If you’re cultivating an amazing tech team, would you invite a self-taught marketing major to join?
At what point does one successfully graduate from a Java student to a Java expert who is not a programmer?
Something like a marketing degree listed under “education,” will shoot any CTO’s eyebrows high up on their forehead, like a knee-jerk reaction. Without a shiny, credible CS degree listed on your resume, there’s a lot of skepticism that non-techies face in the world of tech.
So, is it possible for self-taught marketing majors to be successful programmers as part of a thriving, collaborative tech team? I spoke to a handful of tech hiring managers to pick their brain. Here's what I found:
He found that non-techies had a tough time grasping simple concepts.
“As someone who does hiring for tech positions all the time, I usually look for the ‘techiest,’ with a solid background in CS,” he says. “This, of course, isn’t a requirement to find good candidate but it also never fails.”
Granted, Holsinger is a self-taught developer himself. He says the best software QA person he’s ever worked with was an English major.
“In that role, the ability to think critically and to communicate was key, and she excelled in both of those capacities,” Holsinger says. “Humanities majors tend to be articulate and clear in their communications in a way that business and engineering majors seldom are, and that in itself is a valuable business skill.”
Similarly, self-taught overseer of two mobile apps Fredric Abramson, is also biased toward high creativity and problem solving abilities over pure coding skills. “A self-taught person has fewer rules drummed into their head,” Abramson says.
One great way to do this, ReadWrite’s Matt Asay suggests in a recent article, is to participate in open-source communities and point to this collaboration as part of your resume.
“Open-source communities offer a clear view into an engineer's interactions with others, the quality of her code and a history of how she tackles hard problems, both individually and in groups,” Asay writes. Try to get feedback.
Positive feedback on GitHub and message boards can help vouch for your work---more so than any piece of paper could.
Farbod Shoraka, CEO and Cofounder of BloomNation.com, the Etsy for flowers, and two of his cofounder buddies have a background in finance. But their e-commerce company has already received millions in funding by top investors. In fact, BloomNation was named by Entrepreneur as a Top 5 Silicon Beach Startup to Watch.
They had the guts to acknowledge their shortfall and hone in on their leadership and delegation skills instead.
“The reality is, technology is what drives the company forward, so we need engineers who not only have the technical chops, but see and believe in our vision,” Shoraka says.
“Creating a culture that inspires our engineers to be passionate about what they do and believing in our mission all while having a great time allows us not to worry so much.”
But how did they convince investors to believe in their startup without having any technical experience?
“I would be lying if I said investors didn’t care,” Shoraka says. “It was definitely a concern of theirs, but what I think put those worries to rest has been the rock star team we put together along with the amazing platform/technology that we built. We proved we can execute and build a robust technology platform, with or without a technical co-founder.”
Still, despite their recent success, Shoraka and his cofounders feel they can’t thoroughly speak the language at tech events. “As much as we can throw around buzz words, it’s never as cool as saying you have a CS degree,” Shoraka says.
Engineers are notorious for sniffing out inauthenticity. Be honest about what you know, but prove that you’re capable of great work, vision and collaboration.
Bloomnation.com image, left-to-right: Farbod Shoraka, Gregg Weisstein and David Daneshgar.
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