job.

Want to start a side hustle? Find out what you’re uniquely good at, what you’re known for, and what you’re asked a lot about from your friends and coworkers. It’s definitely a plus if this skillset is something you can get paid for!

4. Transition to a New Role

Transitioning to a new role can be one of the most challenging things to do but also an awesome and meaningful way to craft your own career within your company. Almost all tech companies allow employees to change roles internally just because it’s a great strategy for retention.

According to LinkedIn, 56% of employees stay in their current companies because of opportunities to work on a new challenge.

Transition to a new role could mean taking a marketing class to transition into marketing or working on a 20% project to transition from operations to recruiting. The general strategy is to first gain relevant experiences, either through a 20% project, rotation, or freelancing.

Then, network and share your experiences and goals. This way, you can build strong relationships so that when headcount open up, you will be the first to know!

5. Have Fun!

Gaining relevant experiences can also mean just having fun in your current role! Many times, if you’re too worried about your next career jump or role, you’ll lose sight of the impact and creativity you can bring to the projects right in front of you.

You might be facing a decision paralysis because there are such smart people in your company, you are scared of consequences, or you simply don’t know what career to pick. My thought is: trust your gut instinct and do it all! The more you take action on your vision and the more you can get support from others, the more you can craft your own career like a boss.

About the Author

Bessy Tam is a career coach who helps busy professionals get into their dream non-tech job in tech. She’s helped dozens of clients get interviews and offers from companies such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Lyft, Amazon, Babbel, & More. She currently works at Google in Chicago.