5 transferable higher-education skills

If you're moving from the Ivory Tower to the Matrix, you already have the foundation for success in the developer role.
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Technical documentation doesn't have to be dull


My transition from a higher-education professional into the tech realm was comparable to moving from a pond into an ocean. There was so much to learn, and after learning, there was still so much more to learn!

Rather than going down the rabbit hole and being overwhelmed by what I did not know, in the last two to three months, I have been able to take comfort in the realization that I was not entirely out of my element as a developer. The skills I acquired during my six years as a university professional gave me the foundation to be successful in the developer role.

These skills are transferable in any direction you plan to go within or outside tech, and it's valuable to reflect on how they apply to your new position.

1. Composition and documentation

Higher education is replete with opportunities to develop skills related to composition and communication. In most cases, clear writing and communication are mandatory requirements for university administrative and teaching positions. Although you may not yet be well-versed in deep technical concepts, learning documentation and writing your progress may be two of the strongest skills you bring as a former higher education administrator. All of those "In response to…" emails will finally come in handy when describing the inner workings of a class or leaving succinct comments for other developers to follow what you have implemented.

2. Problem-solving and critical thinking

Whether you've been an adviser who sits with students and painstakingly develops class schedules for graduation or a finance buff who balances government funds, you will not leave critical thinking behind as you transition into a developer role. Although your critical thinking may have seemed specialized for your work, the skill of turning problems into opportunities is not lost when contributing to code. The experience gained while spending long days and nights revising recruitment strategies will be necessary when composing algorithms and creative ways of delivering data. Continue to foster a passion for solving problems, and you will not have any trouble becoming an efficient and skillful developer.

3. Communication

Though it may seem to overlap with writing (above), communication spans verbal and written disciplines. When you're interacting with clients and leadership, you may have a leg up over your peers because of your higher-education experience. Being approachable and understanding how to manage interactions are skills that some software practitioners may not have fostered to an impactful level. Although you will experience days of staring at a screen and banging your head against the keyboard, you can rest well in knowing you can describe technical concepts and interact with a wide range of audiences, from clients to peers.

4. Leadership

Sitting on that panel; planning that event; leading that workshop. All of those experiences provide you with the grounding to plan and lead smaller projects as a new developer. Leadership is not limited to heading up large and small teams; its essence lies in taking initiative. This can be volunteering to do research on a new feature or do more extensive unit tests for your code. However you use it, your foundation as an educator will allow you to go further in technology development and maintenance.

5. Research

You can Google with the best of them. Being able to clearly truncate your query into the idea you are searching for is characteristic of a higher-education professional. Most administrator or educator jobs focus on solving problems in a defined process for qualitative, quantitative, or mixed results; therefore, cultivating your scientific mind is valuable when providing software solutions. Your research skills also open opportunities for branching into data science and machine learning.

Bonus: Collaboration

Being able to reach across various offices and fields for event planning and program implementation fit well within team collaboration—both within your new team and across development teams. This may leak into the project management realm, but being able to plan and divide work between teams and establish accountability will allow you as a new developer to understand the software development lifecycle process a little more intimately because of your past related experience.


As a developer jumping head-first into technology after years of walking students through the process of navigating higher education, imposter syndrome has been a constant fear since moving into technology. However, I have been able to take heart in knowing my experience as an educator and an administrator has not gone in vain. If you are like me, be encouraged in knowing that these transferable skills, some of which fall into the soft-skills and other categories, will continue to benefit you as a developer and a professional.

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Stephon currently serves as a Developer Consultant. He spends days with his family practicing Tae Kwon Do, tinkering with new technologies, and researching topics to write about.


Great topic and the real challenge here is to incorporate those skills to higher education. Working with Open Source Software communities as a volunteer helps cultivare most of those skills given that you own your contribution's responsibility.

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