Monday, April 07, 2014

Why non tech people should apply for (so-called) tech jobs

Computer skills - Zavidovići Public Library 
The three best database managers I have worked with at charities over the last 15 years all have one thing in common: none of them would call themselves a techie. One started her career with horses, one in a press office, another did a humanities degree. In fact, I have found again and again that people who studied humanities seem to make good database people.

And I would love to see more people who are not techies move into the "database arena", for want of a more all-encompassing phrase - yes, even fundraisers! There are several reasons for this:
  • There are more and more roles in "database teams" where it is far more important to be business savvy, fundraising-aware, have an understanding of marketing and to be knowledgeable as to what the charity wants, than it is to know what field or function to use in the database. That can be worked on by other database team members and/or learned by the non-tech person.
  • There are so many similar attributes which non-technical roles have which could help database teams: communication skills, analytical skills, attention to detail, insight, understanding of specialist areas such as direct marketing. Specific database skills can be taught - the soft skills are far harder to teach.
  • Data knowledge does not necessarily have to mean database knowledge. The database is nothing without data - that's the lifeblood of the database. So if you know/like/understand/find data interesting, then you are half way to being a data(base) person.
  • The best database trainers are not the ones who understand SQL - the best ones are those who can relate to the fundraisers.
I would love to hear from anyone who is now working in a database team who came from a non-technical role and/or where they did not/still do not consider themselves to be a tech person. Do give me any feedback in the Comments below.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

A degree in art and previous roles in digital marketing.

Always fairly techy but all charities,dbs,SQL etc.. were all new.

Andrea Bayer said...

Yes, you got it.

When I started IT it was 1988, learned structered programming, system administration and how relational databases work. I never got any certificate so for companies today I'm a "nothing".

About fifteen years back I had to create pivot sheets from an access database and soon became devasted. There have been orders which seemed to have been accounted twice, orders months back which never seemed to be accounted, bill with different address to the order, even bills without order and so on.

I took over the database which had been created by a programmer. He wasn't to blame on anything he did wrong, there had been nobody who was able to translate the companies needs into "database language".

To make it short, with my experience in the daily business of the company, I wasn't only able to ask for the changes to eliminate errors mentioned before, I also saw what is needed in the future and so the database grew bigger and bigger in modules for different departments ... it was later sold to other companies as well.

But I have no certificate and to testify experience is difficult.

thurinius said...

I have a degree in ancient history and just sort of fell into database work.
In my experience the best database managers are those with a slightly obsessive nature who just have to know 'why'.