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Lateral entry into IT

A brief review of our “Talking about Careers” evening in summer 2019 with guests who, as humanities scholars or artists, have discovered their passion for coding and who have dared and managed to enter the IT industry.

The first contacts with “IT” were not entirely positive, and the first computer science course at school was sometimes rather daunting. But at some point there was a new opportunity to try out programming, to enjoy the design possibilities with codes and to get into a real flow. A realization of the evening: In order to have fun with it, you don't have to have been a “nerd” from your earliest school days, but you can also recognize and develop your inclination to it during or after your studies.

IT is not for everyone, but for more people than you think

Getting started is not always easy, whether in software development or consulting. A lot of new things storm out for beginners, sometimes it is difficult to see the big picture while working on the details. The agile way of working according to Scrum with “daily standups”, “retrospectives” and “sprints” is often still unfamiliar. In addition, there are challenges from working in international teams - with corresponding language difficulties. A high willingness to learn, openness to new things, being able to adapt quickly to changes and new problems and, last but not least, very good self-organization are therefore basic requirements for a successful entry into this fast-moving, varied industry - but also a high tolerance for frustration.

Programming knowledge and a general understanding of information technology are of course required, but ultimately: learning on the job! Every job, including every new project, has different requirements, requires different software libraries than the previous one, and quick changes are the order of the day. The ability to solve problems, to be able to familiarize oneself with the unknown (and to want to), to be able to specialize quickly ("Fluid Intelligence") is one of the competencies that one should bring along alongside high communication skills (especially in consulting). However, all guests agreed: "IT is not something for everyone, but for more people than you think".

Modern, relaxed and flexible, a lot of money?

And what about the general conditions? Very modern, flexible, unconventional, a lot of money? Full-time, part-time, home office, virtual? Everything is possible, although there is of course no way of avoiding personal meetings in the office. But no matter where: Due to the intensive and quick familiarization with new projects, combined with high demands on self-learning, burnout is definitely an issue in the industry. It is therefore particularly important to find a healthy balance that has nothing to do with the computer.

The starting salary for lateral entrants is given as a range of 42,000 - 48,000 EUR, depending of course on the type and size of the company (established, start-up ...), product and location (metropolitan region, rural ...).

Trying out, testing, networking ...

If you are thinking about getting into the field, you can try out online courses (often free of charge) and test whether such an 8-hour day in a “virtual world” on the computer is really appealing.

Internships or participation in "meet-ups" or coding events (e.g. to be found on Eventbrite or are not only helpful for trying things out, but also for expanding your own network. For example, you can sometimes write your homework or thesis not in the library, but in a coworking space and thus get a taste of the atmosphere and make contacts.

Courses can be found at Academic Work's “Academy”, the “Hamburg Coding School”, “Codecademy”, “Udemy”, “FreeCodeCamp”, “Coursera”, “New Fish” or “Lynda” (access via eLearning -Portal of the Hamburg library).

Our guests were Daniel Dabrowski (Channel Transformer, Business Development Department at Cisco Systems), Romina Rottgardt (Brand Manager at Academy of Academic Work), Teresa Holfeld (software developer and founder of the Hamburg Coding School) and Gesa Stupperich from PyLadies Hamburg.