How I used coffee chats to overcome “technology anxiety”– and even got a foot in the door

This article talks about how I opened up to professionals about my concerns about technology in the workplace, and opened new opportunities along the way. I hope that by reading, you’ll gain some perspective on tech employers, and be able to apply my approach to get your career questions answered.

I’ve been asked that if I could redo high school, what I’d do differently. I reply “Take a computer science course”. People who have no background in technology may relate to a nagging “technology anxiety” — if I don’t eat up all the new tech trends, will it eat up my career?

At a GradusOne technology panel that I attended last week, a woman asked how she can prepare to tackle technological changes around her. She was in hospitality. Witnessing this exchange really highlighted that technology, in some capacity, will play a significant role in any career.

I’ve tried to “get into” coding. I took first year computer science (dropped in 3 weeks) and signed up for Udemy and CodeAcademy courses (got through the first module). Needless to say, I still know nothing about coding beyond closing my brackets. The problem was that I challenged myself out of perceived necessity and not genuine interest. I cannot tell you one app idea that I feel strongly about developing. So I resorted to what I’m more interested in — talking to people. Quickly, I learned that “how do I get into technology” and “how do I motivate myself to code” are never the right questions.

At the GradusOne event, panelists outlined stories of “falling into” a tech role that led them to pursuing their interests in the industry. Such is the experience of Sergio Del Piccolo, Director of Dynamic Management Solutions, a software integration consulting company here in Vancouver. I sat down with him for a chat last week after seeing his transition from a business degree to technological roles.

Sergio graduated university to pursue accounting. He worked in the accounting department of a technology company, got promoted to a management role where learning the back-end processes was necessary. Since then, he’s had multiple developer roles, and is now a director at a software company. Here are some key insights from our chat:

Learning technology does not have to be deliberate nor is there ever a deadline

Many job seekers take a month-long boot camp to learn the ins and outs of coding, but Sergio says that this time can be better spent. You never know if you’re going to fall into a role that develops software, implements SaaS, or outsources the development completely. Knowing the basics is important, but people are too fixated on the idea that knowing how to code is a key ingredient to success.

Be coachable – this means having a strong attention to detail and communication

Sergio is very open to teaching his team what he knows, as long as they are coachable. What does being coachable entail? He doesn’t tolerate spelling mistakes, because it shows that someone doesn’t take the care to run something through spellcheck. The problem is not making errors but not performing the due diligence. Taking the steps to prevent them is a key step of showing that one is attentive to detail and able to learn.

A business that is strong technically is not always successful

Sergio says that the biggest problem with people in his field is that they fail to fully listen to their client’s problems and objections. It sounds so easy — and I told him so. Isn’t the biggest challenge getting business or gaining trust? Problems with both can come down to whether not you listen to your clients. Good listening can help pick out a client's reservations, work around their concerns and position yourself to take their side. Getting a clear idea of where they stand, and addressing it directly, builds trust. If you don’t have an answer, tell them you’ll do your due diligence. Clients want to know that their questions and concerns are being taken seriously.

A question that I got since writing my last article on getting job offers through cold e-mailing is how I trigger a meaningful discussion so that potential employers that see me as a good fit.

Here are the questions that I prepared for Sergio.

  1. Your degree is in business but many of your experiences are as a developer. I was very intrigued by this contrast, and wanted to hear how you fell into the technical roles?
  2. The tech industry is a constant cycle of needing a job to get practical experience and needing practical experience to get a job. Does that make me too late to get in the game?
  3. What makes a person coachable to be successful in a technology role?
  4. I’ve always been intrigued by the balance of business knowledge and technical proficiency in an organisation, how is this split in your organisation?
  5. How have your challenges evolved since you started up and now that you’ve been established for seven years?

At the end of our discussion, Sergio told me that they are always looking for people who are a good fit, and to keep in touch about an opportunity for next summer. This is incredibly encouraging to hear — that a tech company recognises my sincerity to learn. By speaking to the right people, you too can be open doors that were previously locked and bolted.

Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn to share your views on what I wrote in this article and ask any questions about successful coffee chats. If you find this article helpful, please share it with your friends.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that this article helped show what you can do to reduce your anxiety, and prepare for the tech-dominant future ahead.