Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

Do this before hiring developers

Money isn’t enough to hire the best product teams. If you want to hire great people to build your product, you need to convince them that your vision has potential. To do this, techies and non-techies alike need to come prepared.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem someone is experiencing. You use Uber to get from A to B, not because you want to use an app.
  • Great outsourced product teams like the Evil Martians will question your assumptions and want to validate your idea. If a product team doesn’t ask you any questions and just wants to take your money, they are probably not very good, and so you should not work with them.
  • To prepare to work with a great product team, research the problem you are solving and your target users. This research will also be useful if you are fundraising or applying for accelerators.
  • User and problem research is also relevant if you want to get a job in a tech business, invest in tech or lead digital transformation. This...
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How I got to the top in tech

Jennifer Byrne studied Psychology at university and went on to become the Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft US. Listen to this episode to learn how this liberal arts graduate transitioned into tech and became one of the most senior people in the industry. 

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "You have to understand the difference between acquiring digital context versus digital fluency. Context means seeing the bigger picture of how things connect together, but not necessarily understanding the detail," says Jennifer.
  • Jennifer says that it is impossible to know everything about technology, even when you are at the top. Instead, she says understand the broad context of how tech products get made and do deep dives into areas that interest you.
  • As a CTO you have to think strategically: what problem are we solving? How can technology be applied to this problem? 
  • Good CTOs must connect technology strategy to drive business decisions.

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How I transitioned into a career in tech

career strategy fintech Nov 17, 2021

Lots of smart people want to transition into careers in tech, but don’t know how to get started. If that sounds like you, then listen to how Alexandra Soroko went from finance to tech leadership.

Today, Alexandra is Head of Merchant Sales at Visa in France, and connects fintech companies, banks and Visa’s technologies to help some of the world’s largest companies process payments. In her role, she combines tech knowledge, marketing and finance skills. She started her career at JP Morgan, but didn’t let her lack of tech skills stop her.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • You don’t need to be an engineer, but you need a willingness to understand what lies beneath the surface if you want to succeed in a tech business,” says Alexandra
  • "If we don't have a vision, life just happens to us," says Alexandra. Before embarking on a transition into tech, think about your values and what you want from your next role. Alexandra’s six desires...
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Break Into Tech: three examples of successful career transitions

The number of technology oriented jobs is predicted to rise to 190 million in 2025, according to Microsoft. But, if you're a non-techie, how do you get in on that?

In this episode, you'll hear how three people transitioned into successful careers and tech, and learn how to apply their tactics to your career transformation.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • To succeed in tech as a non-techie, you need to learn core technology concepts and understand how they translate to business outcomes and user needs. You do not need to retrain as a coder.
  • There are more ways to be part of the tech boom than you think. For example, if you're a marketing expert, you could run a marketing company, which only serves tech clients. 
  • Transitions into tech often have an interim step, like volunteering for a start-up or helping a product team do user feedback. You can use this interim step to build your network, learn about new opportunities and add a tech position to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Listen...
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Why Uber competes with Tinder and with chocolate

Consumer facing tech businesses like Uber aren’t just competing with other firms that provide a similar service. They’re competing with everything that vies for your attention.

This is why B2C tech businesses tend to be more innovative, better at design thinking and take inspiration from a wider pool than their enterprise tech counterparts.

Learning notes:

  • The Attention Economy refers to products which compete for consumers’ attention, which widens the competitive landscape exponentially. Uber isn’t just competing with Lyft, or your feet. Going out competes with staying in, so sometimes you’re choosing between an Uber to a party or Tindering at home. 
  • Smart B2B companies are taking inspiration from consumer innovation. The innovation team at Barclays asked if Domino’s Pizza could track customer orders, why couldn’t Barclays could keep borrowers up to date with the progress of their loans?  
  • If you’re working on...
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How to solve the right problem

95% of new products fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. But, usually this isn't because they are badly made, but because they don't solve the right problem.

Before you delve into product development, define the problem you are solving. In this episode, you'll learn from Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, author of What's Your Problem and Innovation As Usual, about how to reframe problem solving in business and in life.

Learning notes:

  • Non-techies can play an important role on product teams by being focussed on the problem they are solving, because they are less likely to get stuck in the weeds of building.
  • Not all problem solving needs fancy technology. Often, small changes in design can have a big impact, at a much lower cost. 
  • Being focussed on the problem is vital at the start of product development, and as your product matures. Keep analysing how people use it to see if you're still solving the right problem.

To learn key technology...

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What do Heads of Innovation do?

Working in innovation at a large company can be a great way to join the tech boom for non-techies. But what do you do when you get there? 

Innovation leaders have a wide range of backgrounds. Some have deep tech expertise, and others are marketing pros. The innovation path a company has chosen determines the background of the person who'll lead it.

Learning notes: 

  • There are 6 paths to innovation: private, public, incremental, breakthrough, product and process.
  • Breakthrough innovation is when a company asks itself: we need to do something completely different. What is that thing? How do we do it?
  • Public innovation is tied to marketing and how customers see the brand.
  • Private innovation doesn't leave the company's walls until it is ready to be commercialised and often comes with patent protection (think biotech businesses).

If you want to learn more about the paths to innovation and how to apply them to business and life, get Sophia's e-book:

Innovate, But...

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How smart start-ups and corporates hire product teams

What’s technology for? Tech products can make our lives better and make businesses a lot of money. But, without a focus on the user and on the business, technology is an academic project at best, or just an expensive hobby.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Elisabeth Bohlmann, VP of strategy at December Labs, a product and development studio that works with corporates like Google, and start-ups to validate ideas and build products.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • If you don't have a technical background, learning from other people who are succeeding in tech but aren't techies, is often the best way to learn. They can anticipate your questions and mistakes much better than someone who has been coding since they were 8.
  • Before hiring developers, always validate your ideas and create a prototype with designers. Design thinking is central to tech.
  • Whether you're working in a start-up or a corporate, think about business needs first and then find out...
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What Product Managers do and how to become one

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, and Ben Horowitz, the co-founder of VC fund A16Z, both started their careers as Product Managers (PMs).

PMs rise to leadership positions in the tech sector, because the job combines user perspectives, business needs and technological capabilities.  Whatever you want to do in the tech sector, learning how product managers think will help you succeed.

Learning notes:

  • A product is a solution to a problem somebody is experiencing. Good product managers always focus on the user and the problem.
  • Product Managers lead developers, marketers and designers, but rarely know how to do all those jobs themselves. 
  • To lead the team successfully, product managers set product goals. This means telling the team where to go, not how to get there.
  • To get into product management, learn a bit, do a bit. Taking courses is useful, but make sure to also participate in making a product.
  • You can get involved in product management by...
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Why cloud computing isn't just for techies

You’ve probably heard the term cloud computing, but like most non-techies, you’re not sure what it means. In this episode, you’ll learn what it is and how businesses use it to solve problems.

You’ll learn from DJ Johnson, who works at Microsoft Azure. DJ started his career as an NBA player and transitioned into a career in tech.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Cloud computing allows businesses to rent space to store data. Previously, companies had to store data on their own servers, which was much more expensive.
  • The two biggest players in cloud computing are Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • As a non-techie, first identify business problems and then see if technology can fix them.
  • For example, during Covid when suddenly many people ended up working from home, one of DJ’s clients suffered from major time lags in their communications. Their internal messenger service was taking 3 days to deliver a message! This was making customers...
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