January 13, 2016

No Tech Experience Required

My name is Aklil, a POCIT and associate on the Corporate Development & Strategy team at a tech company in Silicon Valley. I’m very lucky to be on a small team that supports senior executives on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) initiatives, from product strategy inception to company landscaping, deal execution, and post-acquisition integration; the other half of my job is helping advise senior executives on strategic initiatives. I was previously an investment banking analyst at a bulge bracket investment bank, where I helped advise private and public companies on a variety of different equity, debt and M&A transactions. Graduate of Santa Clara University. Go Broncos!

Now, if you’re still reading at this point (props) and none of that made sense to you, no worries! It’s sort of why I’m writing this piece. All any of that means as it relates to this article is that I majored in finance and NOT computer science. I have no background in computer science (except for my nerdy older brother who’s a software engineer). What I’m trying to say is that you DON’T have to be technical if you want to get a job in tech and there are a number of ways you can do it. Here are a few ways I found observing along the way (not exhaustive) that I thought would be helpful for college folks:

  1. Land a job in a non-technical role at a tech company. Ah yes, the obvious answer…for some. There seems to be this pervasive attitude for folks outside of the tech bubble (cheap double entendre unintended) that one must be technical, or “speak the lingo” to work at a tech company. I’m here to tell you that it is absolutely not true. Let me quickly caveat by saying yes, you will need to (or should) have a basic understanding of what the company does (like in any other job), how the company makes money, have “strong interpersonal written and verbal communication skills,” and all the other common checkboxes. But by no means do you need to know C++, Java, iOS, Android, Python, etc. to get a job in tech. Think of tech companies like a lemonade stand, or any other clichéd example of a business. You need a little bit of manpower for a little piece of every part of the operation and being an engineer is just one (albeit large) part of the whole operation at a tech company. A couple examples of these types of non-technical roles you should check out are (depending on the company and what you studied in college) in Sales, Human Resources, Marketing, Administration, Finance, Accounting and more.
  2. Land a job(s) in professional services (investment banking or management consulting, etc.) or investment funds (venture capital, private equity, etc.) and leverage skill set to get into tech. There are a number of tech companies out there, big and small, that are constantly looking for the best and brightest finance professionals who are ready to loosen their ties, slip into a Patagonia vest and Clarks, and apply their skill set to an impactful, analytical group at a tech company. Now, it isn’t easy but typically, after 2 years of investment banking, management consulting, venture capital, private equity, etc., you’ve developed a solid enough analytical skill set that can be leveraged in other capacities at tech companies. A couple examples of these roles would be (again, depending on the company and what you studied in college) Corporate Development (like me!), Business Operations (“BizOps”), Product Strategy, Strategic Finance, Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) and more.
  3. Know someone who currently works at a tech company and have them refer you. A sometimes little-known fact outside of tech is that there are some pretty serious incentives for employees to refer their intelligent, hardworking friends to come work at large and small tech companies. Most of the big names and generally across the Valley, companies offer large, hire-based incentive programs if an employee refers a good potential candidate to the right group, and there is always a demand for good, potentially under-the-radar talent. Why? Good talent is hard to find, companies trust their own employees, and there are so many incentives for companies to have referral programs! So if you’re sharp, but maybe your background doesn’t quite align and think you have what it takes, take a shot and ask one of your trusted friends in tech who think highly of you to refer you!

Hope you were able to get something out of that! Hit me up on LinkedIn if you have questions!

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Aklil Ibssa

Aklil Ibssa is an Associate in Corporate Development in Linkedin. ‌He is intellectually curious tech enthusiast with experience in corporate development, strategy, and execution. His biggest passion is investing in people.

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