You Probably Shouldn’t Be A Developer Pt.1*

But you can still work in tech

We’ve moved into a time where governments all over the world are pushing dollars and bodies into programs that teach you how to code. These initiatives are great! But they’re also a bit short sighted. There is no doubt that learning how to code is a valuable skill even at the most rudimentary level, yet it does not mean that everyone should or should want to become a programmer.

Learning to code is often not a golden ticket to piles of money nor a fulfilling career with Google and Facebook level perks. We’ve somehow forgotten those perks are for everyone in the company, even non-developers! Knowing that, I don’t want you to waste your precious time and money doing something that might not be for you. Instead, I want to tell you about some of the other amazing career options in the tech world that require skills you may already have or find more satisfaction in using!

I talked to some real life people within MetaLab to get the long and short of what they do and how they got there in hopes it will inspire others who want to work in tech.

People Ops

Elexa Styan: Director of People Ops

There’s a balancing act in my role between being a voice for employees and a representative of the business

What is your role?

As Director of People Ops I’m responsible for overseeing all areas related to the company’s employees and contractors, including: culture, engagement, hiring & planning, on-boarding, performance management, learning & development, benefits & compensation, recognition, tools & equipment, events, community involvement. Some areas I own, like compensation; other areas I’m highly involved in but not at the day-to-day level, like hiring; and others I’m only lightly involved in these days, like on-boarding.

What is the path you took to get here?

I got my foot in the door at MetaLab as Executive Assistant to the CEO in 2013, before People Ops existed at MetaLab outside of Tim’s (our COO at the time) many hats. With a degree in HR and the rapid growth of the company over the last few years, it was the perfect storm to land in my current role. Once leadership determined there was a need for People Ops full-time I dove in with Tim to start building out the People Ops processes and tools. After a wild year of crazy growth, quadrupling the size of the team, there was a clear need for more People Ops muscle and we grew to the current team of four.

If someone else wanted to get into this role what would your top 3 suggestions for them be?

  1. Reach out to your network to get an introduction to someone who’s in your chosen career path. Offer to take them for coffee and rack their brain about what it’s actually like on the job. Not only are these incredibly valuable conversations in and of themselves, these connections can also open doors to opportunities down the road!
  2. Be open to taking on a different, more junior, or more generalist role to get your foot in the door at an organization first. Be honest about your long-term goal to get into People Ops, but embrace your current role. This not only helps give you insight into what it’s actually like to be an employee at the company, it will also give you a fuller perspective of the business as a whole- all really useful knowledge when you’re in People Ops!
  3. School is an option to get started, but I’d recommend getting into an organization first when possible. Nothing is as valuable as experience. And some organizations will really appreciate all the money, time, and tears you’ve spent earning a diploma or degree, while others won’t care at all. If you get into an organization/role first and still feel like you want some formal training, you can more easily identify an option that will be most directly valuable/relevant.

Freya Rozzano: Community & Culture Lead

I’m learning something new every single day and I love that, keeps me on my toes!

What is your role?

I think many of us wear a number of hats (fedoras?!) at MetaLab 😄 I’m the new people person, the gal that gives new MetaLaber’s a hand getting set up both online and at the office. I take newbs through the entire on-boarding process to ensure that they’re set up for success. I also play a part in organizing company events, managing the Victoria office, setting up sponsorships and donations in the community and making sure the people have everything they need to do their jobs.

What is the path you took to get here?

I worked in healthcare for 6 years before I was given the opportunity to work at MetaLab. Elexa and I have known each other since we were kids and she had reached out with an opportunity to come on as Executive Assistant. The timing worked out perfectly as I had been looking to make a change. A year after working as Executive Assistant I was asked to join the growing People Ops team and we’ve been building and growing my role as Community + Culture Lead since.

What skills are essential to do your job successfully?

Flexibility, being able to switch gears quickly, prioritizing and multitasking are the first few skills that come to mind. Not a skill but I’m learning something new every single day and I love that, keeps me on my toes!

If someone else wanted to get into this role what would your top 3 suggestions for them be?

1. Start digging in and getting out there! There is a ton of information online — via webinars/seminars, blogs, free workshops etc that I have found so helpful.

2. Join the PeopleOps group or something similar in your city! Huge network of folks in similar roles where we can share experiences and ask questions in confidence.

3. Find a mentor if it’s a role you’re totally new to. Elexa has been an incredible leader and mentor for me.


Erica Rizzo: Talent Partner

[It’s takes] perseverance, the ability to not take things personally, and listening for what is important.

What is your role?

A Talent Partner! I am foremost a Recruiter, but I also get to dive into other People Ops projects. That’s everything from writing a hiring handbook, testing systems for performance reviews, and connecting with industry partners to create a bigger presence for us in the community.

I think Recruiting is so cool because essentially I get to meet everyone first! I get to have conversations about the things people love most and are most passionate about — and I don’t think it gets much more inspiring than that!

What is the path you took to get here?

I have a BBA in HR and Entrepreneurship. I started off in a traditional HR role (i.e. all the paperwork, ever) It was a great way to learn a ton all at once; and I got my hands on everything from compensation & benefits, to health & safety, and labour relations. But I was in the construction industry, and I felt something beyond my grey cubicle walls was calling to me.

I took a role as a sourcer/junior recruiter at a tech company because I wanted the most extreme culture shock I could get. Finding my niche in recruiting was something that came out of exploring options there. Tech, and specifically startups, have so much space to try new things. There are opportunities everywhere if you take them, or create them! I got to try 4 roles, with 3 managers, in 2.5 years — woah! As I moved away from recruiting into a fully operations based role, it became clear that it was not my path.

At that time, Elexa (our Director of People Ops) found me and told me about an amazing opportunity at MetaLab. Initially, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go back to recruiting. I took a weekend to reflect on the times I was most happy, engaged, and excited, and it became clear to me what I wanted to do. I’ve been so happy ever since!

What skills are essential to do your job successfully?

Perseverance, the ability to not take things personally, and listening for what is important.

One of the biggest parts of my job is outbound sourcing — essentially cold emailing with jobs. I scour LinkedIn for someone with a matching skill set, send a message, then I wait, and I wait, and I wait. When I get a positive message back, I’ll grab a call with that person. When I get a ‘No’ or a ‘No, for now’, it turns into a long term play — waiting for the right time for that person to make a move!

From time to time, the candidates I find and I think are really great, don’t make it past the next person in the interview phase. Maybe the skill set was a little off, maybe they weren’t a good culture fit. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that just because a candidate was not 100% right, does not mean I am bad at my job. It just means a little tweak to my search!

That leads me to what I think is the most valuable skill overall — listening for what is important. For the company, you need to know the important skills, traits, and experiences of the person you are looking to hire. For candidates, you need to listen for what they are looking for in their career, life goals, and what kind of company they want to work for. The more you listen, the better a match you’re likely to make.

If someone else wanted to get into this role what would your top 3 suggestions for them be?

  1. Start cultivating your network! Go to events and meetups and connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn.
  2. Know your transferable skills — anything in sales or customer success can easily translate.
  3. Make a list of your target companies — and go make friends!

*If you do want to be a developer, that’s totally cool too!


Look for Part 2 of “You Probably Shouldn’t Be A Developer” coming soon!

Learn more about my role as a Producer (Project Manager) here.