The IT world is a booming sector many people want to be a part of. If you’re one of them and are currently thinking of switching careers and starting your journey in IT, here’s some insight on how to do it.
Who are we
Coming from totally different backgrounds than what people expect, many asked us how we managed to end up in IT and secure the jobs we wanted without a degree in a technology-related field.
That's why we decided to write this blog and answer the most common questions we hear from people who want to change their career to UX/UI design and frontend development, but don’t know where to start their journey.
Of course, every company has its own rules and guidelines, but we will try to answer questions from the experience and observations we have gathered so far.
How we started
Our path didn’t start in the world of IT. Iva graduated from the Faculty of Education, and Kristina from the Faculty of Economics, but we were always attracted to technology and the IT world.
After finishing uni, we got jobs in our respective fields, but we weren't happy with them and wanted something different. We realized it was time for a change and decided that it was best to enroll in an IT course to learn the basics.
The learning path was not easy.
Considering we did not have any technical background, there were a lot of unknowns, especially for front-end since it requires specific technical knowledge and vocabulary.
How come we decided on these careers?
We are both visual types, but the difference was that Kristina wanted to type code and was more attracted to logical, problem-solving tasks, while Iva was more interested in psychology, learning about human behavior and decision-making in design.
Is formal education necessary?
Many people that spoke to us think they stand no chance next to people who have graduated from technology-related universities. Of course, technical education can be an advantage, and competition is always high, but if you try hard enough and believe in yourself, success will come.
Your education is valuable even if it is not the “right” one — it taught you how to investigate and approach problems, gave you skills for learning, synthesizing information and sharing it. This comes in handy in your learning process, but is also really important when you have big tasks on important projects.
Kristina decided to finish the Frontend React Course and Iva her UX design course. Iva also enrolled in a web design course where she learned the basics of programming.
From our perspective, taking the course at the beginning of our journey was the best decision, since we continuously practised and had support during the most challenging time, when everything is new and you have to remember and learn a lot.
Also, we liked the teamwork and feedback from other students — it made us grow faster and taught us how to be critical yet objective, both with our work and the work of others. After the formal course, we continued practising what we learned on educational platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn learning, etc. It kept us learning and made us expand our existing knowledge.
Also, after the end of the courses, we set aside some time to practice what we had learned and prepare for interviews!
Some good practices that helped us while looking for a new job
Although we have different careers, our paths to success are similar. These are some of our tips for anyone looking to achieve the same, plus answers to questions we often hear about breaking into the IT field.
1) SEARCH THE FIELD
If you want to work in IT but don’t know what job position is for you, some questions you can ask yourself during this phase are:
- Do I want to work in a visual or code-based area?
- Why do I want this role?
- What would I like my work day to look like?
- With whom would I like to communicate every day?
- What skills do I already have?
- What am I good at?
Asking that and similar questions would give you a good understanding of what you might like or dislike.
Try not to think about what your friends are doing or what jobs are popular at the moment, because personal motivation should always be the number 1 factor in your decision. If you decide to enter the learning process with good motivation and sincere interest behind your decision, it is unlikely you will give up when the first difficulty appears. Your motivation will push you to keep up when you don't feel like learning.
You can also search the companies that work in the field you are interested in and gather more information about their positions.
2) CONNECT WITH EXPERTS
When you have found a position you are interested in, surround yourself with people who are in the IT world. Ask questions, questions, and more questions. Be brave and curious.
You probably have some acquaintances or friends who work in the IT industry who could tell you a little more about what they do on a daily basis. If this is not the case, there are always social networks.
After being hired, many people contacted us via social networks and asked questions about making a career switch. In our experience, there are a lot of experts willing to answer the questions that interest you.
Also, conferences and various seminars are quite frequent in the past few years, and they are a good way of getting acquainted with people in the industry, even if you are not an expert in the specific topic of the lecture. Prepare beforehand, do a bit of research about the companies in the field and think about how you want to present yourself.
Events like that are an opportunity for future employers to meet you face-to-face, and they help you see if you can imagine yourself working with those people in a team or collaborating with them. Going to conferences, workshops and seminars also shows that you are proactive and seriously thinking about changing your career and finding a job in IT.
3) FIND A MENTOR OR SOMEONE WHO IS ON THE SAME PATH AS YOU
We believe that it is very important to have some kind of mentor. Good companies invest a lot in their new employees, knowing that having a mentor helps beginners adapt faster and easier. At the beginning, it is such a huge advantage to work with people who are experts and willing to help you and share their knowledge. Their feedback is useful for learning what is important and what you should pay attention to next time.
If you can’t find a mentor, try to connect with someone who is on the same path as you, so you can give each other feedback, be supportive of each other and learn together.
4) START LEARNING
There are various learning options: online courses, mentorships, self-taught practice, etc. There is no right or wrong way of learning, so just choose what suits you best, keeping in mind your habits, free time and other obligations.
Nowadays, there is a lot of material available online, and a lot of it free, but one can easily get overwhelmed with that type of non-structured information. We decided to take a college course in UX/UI and Frontend development because it required continuous work, which makes you keep working when you want to give up.
It also teaches you best practices — you can work for a long time, but if your knowledge is not in line with the best current work practices, you will be less competitive in the market. But certificates won't help you much if you haven't mastered what you learned. It is important to master the material and perfect your skills, and not just skim to get a diploma.
There are a lot of sources you can use to find out about the latest trends and news in the field you are interested in. Newsletters from industry experts and companies are a great way to stay up to date, but if you want to dig deeper into a specific topic, there is probably already a book, podcast, article or video about it, so get to googling and start exploring!
If you are interested in the foundations of UX/UI and you are searching for good learning resources, you can find more information in our blog post about UX for beginners - basics, principles, and processes.
Additionally, a good way to learn is trying to copy parts of familiar pages or apps that you come across every day, or solve a problem that exists in apps or websites you use.
That way, you can see how problems are solved and what approach is used. You train your eye for design decisions and logical problem-solving skills.
Tools designers and developers use are quite similar, and easier to master when you are good at one of them. For example, you can use Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD for UX/UI design, and for frontend you can use some libraries and frameworks like Vue, Angular, and React.
The tool you use depends on your preference or the company you work in, but you can switch from one tool to another very fast.
You can also work on imaginary projects or daily challenges that are available online. Everything counts as long as you continuously put the knowledge you learned to practice.
Look for internships
If you know what you want, the sooner you start looking for an internship, the better. But what if you are not a student and want to change your career?
There are companies that hire interns regardless of whether they are students, employed full-time, or unemployed. Companies usually inform promote internships via newsletters or social media, so definitely subscribe and follow the companies you like.
You can also ask your acquaintances, or send open requests to companies if you have any questions.
If you want to find out what a design internship at Undabot looks like, you can read this blog post from our colleague Marija about the 5 most important lessons she learned during her UX/UI internship.
5) PRESENT ALL YOUR SKILLS
Most larger companies have a detailed hiring process. To their HR, skills aren’t the only ones that matter — it is also important that your personality fits the company culture. Meaning, someone can have great developer or designer skills, but still not make a good fit for the company. Your soft skills are just as important, because you need to communicate and collaborate with other people on a daily basis.
So when you find potential employers, pay attention to the skills and values potential candidates need to have in the career choices you want to work in.
Use social media
Fill your social media profile with your skills and experience. Write what you are good at and what course/education option you are currently attending — it will show that you are working on your skills. We would recommend updating your profile on Linkedin for that purpose.
Remember, first impressions are important, even if it is online, so make sure that you write down the skills and experiences you are proud of.
Make a portfolio
A portfolio shows your skills and way of thinking. Create a profile on networks that serve to showcase your works. Regularly update your work, even when it’s not perfect, because that way future employers can see your progress and your effort. It is not enough just to say that you study a lot, it is necessary to show that you practice!
Note that at the beginning, receiving feedback for work in your portfolio isn't that pleasant. People often contact us saying that feedback makes them depressed and discouraged to keep learning. However, it is important not to take the feedback personally, and instead see it as a great opportunity for professional growth and improvement.
6) OPEN APPLICATIONS
The best way to look for a job is through open applications. Of course, you should also monitor open positions in companies, but we believe that open applications are a great way to show employers your proactivity and desire to work. In most cases, HR will contact you. If your skills are fit for a certain position, they may contact you later when they will need new employees.
And if the interview does not go well, do not be discouraged — even that experience is valuable. Write down what you did well and what needs to be better, so you can work on that for the next interview. It is all about practice. With every interview, you will be more prepared and confident.
You can even ask for feedback after the interview or assignment, as most people will like a proactive approach and appreciate you valuing their expertise!
7) BE PATIENT
Changing careers can take a while.
According to our experience and the experiences of colleagues who have changed careers, the average time that is required from starting a course to first employment is about a year or more. We believe that if you have technical education, that time span can be shorter because you learn some basics at college or school.
A lot of people think that after finishing some courses, they are ready to look for a job. That's rarely the case. There are exceptions, but learning is a long process involving a lot of theory and less practice. So during the learning phase, we both did not work and invested the maximum of our time in learning and practicing. When we say maximum, we mean at least 6-8 hours of honing our skills, daily. We tried to work every day to maintain continuity because we were aware that it would be easier for us to adapt to working hours and daily obligations once we started working.
However, it is important that you listen to yourself, go at a speed that suits you, so you don't end up giving up because of too much pressure that you put on yourself. You won’t become an expert just because you enroll in courses or watch some videos. It is the practice that counts. At first, it can take a lot to see any progress, but later as your skills get better, the progress will be clearly visible.
Maybe you will not have the opportunity to start working in the company of your dreams, but the IT market is big and always in demand for developers and designers, so chances are you will find something.
But what if you can’t quit your job at the moment and practice? It is possible to change careers while working at another job, but you will have to work a little more on weekends and after work. Also, you won’t have much free time, but it's worth making a little sacrifice so that later you can do what fulfills you.
Final tips on how to land your design or development job in IT
If you wait for the perfect moment to start learning and switch your career, you will never start, because the perfect time and conditions will never come. People will doubt your decisions but don't doubt yourself.
Make mistakes, learn from them and practice as long as it takes. We think that an imperfect portfolio online is better than a perfect portfolio on your laptop no one can see.
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” - Mark Twain
If you have any questions about this topic or just want to say hi, feel free to reach us on social media, and good luck with your new career!