How did you break into Edtech?
As we are seeing more applicants move from other backgrounds into Education Technology, we wanted to highlight some of our employees who came from non-tech backgrounds and what their journey looked like breaking into the Education Technology space.
We hope that these stories can help provide some guidance in gaining skills that can help prepare you for the tech space. If you are curious about learning more about the ed-tech space or other resume tips and tricks, please see our blog post about resume-building tips here and 3 Things You Might not Know About Tech Here.
Please read stories from our team members Vicky Huang, Danny Profit Jr., Alicia Quan and Kyle Andrews on how they made the transition into Edtech from other industries.
What’s your position at Informed K12? What are some of the things you work on during your day-to-day?
Vicky - I am a Software Engineer at Informed K12. Day-to-day, I work with my team on building new features for our platform, maintaining our existing features and codebase, monitoring for and resolving bugs, and discussing and improving our engineering practices.
Danny- I am a District Success Manager, and my team is the Ongoing Success team. Our focus is on ensuring our districts achieve their goals and objectives and receives maximum value from our partnership. My day-to-day involves meeting with district staff for strategic planning and executing their success plans and product needs, as well as internal conversations with the District Success team and other teams across the company for being the customer's voice and advocate. I also make space for planning, reflection, and professional development so that I can continue to grow my skills and achieve my targets for success.
Alicia - Product Designer. Talking with people who use our product; collaborative strategy work with our product team and other team members; sketching, prototyping, and refining designs with our users
Kyle - In my role as a Software Engineer, my day-to-day can be varied. I mainly work on delivering features that can help bring ease of use for school districts.
What did you do before you worked in tech (either at Informed K12 or elsewhere)?
Vicky - Prior to working in tech, I worked as a pharmacist.
Danny- My background is in business and program operations and nonprofit management. I've worked in higher education, public schools, and preschool environments. Prior to my role with Informed K12, I worked at a local Y as an operations director for a large preschool and after-school center.
Alicia - I had two main areas of work before tech. More recently, I was a 7th-grade science teacher for five years. Before that, I worked at a program for adults with developmental disabilities for four years. I also freelanced in graphic design on the side over the years.
Kyle -My journey to tech was pretty unconventional! I started out my work career in customer service and support. I initially used this as a means to fund my music career, but I also found joy in helping clients and providing support with a gentle hand.
What are some ways that you gained skills that helped prepare you for the tech world? Why did you pick that specific program/ course or skill to work on?
Vicky- As I knew I wanted to become a software engineer, I first spoke with others I knew in the field about their experiences. Following their recommendations, I tried a couple of different paths at first — self-studying using online resources and pursuing a second degree. Ultimately, I decided the best path forward for me was to complete a full-time in-person software engineering bootcamp.
Since I had completed a pharmacy residency program, I discovered that the best way for me to learn is to fully immerse myself. A full-time bootcamp program afforded me the opportunity to spend a few months solely dedicated to working on skills needed to become a software engineer. Most importantly, I was able to meet, work with, and learn from incredible people — some working towards a similar goal, some who have had a lot of experience in the tech world, and some who have worked as software engineers.
After completing the bootcamp program, I decided to work at my school for one more year as a Software Engineering Coach. This allowed me to spend more time developing my skills while helping to teach others.
Danny- Technology was an important part of my work in my prior roles. From learning how to utilize and manage a CRM or payroll system to leading a software implementation for a new tech solution for my teams, these experiences helped me grasp the connections between technology and meeting an organization's or district's business objectives.
I also took advantage of customer success training resources such as the Recast Success CSM Bootcamp, and the SuccessHacker training and certifications. These resources gave me real-world customer success experience and helped me connect my past roles, my gifts and skills, and how those matched the kind of work I was looking to do in my current role.
Alicia-I think the soft skills from working in other environments were the most valuable and transferable from previous roles. To learn more about UX and product design, I first focused on courses and resources. I had recently finished graduate studies for education and was not in a place to be able to start formal school all over again (or even a bootcamp). From there, I picked up freelance projects and found mentorship to help me in my work. I also hosted the UX of EdTech podcast to learn more from others working in this industry and to network.
I knew I wanted to stay in the education industry. I think the three main ingredients to rinse and repeat for the career change was learning, practicing, and mentorship. And I am still literally doing this with the awesome team we have here at IK12. I talk about choosing a learning path for this type of career change more at length in this article.
Kyle - Honestly, I think having been in music and support allows me to navigate things from a space of creativity. I gained my hard skills by going to The Flatiron School which is a coding bootcamp located in NYC.
What was the hardest part of transitioning into tech?
Vicky -The hardest parts for me were knowing how to get started and working through imposter syndrome. The connections I made were instrumental in helping me, as they provided advice and mentorship, and/or shared in my experiences. Overall, working alongside others during my time in bootcamp made the transition feel less daunting.
Danny - The hardest part for me was believing that I could actually make that transition. Working in tech seemed daunting and unachievable a few years ago. I didn't have very many people around me who worked in tech, so I had a pretty limited understanding of the kinds of roles available within the tech industry and how my skills matched up to those roles. I had to do a lot of work in building up my confidence and owning my story and my voice, and once I believed I could do it, I felt a weight lift and was able to embrace the transition head-on.
Alicia- Wondering if you made the wrong decision.
Kyle- I felt like there were two barriers I ran into during the process of breaking into tech. The first happened to be that with bootcamps, it makes it easier for people to make the transition. This causes a lot of competition in the field with people with similar experience levels. You have to work THAT much harder to get in. The other thing was that I was navigating this transition with undiagnosed ADHD, and that comes with its own set of challenges.
What’s your advice for people looking to transition into tech?
Vicky- Meet and connect with others working in tech or in the field you’re interested in. Trust in your skill set!
Danny- Transitioning into tech is hard, and there are so many structural forces at play that gate-keep these kinds of roles from marginalized people from being able to access them. But at the same time, there are organizations and communities that do amazing work in helping people make that transition and be successful. So my advice is to do your research and find a community that supports career transitioners like yourself and that aligns with your values. Network and make connections with them, and utilize those resources so that you are not alone as you make this journey.
Alicia - Find a champion. This is different than a design mentor. Find someone who cares a lot about you holistically as a person and periodically check-in with them about your journey. There are many highs and lows. Maybe more lows. So having someone remind you about the important things in life, your worth as a human being apart from work, and your "why" behind starting out on the journey is important. I took regular walks at the end of the day to talk through those highs and lows and I think it made a big difference.
Kyle - My advice for people breaking into tech? Don’t stray too far from what you know or what you align with as a person. I had worked on a political campaign prior to my first actual tech job, which prepared me for a role in the civic tech space. It made for much less ground to cover because I only needed to strengthen my tech skills without having to ramp up on the political side. I also believe institutional knowledge like that makes you stand out from an applicant with similar skills but zero knowledge in that field. Lastly, don’t let fear stop you from trying something new and exciting! You deserve to be in any/all of those spaces.