Leaving your career behind and choosing a different professional path isn’t an easy decision, but it can be even more difficult if you’re thinking about getting into tech.
Soft skills like communication and time management are easily transferrable, but there’s a new set of industry-specific technical skills, which most people will need to learn from scratch. And how do you do that?
Well, most often through — you’ve guessed it! — online courses. And if that’s what you’re interested in, then nanodegrees offered by Udacity are an excellent choice that will help you start a career in the tech industry. So, let’s find out how!
1. Nanodegrees and their benefits
Nanodegrees are certified online educational programmes that help you learn or develop Computer Science and Information Technology (IT) skills. These online courses are aimed at both new learners and people who already have some experience in tech.
What makes nanodegrees stand out is the teaching methodology. Instead of relying on courses, seminars, and typical assignments, students will learn through projects, case studies, experiments, and test cases.
This approach ensures that the skills and know-how you develop are applicable in real-world jobs and will give you the necessary confidence to take the first steps into an IT career.
Benefits of nanodegrees
- It takes between 6 and 12 months to finish a nanodegree, which is faster than most regular online Bachelors or Masters
- The methodology ensures you learn fundamental skills through a hands-on approach
- You will learn from experts with years of experience in their fields
- Nanodegrees are pretty affordable, with costs usually ranging between 200–400 USD per month depending on what you want to learn
- You can study part-time, at your own pace, from anywhere in the world without the need to give up your current job
- Top companies like Google, Facebook, GitHub recognise nanodegrees and having one will be a boost for your CV
Learn more about nanodegrees from Udacity.
2. Choose a tech specialisation and a nanodegree
The words “tech” or “the tech industry” are all-encompassing terms referring to a wide variety of jobs, specialisations, and sectors. So, the first step on your journey to a career in tech is to choose a specialisation.
Here’s a great piece of advice from Gabriel Jimenez, Product Marketing Manager at Google:
“Stop thinking of your career as jobs you want to have. Instead, think of your career as things you want to learn or problems and challenges you want to solve. Not only will you become a much more interesting and thoughtful candidate, but you will better recognise how seemingly unrelated roles are actually perfect for you.”
With that in mind, here are some of the most popular nanodegree subjects:
- Nanodegrees in Data Science
- Nanodegrees in Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Nanodegrees in Programming
- Nanodegrees in Cyber Security
- Nanodegrees in Product Management
Explore other nanodegree specialisations.
3. Check out the skills you need to succeed in the tech industry
Obviously, not all jobs in the IT industry are the same, which means that neither are the skills you need to master.
Sure, there will be some abilities that are necessary for any tech profession. But before you decide to change careers, first learn what competences and knowledge you need to have. Let’s look at a few examples:
Essential skills for programmers
- proficiency in programming languages: C#, Python, Java, PHP, etc.
- basic understanding of math: algebra, arithmetic
- problem-solving: identify, isolate, reproduce and fix bugs
- technical writing
Essential skills for data scientists
- SQL know-how: writing queries, building data pipelines
- Data wrangling: changing the formats of your data
- A/B testing, analysis, and reporting
- Advanced statistics and math skills
Essential skills for cyber security professionals
- Reverse engineering: taking code apart to find vulnerabilities
- Advanced knowledge of operating systems: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux distributions
- Advanced knowledge of programming languages: Python, Shell, Java, etc.
- Firewall set-up and administration
- Experience with penetration testing software
4. Enrol in a nanodegree that matches your goals
The next step is finding a nanodegree that matches your goals or ambitions.
You should look at the learning outcomes, or, in other words, what knowledge and abilities you gain at the end of that nanodegree. Learning outcomes also mention what skill level you need to have at the start (if any).
Then, it’s all about getting specific. For example, nanodegrees in Programming have a wide variety of options:
- Nanodegrees in Front End Web Developing
- Nanodegrees in Java Developing
- Nanodegrees in C++
- Nanodegrees in iOS Developing
- Nanodegrees in Blockchain Developing
Which one would you like to learn? Find the answer to that, and you’ll find the right nanodegree for you. Of course, the same applies to any other nanodegree specialisation.
You also get a one month (30 days) free trial, which is more than enough time to decide if a specific online course matches your expectations. Don’t forget to cancel the next payment before the free trial expires!
5. Stick to your online learning
Online courses are an excellent way to learn and expand your personal and professional horizons. But they aren’t magic wands. Just enrolling won’t be enough. To enjoy all the benefits, you need to stick to the course, pay attention, take notes, and finish all the projects and assignments.
While this may sound easy at the start when you’re all pumped up and motivated, things can quickly go downhill once you lose that initial motivation, become overwhelmed by your schedule, or the concepts from the course get more complex.
Here are a few tips and tricks we recommend so that your online study experience is both enjoyable and successful:
- Create a study plan
- Use friendly reminders
- Reward yourself for progress
- Rewatch a class if you don’t understand it fully
- Put your phone on Do Not Disturb (DND) and focus exclusively on your courses
- Practise what you learn even when you’re not doing the course
And perhaps the most important tip: remind yourself every week (if not every day) why you’ve enrolled in the course. It will bring back the bigger picture and help you overcome challenging tasks and days.
6. Practise new skills as soon as possible
You mustn’t wait until you finish the nanodegree. Start practising the new-learned skills in your free time. It doesn’t have to be one or two hours per day. Do it for 15 minutes; even 10 minutes is better than not doing anything.
Practice is necessary because no amount of theory can compensate for the lack of trial and error. So, get out there and write your first lines of code, install your first Linux distribution, or try to debug the malfunctioning driver for that good old printer.
7. Look for entry-level tech jobs or paid internships
What’s next after finishing the nanodegree? Well, that’s it! Congratulations! You’ve earned the certificate, gained the skills, and put in the work and effort — now it’s time to find that rewarding job in tech.
It’s a rather competitive industry, but the demand is huge, so finding a job shouldn’t be too hard. Don’t choose a position based on salary alone; look at what you want to learn, who you’ll work with, what learning opportunities are available, and so on.
If you find the right work environment where you can thrive, in time, your experience and skills will reach new levels, and your income will reflect that.
Those who still find it challenging to find a job should look into (paid) internships, which are an excellent opportunity to gain hands-on experience and learn from mistakes without carrying the burdens or worries of a regular employee.
8. Stay up to date with the latest tech trends
Tech is a fast-moving industry. Too fast, as some might argue! New programming languages, systems, and data manipulations tools come out regularly, and it’s easy to be left behind.
You should try out or at least learn and understand the basics of anything new related to your tech area of expertise. You never know how or when it will come in handy or, who knows, how it can lead to new (job) opportunities.
The only way to stay on top is to constantly work on mastering your skills and develop new ones related to your personal and professional objectives.