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Secrets to Climbing up the Tech Startup Ladder with Zero Tech Experience

General Assembly
November 11, 2022

Since the digital boom, we’ve seen tech startups taking over the world of work. However, unlike big corporations, the Great Resignation has been a one-in-a-century opportunity for startups to snatch up great tech talent worldwide. 

Economic downturns are also times when entrepreneurs look for innovative ways to solve new problems, leading to the creation of new tech-savvy companies. According to ExplodingTopics, there are over 1.1 billion-dollar startups worldwide today. That’s a lot of skill gaps that need to be filled. 

Each year the number of tech startups continues to rise. Since 2020 the number has almost doubled. Startups continue to be one of the most popular companies to break into tech and build up invaluable work experience. Oftentimes, during the beginning stages of operations, company leaders will be heavily investing in the talent (people) who will continue to build, ideate, and refine the business model over time. 

So the demand for tech startup talent is out there, but how do you get into a startup with zero tech experience, and what are the benefits of working at a tech startup? Keep reading to understand the risk versus the reward. 

Why the career ladder is easier to climb at a tech startup versus a tech corporation

Although working in a startup may not be all roses, getting into one without prior tech experience is much easier than getting hired at a large tech corporation like Google, Microsoft, or Apple. 

Large tech corporations usually look for seasoned professionals with years of work experience in the desired field or role of interest. On the contrary, most tech startups recruit talent with an opposite approach helping the individual climb up the career ladder faster than the traditional route.

Tech startups today look for an all-round individual with great hard and soft skills. Of course, a tech background can be advantageous in your application, but there are other factors in getting hired. Here are seven questions that can help you decide if a tech startup career is something you would be suitable for: 

  • Q1. Do you enjoy working in a fast-paced environment?
  • Q2. Do you possess an entrepreneurial mind and love project management? 
  • Q3. Are you naturally organized? 
  • Q4. Do you like working across many departments (such as ops, sales, admin, finance, etc.) and enjoy learning new things daily? 
  • Q5. Do you enjoy problem-solving? 
  • Q6. Do you work well independently or in a team? 
  • Q7. Do you like project work and seeing things come to fruition?  

Top 5 benefits of working at a tech startup

As you search for tech opportunities, you will likely come across tech startup companies wanting to grow their founding team. To help you make the right choice, here are some of the benefits and perks to look out for to make sure you get the most out of your tech startup experience. 

  1. Flexible working week

One of the best and biggest perks of joining a tech startup is flexible days and the ability to work from anywhere (remote work). Undoubtedly, working for startups will require occasional long hours, especially if you are leading projects related to attracting more business for the company. 

However, joining a tech-savvy young startup comes with the ability to mold your work schedule around your life. Where work-life balance becomes life-work balance instead. Keep an eye out for startups offering fully remote work and flexible work days. More and more companies are adopting this approach. 

  1. More learning opportunities

Because of the very nature of being a startup, these types of companies often require all hands on deck. As a result, you will likely be given a larger role within the organization, not just the role associated with the job you applied for. 

Although this may sound daunting, it’s understandable in a startup setting and culture. Being involved in many different projects and people allows you to learn new things and be exposed to opportunities you wouldn’t be exposed to in a corporate organization. 

Often this hard work is rewarded with a great package like equity, benefits and an excellent salary, which we will discuss in greater detail in the next section. 

  1. Competitive package

Although working in a tech startup is a great experience for anyone who wants to get into tech, it can also come with risk. Because of their very nature, startups can fail at any point. In fact, 1 in 5 startups fails in the first year. This is why tech startups tend to be high risk and high reward. 

You will likely discuss your package with the recruitment team during your first few interviews. During this time, the recruiter will discuss three of the following compensations: 

  • Salary: tech startups tend to offer very competitive salaries to attract top talent. Your salary will also depend on the role you are applying for and if you have previous tech experience. When it comes to startup salaries, there needs to be a defined formula. When speaking with the recruiting team, let them know your ideal salary range and if they can match it. Glassdoor is a great free tool to suss out the salary range based on your seniority and the country you will work from. 
  • Benefits: when looking at the benefits, super early-stage startups might need help to offer the cream of the crop. However, as the company grows and the HR function of the company grows along with it, the benefits will get substantially better. If you are applying to startups with around 100-200 employees, that’s already a decent size company that more than likely will be able to offer you the following:
    • Monthly internet stipend (depending if you work from home or the office)
    • Health insurance (including dental and vision) 
    • Pet-friendly office
    • Travel stipend
    • Gym discounts
    • Catered lunches (if working from the office) 
    • Generous vacation policies
    • Flexible remote/hybrid work options

Side note: personalized benefits tend to be a thing at a startup. As the team is small and HR can offer unique individual benefits. 

  • Equity: equity is one of the best perks of joining a startup. However, it can often be the most confusing for candidates as only a few people fully understand how company equity works. In short terms, equity refers to ownership of the company. Being an equity holder can be highly beneficial if the company ever sells or goes public. 

Some things to keep in mind when you receive your equity: 

  • You’re not really “given” equity. Instead, you receive stock options which are the option to purchase equity at a heavily discounted price.
  • You are not given all the stock options upfront, rather you can earn an increasing amount of options over a four-year period (known as a vesting schedule)
  • The typical vesting schedule gives you one-fourth of your options at the end of your first year and then 1/48th every month after that.
  • When your options are vested, you have the right to purchase them (or not) 
  1. Increased job satisfaction 

People who work at startups tend to experience more job satisfaction because they are more involved in the growth of the company and some critical decisions. Knowing that you are contributing to the company’s overall success is a great feeling that can help you increase job satisfaction. 

Given that you will be joining the founding team and the startup will grow quickly, you can expect rapid growth in your career. Working at a fast-growth tech startup is a great opportunity to climb up the career ladder and ultimately be happy with your job. 

  1. No micromanaging

There is nothing worse than a manager who controls your every move and micromanages you. It’s one of the things that can make your professional life totally unbearable. 

If you decide to join a startup, you will not be micromanaged. On the contrary, tech startups, more often than not, look for individuals who can manage their work themselves while working in a team. Therefore, project management and organization are some of the vital soft skills startup recruiters look for in a candidate. 

Top 3 technical skills startup recruiters look for and how to obtain them

To make sure your CV stands out from the crowd, we’ve identified the top 3 tech skills recruiters look for in 2022 and 2023. 

  1. Data Analytics

The ability to process and read data sets is a critical component for the growth of a tech startup. In addition, all businesses, big or small, require access to data insights to gain valuable information which guides long-term strategic decisions. As a result, Data Analysts are one of the most in-demand talents in the tech industry right now. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of analyst job openings is expected to grow by 23% between 2021 and 2031. 

How to obtain this skill? 

Sign up for a Data Analytics Immersive or bootcamp to gain the valuable data analytics skills that will get you job-ready. With online immersives you can choose from flexible, part-time or hybrid, and you can be future job ready in 12-24 weeks. 

  1. Coding

Having strong coding knowledge when applying to tech-based jobs is always a plus. In addition, careers like computer programming, software engineering, and Web3 often require you to know several different coding languages. 

How to obtain this skill? 

Try signing up for online coding bootcamps. Look for bootcamps that offer job-ready skills and cover the most-in-demand coding languages like Python, Java, PHP, CSS, HTML, C, C++, SQL etc. 

Additionally, keep an eye out for free workshops and coding events. Oftentimes, these workshops give you valuable insight into the fundamentals that web programmers and engineers need. 

  1. UX (user experience) Design

Top job sites like Glassdoor and Indeed have ranked UX designers as the fifth most in-demand role in tech. User experience design is in high demand due to companies adopting a digital approach to their business and operations. UX designers focus on enhancing the end-user experience and satisfaction (i.e., the customer) by improving the enjoyment and usability of a product. 

How to obtain this skill? 

Sign up for UX Design bootcamps or online immersive courses. With online immersives you can choose from flexible, part-time or hybrid, and you can be future job ready in 12-24 weeks. 

Additionally, keep an eye out for free workshops and UX design events. Oftentimes, these workshops give you valuable insight into the fundamentals that user experience designers need.

Tips and tricks for job seekers to land a job at a tech startup 

Now that you’ve weighed out the benefits of working in a tech startup and identified the soft and hard skills recruiters look for in a candidate, the next step is to identify some simple tips and tricks to help you get your foot in the door. 

  1. Try interning or freelance work

During economic downturns, sometimes it’s easier to apply for a contracting role at a tech company than a full-time gig. Contracting is ideal for building connections in the tech world and networking. A huge benefit of contracting is that if the company is happy with your performance and they are utilizing your skills more and more, chances are they will offer you a full-time position. 

The same rules apply to interns at a tech startup. Interning is great if you are an entry-level applicant. Well-funded tech companies pay their interns relatively well, so keep an eye out for paid positions. 

  1. Develop your knowledge in the tech industry

In this blog, we’ve discussed the technical and soft skills that will help you get hired. However, apart from your technical knowledge, many startups also look for people with a genuine passion for tech. 

It is challenging to work in any startup, never mind if it’s a fast-paced market like tech.  Make sure this is the industry you want to grow your career or you might become overwhelmed and dissatisfied at work. To avoid this, ensure find the industry genuinely interesting. 

  1. Know the tech companies to look for

Tech is a very broad industry. There are many different directions in which you can take your tech career. For example, you have FinTech, EdTech, HRTech, E-commerce, Web3, Telecommunications and much more. 

All of these industries share some similarities but also have significant differences. It would help if you took the time to figure out what you are most interested in and personalize your CV and cover letter to the industry you choose. 

Your tech career is waiting for you

Don’t delay. Let’s get your tech startup career started. This guide offers fundamental go-to tips and tricks to help you land your dream tech career. With no previous tech experience, taking the first step is always the hardest. Don’t worry, once you create an awesome resume, cover letter, and portfolio, you will start getting contacted by recruiters in no time. 

If you need more support or information, download the ebook “Career Changers Guide to Doing Something Different” to start your tech startup career today.  

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