How a career change can open up new perspectives
by Sophie Heinz
What would make a music teacher or a business consultant dive into the tech world - with no prior knowledge of programming? Why would a computer science student drop out of college? The answer is simple: 42. No matter the background, the outlook, or the vision for the future: At the 42 Piscine, a broad group of tech enthusiasts experience what it means to learn how to learn and solve problems on their own and in teams. They gain valuable experience for entering the tech world - and take their first steps into a new career.
"After I graduated from college, I was a freelance musician, teaching violin and playing concerts", says 31-year-old Anna. "I really enjoy working as a violin teacher and have fun with the children and young people, and also feel that I'm doing something meaningful." Still, she says, after a few years she realized that in the long run, she was missing the input and the intellectual challenge. She never really felt comfortable at the school or in the school system. "Eventually, I dropped out of the teacher training program, a decision that took a lot out of me." During that time, she heard about the opening of 42 in Heilbronn. "The possibility of being able to start without any previous experience, the different pedagogical model, the flexibility, and all that just 30 minutes from where I live.... everything seemed made for my situation," she says.
“The solution is usually just a Google search away”
She and her colleagues know that a career change to IT offers great opportunities in the job market of the future. Interesting projects with innovative and forward-looking approaches await, with a lot of room and possibilities for career changers. There are also numerous opportunities to pursue your own interests and specialize in topics such as design, cybersecurity or AI. Plus, it's not just about coding: a good understanding of technical processes and functions, coupled with practical experience, opens up a whole range of professions, some of which do not yet have traditional training paths.
Jonas, 26, had previously worked as a consultant for 2.5 years. "I've had many points of contact with software and software development through my job. This made me realize how important knowledge in this area is, and on the other hand how few people really understand this topic. Including me, of course," he says. Above all, you have to enjoy solving problems and not get discouraged if things don't work out right away, he says. "With the necessary perseverance and interest in new technologies, the solution is usually just a question or Google search away."
“I felt like doing something completely new”
There are many reasons why workers and students may want to rethink their job or college program. The pandemic has caused job insecurity across industries. Also, exposure to new technologies has made many people more interested in coding as a career. Still, others have started studying computer science or another subject but quickly realized that traditional teaching and theory are not for them - and they prefer practical projects and tangible code. For everyone who is rethinking their choice, as well as for coding enthusiasts and people with the will to learn, a practical approach to programming can be just the right introduction to the IT world.
"I felt like doing something completely new," says Anna. In the beginning, she was scared because she had little experience with coding and technology. "But I just gave it a try - and really enjoyed the Piscine!" The four-week training camp gives applicants a chance to find out if peer learning, independent problem solving and self-organized work are the right path for them and if they can imagine a career in coding. "It quickly became apparent to me that one can learn everything with a little bit of will and help from others," Anna explains. She sees it primarily as an extension of her skills that will eventually allow her to combine music and code.
What can companies do to make career changes easier and attract new talent?
For women, in particular, entering the male-dominated IT world is still a big step that many shy away from. The reasons for the low numbers of women in STEM (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology) professions can be found in structural and cultural barriers. The IT field still has the image of requiring math skills. According to a recent report by the German government, many of the professions also have "an image of isolated occupations focussed on things rather than people. “This image is reinforced by media portrayal, job titles, and especially by the strong emphasis on the technical side. STEM courses with greater practical relevance, clear applicability and social relevance, such as media informatics or medical technology, have a significantly higher proportion of women.
The tech industry can make good use of career changers who not only know how to code but also have practical experience. Companies would do well not only to invest massively in training and studies. Above all, there is great potential in facilitating entry into the industry - and making it more attractive for women.
This requires good, low-threshold offerings and flexible training programs that can be adapted to the respective life circumstances - such as internships, coding boot camps, on-the-job training or online courses. In this way, companies can make their workforce more diverse in the long term and, at the same time, counter the shortage of skilled workers. Embracing as many perspectives and life realities as possible and incorporating them into one's work will inevitably lead to better products. And, in the long run, to a better and fairer society.
Fotocredits: 42 Madrid