Technology is the fastest growing sector in the job market. Software, cloud and automation replace traditional jobs of factory workers, secretaries and service workers. Software and technology companies are the most valued by the stock market and investors. Founders of these companies are one of the richest people in the world. Startup founders and nerds are new role models for kids.
But what if you are not coding prodigy like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates who started coding in their teens. What if you don’t really enjoy coding that much or maybe you are more of a peoples or a liberal arts type of a person? Do you prohibited from a tech industry? Most people don’t know that they are plenty of jobs in the tech industry which do not require coding.
Of course, you cannot be a clueless pumpkin and know nothing about tech. You still have to be technically literate and know what is a database or an API is, but you’ll mainly be leveraging your existing skills from another industry, not starting from a scratch learning coding. (Learning coding when you are in 50s are still possible. I saw it happen a Hack Reactor where I taught. But let’s admit, on average the wits become duller with age, not sharper.)
Here are seven (7) such jobs which do not require coding or deep technical expertise but can be interesting, fulfilling, and well-paid.
- Program Manager
- Product Manager/Owner
- Scrum Master
- User Researcher
- Tech Writer
Let’s me give you some brief insight into each of them.
Program Manager (not to confuse with product or project manager) is a person who works on 3–5 projects at a time to make sure all the dependencies are resolved on time, and there are no obstacle to deliver products on time. A typical day of a Program Manager is spent in various meetings listening to the status updates to make sure everything is running smoothly. Think about this job as being an overseer of the product schedule and communicator between various teams. You are a hero who saves the world, albeit an undercover (like Clark Kent) and sometimes under-appreciated one (like Dr Watson).
The upside is that you will be rarely bored. There’s always something happening and you’ll get to meet a lot of teams and people in various organizations within your company. If you thrive on juggling multiple tasks, great with scheduling and planning, if you hate boredom, then PM is a great role for you.
The downside is that there’s little to no authority meaning typically you don’t have any direct reports. You need to use your influence, charm and communications skills to “sell” involved on the right way to resolve conflicts and competing priorities.
Product Manager, or in some companies Product Owner, is often mistakenly dubbed “a CEO of a product”. Mistakenly because unlike a real CEO of a company you can’t hire or fire anyone. What you do is you take the vision or an idea and shape it into a real product by talking to software engineers and customers. You are at the intersection of business, customer and engineering. You do it by making sure the product is a money maker and strategically aligned with the company, and ends up being implemented as close as possible to what customer wants.
Upside is that it’s fulfilling to see shape a new product and see happy customer faces when they get it in their hands (or emails). The downside is that as in the Product Manager role, you rarely have any authority over engineering, design or anyone else. You need to drive the execution by influence without authority. There’s a healthy push-and-pull between PM and engineering with one trying to over engineer or cut corners (engineers), and other shooting for the stars or asking for insane deadlines.
PM is the fastest track into the senior leadership. If you can come up with a money-maker idea and bring it to the market, then that’s a great way to be promoted. Most of the VPs and C-level execs come from the PM background (others are from sales – another bread-winner role, and just recently from engineering as seen in Google and Microsoft).
This role is very straightforward. You can read a book or get certified to know all about Scrum which is a methodology to build software products in an iterative fashion. Scrum is related to Agile. The Scrum concept is centered on fast feedback and constant learning and adjustment. Some big companies hire dedicated Scrum Masters to work on 3–5 projects while others just rotate engineers every two weeks. (I do not recommend having a software engineering manager or tech team lead being a Scrum Master.)
A typical day consists of “standups”, which are ironically almost always are sit down meetings or video conferences due to misunderstanding while they really should be just short 10–15 minute meetings. In these daily meetings each team member tells a status update. Scrum Master mainly helps to catalog progress, resolve blockers, organize tasks into a tracking system (like JIRA), and help with planning of the next sprint (1–2 week period).
Upside is that this job is relatively easy while the downside is that not all companies work in a true Agile (which is a parent concept of Scrum). Most companies adapt what I call waterfallagile where you have a far reaching deadline but try to work in sprints. This approach sucks. It can lead to stressful life right before the deadlines and eventually poorer product than in a true Agile. Sadly, most companies are very stubborn in their Agile mind set. Once they hired consultants to come and implement Agile and Scrum, these companies stop learning and adjusting the Agile process.
The designer job is very creative and artsy. You work closely with PM, customers and User Researcher which can inhibit the creativity by imposing certain requirements on your next masterpiece. Your job could vary from producing paper sketches to full blown app prototypes (which could often be built without coding or with minimal coding skills). It can be very non-technical or very technical depending on your preference and expertise. For example, you could start your career just with some basic illustrator skills and tools like Adobe Photoshop and over the years learn HTML and CSS (easy markup and styling languages) to help software engineers implement your designs exactly you want.
The upside is that you can get freelance work tomorrow. You can work remotely too. Or you can join a big company and work in a cool hip office in San Francisco. There are a lot of online tutorials to learn any of the design tools on websites like Udemy, Lynda, etc. You work will be seen by thousands or even millions of other people. You can be proud of it when you show it to your friends, casually drop in a conversation at a cocktail party or send a link to your parents. For example, when I worked at DocuSign, our design team did an amazing job. I’m very proud of the new DocuSign experience which we built, and mention how great it is at any opportunity… and especially to real estate agents who use some crap like RightSignature or EchoSign.
The downside is that you have to work closely with software engineers and this is not a joke. Software engineers can be jerks, but they’ll be the people who are supposed to implement your designs. Most of the times software engineers (at least the adequate ones) be happy to have your designs since they are not great at design themselves and understand that. Occasionally either from a lack of sleep, too much coffee or just being assholes, some software engineers will protest that a certain element is too hard to implement. Other times, or you’ll get an interpretation on your design, not exactly what you or customers wanted. Don’t get me wrong. Most of software engineers are wonderful human being but due to a healthy tension (which helps to make a better product) designers, QA engineers (a.k.a. tester) and engineers are the groups who have the most conflicts. (Though hating on extraverted, noisy and bro-like sales people bring these groups closer.)
User Researcher is a relatively new but highly important role. The main task is come up with better product and to test out prototypes and designs of new products to get customer feedback. For example at Capital One, we have a user research lab which is a room with one-way mirrors like in an episode of an investigation TV show. There are professional hidden cameras and microphones. People are paid a small reward ($25–100) to come to these studies. They spent an hour or so testing out a new product and your role is to document the findings and then communicate what’s working and what’s not to PMs, design and engineers.
User Research solves for better User Experience (UX) and also for not wasting time on something no one wants (comes from the Lean Startup concept). For example, better UX could be making a delete button accessible from the toolbar with one click instead of the submenu with confirmation which requires three clicks and thus has more friction. Amazon 1-Click is another example of brilliant UX which makes usage easer while bring Amazon bazzillions of added revenues.
The upside is that you help shape the product into a better one and prove or disprove hypothesis (hence the name: researcher). This job doesn’t require deep technical knowledge which makes this job ideal for an entry into the tech industry and a company. The downside is that now all companies and teams take UX seriously yet, but then do you really want to work in a such a backwards company? Probably not. Google, Amazon, Facebook, PayPal, Capital One and many others successful tech companies take UX seriously. Companies like that are a good place to work.
Recruiters find talent and depending on a company arrange interviews and facilitate hiring while big companies have separate roles for that. Your day is spent searching LinkedIn, GitHub and in emails and phone calls with prospective candidates. You need to be good at assessing people meaning you need to have at least the basic understanding of tech requirements for the job. You need to have a sense of the culture fit, and company and team goals. On the other hand, you need to be a good salesperson to be able to sell the candidate on your company and this role. Needless to say, networking and being a great communicator is paramount.
The downside and upside are the same: It’s a very tough and competitive hiring market meaning it’s hard to recruit but there’s a big demand for good recruiters (the bar is very low which makes it easy to be a good recruiter). Almost all companies have job openings. I suspect there’s an even negative employment rate as I’m sure some people have more than one job (one guy automated his job and did nothing for a few years). Also, you can freelance as an independent recruiter by making a killing on recruiting fees instead of getting a fixed salary. A single hire can bring you $10,000–20,000!
A Tech Writer works on documentation, tutorials, press releases, help pages, and anything else which supports a product. Tech Writer needs a little bit more tech understanding than other jobs described in this article, but still it requires NO CODING, and you can enjoy the same awesome stock plan, health insurance and yoga classes as any one else in the company.
A typical day is spent in front of a computer typing away in an MS Word document, and occasionally in a Slack messenger to clarify a certain feature from a designer, PM or engineer. This job is a perfect fit if your English flows smoothly like mine, you like learning about tech (but not coding), you like helping users by providing them with an understandable English instead of “Error 50004”, and most importantly you are not annoyed by multiple text reviews, proofreading and typos (as I am).
The upside is that this job is perfect for introverted and remote workers (freelance or full-time). The downside is that you’ll need to become very proficient with tech terms and product features. Also, only medium and big size companies have dedicated Tech Writer roles. Startups can’t afford this role, so this task is done by either founders, admins, or engineers themselves (worst).
This concludes the lucky seven list. All of this jobs can be a starting job in a tech industry. It’s very common to start in one role and then transition to something else. Don’t get stuck thinking you have to do one job for the rest of your life. Some of the roles are extroverted like a Recruiter (networking and cold calling skills help immensely) while other introverted like a Tech Writer (just find a quiet place, sit with the product and you are good to go). Start with something you feel interested about, and then you can ask to transfer to a new role in a year or two. It’s easier to move around within tech once you are in. Get you foot in the door first!
Tech industry is crashing many established industries like transportation, banking, travel, communication, entertainment and pretty much any other. Tech companies offer hip offices, best health insurance plans, stock options, retirement plans, unlimited vacations, pet-friendly environments, remote work, free juices, espresso coffee, organic snacks, gourmet meals, yoga classes, ping pong tables, foosballs, video games, and myriads of other perks. What is your excuse of not joining the ranks of the new elite now that you know seven jobs which don’t even require coding? Educate yourself more, polish your resume and get a job in tech!