Several years ago, I applied for a marketing job at a tech company. I got called back for the phone screening and had a delightful conversation with the recruiter. The next day, I got an email from the recruiter saying that I was not “technical” enough to move forward to the next round of interviews. I was shocked.
I had always been the one my colleagues would call on for technical help and feedback. Understanding and using technology came naturally to me. By that point in my career, I had become even more proficient and technical within my specialty. So how could the recruiter think that I am not “technical”?
I wrote a letter to the recruiter explaining why the hiring manager should not dismiss me just yet. Sure, I did not have experience in the tech industry (I had always worked for companies in consumer goods and retail), but isn’t every company a software company these days? I also wanted to alleviate any concerns about my lack of coding abilities. Between managing website migrations, blog redesigns, product merchandising, and fixing that annoying indent on a particularly finicky landing page, I felt that I had that “in the weeds” troubleshooting practice similar to that of a programmer.
The letter convinced the hiring manager to bring me in for an interview. I was so happy that they would get the chance to meet me in person.
How to break free from harmful labels
I recently read Correspondent Dawn Parzych’s series about freeing us from the labels of "technical" and "non-technical" roles in the tech industry. I realized that I had not been alone in feeling undervalued for a non-traditional set of technical skills.
In her first article, she tells us why these labels are harmful and she gives three tips for moving away from them:
- Find alternative words
- Embrace a growth mindset
- Recognize everyone's contributions
Next, Dawn provides examples of non-engineering jobs, including technical writer, product manager, data analyst, and developer relations. There are plenty of other roles that fit this category, like project manager, community manager, product marketer, editor (me!), recruiter, and more. Remember, if you work in the tech industry, you are technical.
Dawn closes out her series with four key pieces of advice from industry leaders for those who have been mislabeled as "non-technical":
- Be yourself
- Know your worth
- Find where you can add value and help people
- Diversity of thought leads to success
Ultimately, that marketing job did not work out, and it is for the best because I may not be where I am today without that experience. I do not regret making a case for a “non-technical” person to get a fair shot at a “technical” job, but it took me a while to gain my confidence back. I hope that others will take the advice and guidance from Dawn’s series to see that they are technical and have valuable skills needed in this industry.