Welcome to the Tech for Non-Techies podcast

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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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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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 the VC market is changing and how to succeed it

More money is entering venture capital today than ever before. This means more career opportunities for investors, and funding options for founders.

In this episode, you'll hear from Check Warner, parter at Ada's Ventures, and co-Founder of Diversity VC. Check talks about her career transition from advertising to VC, how the venture industry is changing and how that affects founders.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Networking is a key part of a VC's job. If this is a career you want, build your network with founders, other VCs and larger funds that invest in venture.
  • To be a successful tech VC, you do need to learn how to speak tech, but you definitely don't need to be a coder yourself.
  • More money is entering the VC market and more funds are being set up. VC funds are often small, unlike other firms in the financing market. 
  • The widening VC market and the growth of no code tools means more opportunities for non-technical founders to succeed.

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How to pivot your way to success

Neither life nor business are linear. Startups often pivot their business models several times to find product market fit, just as we try out different careers.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Hannah Feldman, the CEO and co-founder of Kidadl, which helps families do fun and useful things with their kids.

Hannah is a non-technical founder of a digital business. She began her career as a corporate lawyer, then worked in banking, and then with Dragon Den’s James Caan before transitioning into tech entrepreneurship.

Her company, Kidadl also went through pivots before it found product market fit during the Covid shutdowns. Whether you want to build a business or transition into a career in tech, this is a great episode to learn from.

Learning notes from this episode: 

  • “The business strategies employed by highly successful start-ups and the career strategies employed by highly successful individuals are strikingly similar," Reid Hoffman.
  • Most startups have...
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How to have a great career in tech, lessons from Reid Hoffman

career strategy Jul 28, 2021

“The business strategies employed by highly successful start-ups and the career strategies employed by highly successful individuals are strikingly similar," says Reid Hoffman in his book The Startup of You.

If you want to have a great career in tech as non-techie, but don’t know how to get started, this episode is for you.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Hoffman says we all have 3 puzzle pieces in our careers: our assets, our aspirations & values and market realities.
  • Plan your career 2 steps ahead. For example, if you work in finance and your aim is to get into product management, it’s unlikely you’ll just leap from one to the other. This is going to require an interim step, like volunteering with a start-up on weekends.
  • Invest in learning transferable digital skills. If you learn the basics of how apps, sites and algorithms get made, and when tech decisions overlap with business decisions, so many opportunities will open up to you.

 

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Introduction to Venture Capital

A robust venture capital industry is one of the pillars of the today's tech boom, because it provides the funding for new companies to grow. But "venture capital is not a job for everyone," says venture investor Dr Itxaso del Palacio in this week's episode.

Itxaso is a leading venture capitalist. She launched Microsoft Ventures in Europe and is Partner at Notion Capital today. She also teaches Entrepreneurial Finance at the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • "Venture capital is mostly transactional. Founders operate the companies, and we can advise and suggest what to do but we don't operate the companies," says Itxaso.
  • Corporate venture arms are very different to VC funds and the incentives within them differ. For example, people in traditional VCs benefit financially if a company they invest in becomes a unicorn. This is often not the case in corporate venture divisions.
  • People do not usually begin...
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The career secret all tech innovators know

Most start-ups fail, but founders and investors can still use this for career success. Learning how tech products get made and how the companies behind them make money, open so many doors to interesting and lucrative opportunities. In fact, many product managers and venture capitalists have transitioned into these jobs via start-ups.

Learning notes from this episode:

  • Almost every company is now a tech company, so knowing how tech products get built and how they make money is THE most useful transferable skill in today’s economy
  • If you’re thinking of launching a venture, you do need to be aware that it might not work out. But, ask yourself what could I do if the venture failed? Would that be better or worse than what I was doing before? I most cases, the answer is yes.
  • Learning these skills does not mean getting an MBA or investing thousands as an inexperienced angel investor.

You can learn by listening to this podcast, reading books about the industry, and most...

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