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Career Development

Career Change from Retail Management to Tech

General Assembly
April 13, 2023

To all the retail workers out there: If you’re starting to feel burned out, haven’t been sleeping well, and are staying up all night fantasizing about a job you will love, you’re not alone. 

A recent survey from Korn Ferry has shown that retailers are seeing higher year-over-year turnover for in-store, corporate and distribution center employees. In 2022 alone, there has been over 75.8% turnover rate for all hourly in-store retail workers – a 68% increase from the previous year. 

However, given the recent changes in the retail industry, these high turnover rates don’t come as a surprise. Like many other industries, digital technologies have significantly impacted retail, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of brick-and-mortar stores to take their business online. 

Thousands of retail workers have lost their jobs during the last few years due to these technological changes. In addition, we’ve seen many brick-and-mortar stores like J.C. Penny, Aldo, J. Crew, and many others either scale back their opening hours or file for bankruptcy altogether due to the lack of foot traffic. 

Undoubtedly, the wide-scale adoption of technology has changed the shape of the retail industry and its roles within it. This blog will take you through why retail workers are traditional roles within the retail industry, tech roles to consider, and steps to get started on your career transition journey today. 

How to leave retail job

Undoubtedly, leaving a retail job is a big step, but you can explore many other career paths. The technology industry is a great starting point for someone seeking to transition from retail, as constant innovation in the space means creating more jobs and demand for new workers. According to Gartner, global IT spending will reach $4.6 trillion in 2023, a jump of 5.1% since last year.

But before you jump into tech, here are the top five questions you should ask yourself to help you figure out if a career in tech is for you. 

Q1. Are you passionate about technology and its potential to solve problems and make a positive impact? 

Q2. Are you willing to invest time and effort into acquiring the necessary hard skills for a thriving career in tech?

Q3. Do you enjoy learning and staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the tech industry? 

Q4. Do you enjoy problem-solving and critical thinking? 

Q5. Are you looking forward to making the switch from an in-person retail environment to a transition working on globally dispersed remote teams? 

By reflecting on these questions and your interests and skills, you can better understand whether a career in tech is the right fit for you. However, if you are still unsure and doubtful, sometimes we all need a little inspiration to nudge us in the right direction.

From retail to tech

Before transitioning into tech, Juvone Freeman was a sales consultant at a car retailer for almost four years. Although he had a good salary, he didn’t love his job. Juvone wasn’t happy in the retail culture as work-life balance was non-existent, and he also felt that he wasn’t utilizing his true talents and intellect. 

Juvone first started thinking about a transition into the tech world when his cousin took the first step in transitioning from a career in finance to an IOS engineer through a bootcamp. “I watched his growth within his field, his salary and lifestyle change, and that’s when I realized I needed to make a change. However, I kept questioning myself on when and how,” explained Juvone. 

A couple of years later, Juvone was further inspired by his friend and cousin, who then completed a UX (user experience) design course at GA. After graduation, his friend landed a lucrative tech job at IBM, which brought him great financial stability. That, along with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, gave Juvone the motivation to finally start his career transition into tech. 

Finally, in May 2022, Juvone joined the UX design bootcamp at GA. “I completed the course in a quick three months and graduated in August 2022,” added Juvone. After three rounds of interviews, Juvone landed his first tech job in December 2022. 

When choosing his course, Juvone knew that his friends found great success finding a good job post-graduation. Additionally, GA’s flexible course schedule suited Juvone’s busy lifestyle, as he was now a father and needed a course that would mold around his family life. 

Juvone now has a thriving career in tech and is the UX Designer at Voya Financial. He’s happy he completed his career transition with GA, as the bootcamp experience and the career support offered have been incredible. “My instructors were amazing, informative and welcoming to students asking questions. I also found the projects at GA to be great, both team-wise and individually. The projects were pivotal in creating my portfolio, which would later gain employment,” added Juvone. 

Good Jobs to Transition Out of Retail: Top 5 Growing

The retail tech industry is rapidly evolving, and new roles are emerging as technology continues to shape the way retailers do business. Here are five of the fastest-growing jobs in retail tech and their expected salaries:

  1. E-commerce Manager: As online shopping continues to grow in popularity, companies are looking for professionals with expertise in e-commerce to manage their online sales channels. 

Some key responsibilities include: 

  • Developing and implementing e-commerce strategies – the e-commerce manager is responsible for creating and executing an e-commerce plan that aligns with the company’s overall business goals.
  • Driving traffic to the website – the e-commerce manager is responsible for generating traffic to the website through search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and other online marketing efforts.
  • Analyzing data and making informed decisions – the e-commerce manager uses data and analytics to measure the success of their strategies and make data-driven decisions to improve online sales and marketing efforts.

Expected salary: $75,000 – $150,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Data Scientist: Retailers are collecting more than ever, and they need professionals who can turn this data into actionable insights. Data scientists play a crucial role in helping retailers make data-driven decisions.

Some key responsibilities include: 

  • Collecting, cleaning, and organizing data – data scientists are responsible for acquiring data from various sources and ensuring that it is in a format that can be analyzed.
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams – data scientists often work with other departments, such as engineering and product, to develop and implement data-driven solutions.

Expected salary: $90,000 – $150,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Customer Experience (CX) Manager: Retailers are increasingly emphasizing providing a seamless and personalized customer experience. Customer experience managers are responsible for designing and managing these experiences across all touchpoints.

Some key responsibilities include: 

  • Developing a customer experience strategy – the CX manager is responsible for creating a vision for the customer experience and developing a strategy to achieve that vision.
  • Measuring and analyzing customer feedback – the CX manager must collect and analyze customer feedback to understand their needs and pain points and use this information to inform improvements to the customer experience.
  • Improving customer touchpoints – the CX manager must identify and prioritize areas for improvement across all touchpoints, such as the website, customer service, and in-person interactions, and work with teams to implement changes.

Expected salary: $85,000 – $140,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Technical Product Manager: Technical product managers are responsible for defining and delivering new products and features in the retail tech industry. They play a critical role in helping retailers stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of their customers.

Some key responsibilities include: 

  • Defining product strategy – the technical product manager is responsible for determining the product vision and strategy, including product roadmaps and prioritizing features.
  • Conducting market research – the technical product manager must research and understand market trends, customer needs, and competitor offerings to inform product decisions.
  • Managing product life cycle – the technical product manager must manage the product life cycle, from development through to end-of-life, to ensure that products continue to meet customer needs and generate value for the business.

Expected salary: $120,000 – $180,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Digital Marketing Manager: Retailers invest more in digital marketing to reach customers and drive sales. After all, more and more retailers are learning that most of their customers digest content and shop online. 

Some key responsibilities include: 

  • Developing and implementing a digital marketing strategy – the digital marketing manager is responsible for creating a comprehensive digital marketing plan that aligns with the overall marketing and business strategy.
  • Managing the company’s digital presence – the digital marketing manager must ensure that the company’s digital presence, including its website and social media channels, is optimized for maximum impact.

Expected salary: $80,000 – $140,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

Apart from these technical retail roles, there are other opportunities for someone who wants to work in the tech industry but not particularly in a tech-centric role. 

3 top alternative non-technical jobs with tech salaries

While many jobs in the tech industry require technical skills, there are also a number of non-technical roles that offer salaries comparable to those in technical positions. Here are the top three alternative non-technical jobs that offer tech salaries:

  1. Project Manager: Project managers are responsible for planning, executing, and closing projects. They work closely with cross-functional teams, including technical teams, to ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to stakeholders’ satisfaction. 

Expected salary: $80,000 – $140,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Business Development Manager: Business development managers are responsible for identifying and pursuing new business opportunities for their company. They work closely with sales and marketing teams to develop and execute strategies for growth. 

Expected salary: $90,000 – $140,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

  1. Product Manager: Product managers are responsible for defining and delivering new products and features. They work closely with cross-functional teams, including technical teams, to bring new products to market. 

Expected salary: $120,000 – $180,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. 

While these roles may not require technical skills, they still need a strong understanding of technology and its impact on business. Individuals in these roles typically have strong communication, strategic thinking, and leadership skills, as well as a deep understanding of the industry and market. 

5 steps to starting your career transition from retail

While everyone can approach their career transition differently, here’s a general guide for leaving your current career and transitioning from retail into tech.

  1. Gain the hard technical skills you need: One of the most essential steps in transitioning from a retail job to a technology job is to gain relevant technical skills. This can be achieved through online courses and bootcamps, certifications, or on-the-job training. 

Examples of hard technical skills include programming languages such as Java or Python, network architecture, database management, and software development.

  1. Network with people in the technology industry: Networking is crucial to any career transition. Attend technology conferences, meetups, and events to connect with professionals in the field and learn about different opportunities. Additionally, consider reaching out to people in the tech industry to understand better the day-to-day work and what it takes to succeed in this field.
  1. Build a portfolio of relevant projects: Demonstrating your technical skills and knowledge through real-world projects can be a powerful way to showcase your abilities to potential employers. Participate in coding challenges, build personal projects, or contribute to open-source projects.
  1. Look for entry-level positions or internships: Many technology companies offer entry-level positions or internships that can provide a bridge into the industry. These roles may not require previous experience in technology, but they can offer the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn about the industry.
  1. Job Search Strategy: Tailor your job search strategy to the technology industry. Network with people in the industry, apply for relevant job openings and be proactive about reaching out to potential employers. Your job search strategy will also be something you will fine-tune with your mentor and tutors at your online course or bootcamp. 

By considering these factors, you can increase your chances of making a successful transition into a career in technology.

Getting out of retail, take the first step

The rapid pace of technological change and the demand for new skills in the job market means it’s never too late to learn and grow in your career. As long as you have the motivation, drive, and willingness to learn, you can pursue any career path. Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a career that brings you fulfillment and aligns with your values, and there is no better time to start than now.

If you’re ready to be redirected to something more professionally rewarding, download our career changers guide and enjoy the adventure.


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