June 20, 2022

Career Pivoting Into Tech with Chris Taylor

Hosts:

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Highlights

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Career changes have been on the rise since the pandemic started. Add in inflation, a bear market and high profile companies laying off, career pivots are picking up steam.

What job field is a safe bet? Technology, duh. Software development jobs still don’t have enough people to meet the demand.

But isn’t tech hard to get into? Not really. At least, not as much as it used to be.

Chris Taylor is an enterprise architect with 20 years of experience…and he’s self taught. He joins James Hornick on the Talent Insight podcast to discuss how it’s never been easier to start a tech career. And how you can start.

Partner at Hirewell. #3 Ranked Sarcastic Commenter on LinkedIn.

Episode Transcript

All right everybody, welcome to the Talent Insights podcast brought to you by Hirewell and Sourcewell. Getting back to my roots today a little bit, talk a little tech. Those who don’t recall, I was a tech recruiter way back in the day for about 10 years. Special guest, enterprise architect from coyote logistics, and more importantly, someone who knows how to troll the internet,

Chris Taylor. Thank you, sir. That’s basically how- pretty much I was like, you know what? This guy thinks he’s more sarcastic than me and it ends up you are. So you win. But I wanted to at least challenge myself a little bit, so. Well you are the actual standup comedian, so I guess, you know, you’ve got a little more accolades than I do. So you should- we’ll call it that. I don’t know yet. Trying. Aspiring stand up comedian. Aspiring, yes.

We’ve had a lot of like side conversations over the years and just in the comments of LinkedIn sometimes and like certain posts and whatnot, and I wanted to have you on because we’re on different sides of the hiring area, right? So we’re always trying to find talent and you’ve always been pretty outspoken.

You’re actually doing the hiring, actually vetting people out and you’ve also looked for jobs and you’ve kind of been on that side too. I don’t know if we have an official title for this podcast but one of the things that you felt really passionately about is the concept of like citizen developers or second career coders or career pivots in general.

And I’ve seen a lot, especially since the pandemic, people who are trying to pivot their career either into technology or into some other area and they feel like it’s just impossible. But your thoughts on it are, it’s very possible. It’s just the people don’t know how to do it. It’s not advertised very well and whatnot.

So I don’t know. I guess if you want to kick this off, like maybe, I don’t know if you want to start about what led us onto this kind of topic to begin with. Sure. Yeah. I think what kind of got us, there was kind of a funny story as well, like everything else is that, one of the reasons I reached out to you and we talked about people like burning out during the pandemic or wanting to make those career switches. Obviously I wanted to make a career switch on my own from IT, but that wasn’t more, what we started talking about.

It was ironically my ex wife who wanted to switch her career potentially into IT. And we had kind of spoken about, one of the things about her is she’s incredibly intelligent of course, she has two degrees. She’s been a teacher for 20 some years or, well, not that long, 15, 20 years right in there.

And she has to deal with all sorts of different people if you will, every day in audiences and stuff like that as well as technologies too. I guess what it is that, a lot of the technologies I guess that we’ve built in more today are pretty common across systems or at least the way they work are pretty common.

And so it becomes more about how you work with people or understand or had those experiences you’ve had in life become more valuable in how you put kind of larger systems together, like these applications. In my specific instance, she’s learning how to do like power apps and virtual agents and stuff like that.

And what was amazing is how quick she was able to adopt it. It didn’t take any effort by me, which I’m really happy about because it showed that, hey, you don’t need to have the expertise or a background in IT even, to be able to make that jump because IT isn’t about writing code anymore if you want to look at it that way or what we used to think of it being. It’s more about how business operates overall, where we use automation systems or IT systems to basically improve communication and efficiency of how we move from beginning to end of a product or how we make money.

You know what I mean? And so that isn’t taught necessarily in a classroom, if you will. That’s more just stuff you learn in life because it’s not like anyone really sticks with one company for any one period of time. So we all kinda borrow and- life experience and broad range of- broad range of those experiences,

you know? I’ve noticed- not to make it about myself right off the bat, but like different things I’ve done, you know. It’s things I’ve done for fun, blogging and writing and other things like that. Like you realize they’re directly related to how you can do your job better.

You know what I mean? Or do things differently or innovate or things like that as opposed to just like learning by the book and kind of going through the same structure regimen that everybody else does, regardless of the field. Right because a lot of that’s almost done early on to like give you like a way to see it or whatever. But as you kind of grow with life experiences and stuff like that, as you said, it’s like you’re able to understand things a little bit easier or different or different perspective is easier

to adopt or adhere to- I don’t know what the word I’m looking for there is. Or just you can see things differently and you can learn it faster. So like for example, I’ll use the teacher example again is like one of the things that she didn’t realize- she was like, well, I don’t see how I’d possibly effective in this.

I’m like, you’re amazing at time management, being incredibly resourceful and you have to adjust to your audience that you’re talking to from a, people that are high communicators from your teachers and your staff and your parents and stuff down to when she get down to like the special ed side, where you have a non-verbal students and stuff like that.

And you have to do that range all the time and find a way to communicate between them effectively. Which I think that I think is what people kind of misunderstand about what a teacher does in a lot of ways, that they’re the most effective communicators you can imagine. And that is an amazing skill that you cannot be taught, but knowing how to wrap that together with just like tying some little if then, and else together through a simple interface, you know, you can provide a massive amount of value in a very, very short amount of time.

Well it’s also, I think that being able to communicate with who your stakeholders are and understanding where the gaps are because that’s the biggest challenge I see with technology on a broader scale right now is that everyone’s building stuff that doesn’t necessarily solve a problem. You know? Like not to turn this into a web three rant, but- totally. No that’s absolutely fair.

What are they trying to do? I’m a huge proponent of blockchain. I was a big fan of like Bitcoin early on and whatnot. Like I hope someday there’s actually a point to all this, you know. But for all the VC money and stuff that gets put in there and it’s just because I think that people who just come grew up through tech

and it’s so ingrained in tech culture. It’s about being the smartest and making the coolest widget and stuff like that, as opposed to something that actually solves a regular problem for real people. And that’s where the gap of not having like broad arrange and broad experience to be able to communicate with people, I think is a big detriment to the industry and why I was like, I guess I agree with you is having more people that do have kind of broad experience and whether that’s second career coders or people like that is, is such a good thing. I don’t know.

Yeah, because a lot of the tooling that we’ve got now, especially like you hear a lot of these low-code, no-code platforms, which everyone has their definitely- but it’s just a lot of things to basically make it easier for anyone to accomplish what we consider routine tasks but kind of mundane, but like, they’ll know you enough that if you want to, you can just connect some links together and it’ll do it for you automatically.

The barrier entry is so much lower than it used to be. Before, like, I guess even 10 years ago, it’s now, there’s been a lot of adoption and research to how we can encourage people to use it. Because the thing is that we built these systems, these low-code systems and no one used it.

So it was like, what was the point? Because it was built for, “we’re not developers” and that’s where it’s kind of like, we’ve evolved where now we have something that’s like, okay, we can build anything we want, communicate different ways. Like what we built and now we need those people to go out there.

Like hey, this isn’t necessarily hard. It’s something to learn, but it’s far easier to learn than what it was and it’s not as intimidating as it used to be, you know. And take comfort in that and have fun with it if you will, because people like myself are just like, well, I don’t even know what- because my life is so much different and it’s so focused around just use development these specific tools,

I don’t get to see what others see on their day-to-day life. You know what I mean? So for me design, like HR software recruiting software… kinda silly because I haven’t lived that. I can tell you that’s the biggest problem with HR and recruiting software is it’s all crap because it’s been developed by people who don’t know anything about HR recruiting or like what the real problems are.

And that’s why it’s like the most behind, because let’s be honest, it’s probably the least interesting thing out there, so. I’ll say this too, because you’ll see a lot of frustration- I guess the issue I always have with LinkedIn conversations is you always get the frustrated crowd chatting and people who just like

they might be down in their luck or they’re having a hard time finding a job, or they’re saying like- and that’s not to poo poo the way they feel about their situation, but it makes it, it still makes it look like it’s futile and that these kinds of transitions can’t be done and whatnot.

But I can tell you 15 years ago, when bootcamps first started popping up, there was so much snobbery against them, right? I remember- the amount of meetings I had where the hiring manager, whether the head of TA, when we would try to recruit developers, he’d be like, well, don’t give me any bootcamp people

because they’re all garbage. They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a waste of our time. Now, it’s an absolute beast of a pipeline. Like the amount it’s changed- I wonder how much of it is bootcamps have gotten better? How much of it has the technology changed, to be more relevant? How much of it is people doing the hiring, pulling their heads out of their ass?

Or is it kind of a combination of those three? I don’t know. I think that there’s a combination there for sure. The technology has definitely enabled it a lot more. One of the things I really like, what Microsoft has done specifically with their kind of learning, with their acquisitions, especially as when they bought LinkedIn and they bought GitHub.

There is a very cool, and this is what I’ve instructed others to do too, is there’s this very cool path that you do learning for through like learned@microsoft.com and that associates with both the LinkedIn account and your Github account. And so what you’re able to do is start to just through your learning establish a portfolio.

In 15 years ago, to do all that, like is well, Github really wasn’t a thing. Most repos, was like you had search for it or code Plex or something like that. Whereas like eh, it was still very kind of specific. It wasn’t as adopted as it used to be now. Or wasn’t even as integrated as it was now.

Now when you have like I said, with some of these learning systems are being combined to show your progress, your growth, that makes a bootcamp even more effective because then you’re able to see kind of the history behind it too. You could tell somebody copy and paste it for that matter.

Yeah, you’re able to see people’s progress. Now, because of that technology, and I think that there’s more people that are taking it seriously.

It’s not as many fly by night operations that are opening these bootcamps, if you will. It is more serious people that are getting behind it. Like hey, we liked the idea of it. I have a similar program in my own organization. But the way that it was initially done was just poor or it’s taken advantage of. And that happens with everything.

Training’s hard, you know what I mean? If you don’t have a true training background, you know, like any non-teacher, it’s hard to like turn back the clock and think what would have helped me?

So like organizations that are trying to figure out their training for the first time, this has been us, you know. It’s their first couple of cycles of doing it aren’t the best. But you have to, I think the companies that commit to it, especially I have to imagine the tech that goes- it’s going to get better over time, then it’s really going to pay off,

so. Yeah. And it takes investment because you got to learn how you learn and you gotta learn how to learn. You know what I mean? And this inverse. And you realize, like how much you kind of know on your own versus being taught, you know. That kind of goes back to like what we’re talking about like getting into elitist-ness of programming against like bootcamps and stuff like that.

I remember one time in my career where it was an awkward moment and I was sitting around with a bunch of architects and senior engineers and they’re like, we all have- it wasn’t distinguished, but like official backgrounds or credentialed backgrounds in software development.

And I was like, I don’t. And they’re like, no, you have a college degree in CS. I’m like, I have a college degree. I did not say CS. There’s a CS in there, but it was not, that’s not what it is. And I’m like, my degree is in business. And so I have more of a finance and accounting background. But I did computer science or the computer system is it’s almost like MIS with a little bit more CS in it

and some cobol. So I used to ta cobol as well, which I try to forget. But you can make a lot of money today doing that if anyone wants to. So kind of going back to boot camps and what is, it’s definitely changed today is better. There’s still some garbage out there, but there’s a lot better ways to vet out what different students- like you can individualize the quality of students a lot more because of technology that’s available today.

All right there’s two quotes. I’m going to throw them both out there, just so I don’t forget. Hopefully one of us remember to, whichever one to take first. One, let’s say you want to transition into tech. You want to become a developer.

Your career is already going. Where would you go? You mentioned that- I know you’re big on the Microsofts, their portals and everything else. Is that kind of your go-to you’d recommend or any other places you would tell people to go if they’re first trying to cut their teeth on it? There’s tons of stuff.

It really kind of depends what you want to get into. The reason I recommended going down that way, was it allowed you to do something kind of effective quickly. You could use like some of the Amazon stuff, even if you will. They have like a low-code, no-code platform within it as well to like work with the echo and with various devices and stuff like that.

Google has stuff too. It’s kind of a little more advanced. But there’s certainly sort of information out there. You’ll see a lot of them kind of all partnered together too. That’s just really interesting. Like three large organizations like that. When I say like, it depends what you want to get into is because if there’s so many different facets of IT that you can get into or you can use technology within any job function.

That’s where I’d just start. It’s like, well, if you could automate something, that’s usually what I ask people first- is if you can automate something or what it annoys you, that you do every day? And that could be anything. They happen to make toast or coffee or something like that. You can kind of like say, all right, well, maybe if you’re interested in doing IOT or something.

I know it’s a big, it’s a bit of a jump, but like you can start to steer a conversation that way. Because the other part is- I’m more surprised what people are able to come up with when just given something that works. And the reason I do again, the Microsoft way or why I promote that is just because like, I’ve just done it

and I know it. And I can tell, I know a lot of people can go- and I’ve seen others that can go do it within moments without me having to be involved. You know what I mean? And I just don’t have experience on the other ones with it. And by seeing like a simple automation running and like reading your email and then scanning it for words or something. You think that’d be, 10 years ago that actually kind of really hard to do and this, you can actually do it within like five minutes and see the outputs of it.

It’s amazing what people will start thinking or asking about. Oh, can I do this with it? Can I do this with it? It’s like, well, technically yes. That’s where you start to drive their path. Because I don’t want to say here’s the base and you have to know everything because you don’t. Who gives a shit.

All those details don’t matter to be truly innovative. You know what I mean? Yeah. Yeah. Well, let me ask you this then. This came up in a conversation today. Let’s say you’re talking to an 18 year old kid, just out of high school.

They want to become a coder and want to get into tech. You tell them to go to college or not? Like a university or community college? Well, university. Do you tell them to take out a hundred to 200K in student loans to become a coder? Or do you suggest they go a different route? I would suggest they do other things with that money

if they have it. Now, if you’ve got a hundred grand to burn just for fun and you want to go have a great social experience and learn some other stuff, totally do it. Recommend it all the way. A lot of fun. It was so much cheaper in our day. Right!

Yeah. You didn’t have to mortgage your- you’d have to mortgage the next 20 years of your life to go.. Oh my God. Right? Like I see some of the prices now. I’m like, Hmm, no, no. That is not going to pay you back. So yeah. Most of the best developers I’ve ever met or the most, you know, what I consider the best- and by best I consider those that

they think through a problem and they solve a problem. They make something better, you know? Is it the cleanest code in the world? The most efficient in terms of like cyclometic complex, whatever that thing is. You have a note, like you could see how much I care.

I don’t know what you’re trying to say, it doesn’t matter. Keep going. Someone’s going to flame me on this one out there I’m sure. So whatever that is, like, it doesn’t matter that you can show the value of it in an immediate term or something like that. You know what I mean? Like you don’t have to think about all these core details.

It’s you can show a value to others. Yeah, so I would not. You’re not going to learn. Most universities that I’ve seen do not teach the advanced- like this stuff evolves so fast that they can not have professors learn it fast enough to teach an 18 year old those concepts, to be effective at 22 and stuff like that.

That came up in our discussion today we were having online and I forgot the gentleman’s name who pointed this out. It’s like universities might teach you something, but they really don’t teach you the things that are actually used in the real world, how you would actually code at your company or how you solve the specific problems.

Like it’s still, you’re still a level removed from that. So I don’t know. And that’s why the business degree helped me or like the finance background it’s because like, oh, now I understand like what we’re doing in banking or accounting. Like why, you know, credit, debits, you know why this has to be a certain way.

That was effective because I understood the language of people that I was building software for. Not just like software developers. Like no. I could communicate with somebody and what their languages versus just what I know. Because at the end, software is just if then, else and repeat. I know I probably shared the magician secret or something like that, but it’s not. That’s all these machines can do is if then and else.

Just a lot of times. How much of this hiring are you seeing? Because the thing is I have to say, we’re at a disadvantage as a recruiter is no one hires us to find people who are making a career pivot. They’re always asking us to like find someone who’s got X experience doing X job.

I mean, that’s why they get us involved in the first place. I always feel terrible when someone’s like hey, I’m trying to make a pivot. I can give them some advice, but it’s rare that I can actually place someone. How many second recruiters are you seeing?

What’s kind of the, have you noticed- like, what’s the increase? Whether it’s your company or elsewhere. How successful, are people are at it at this point? Some still to be seen, I guess. We’ve done a little from what I’ve seen. There’s been some people who have gone into roles, I guess that are not traditionally, you know,- it was different than what they’d done and their expectations were different where they’re like taking on more of a technical role versus say just a pure project management. But they had to incorporate technology into the project management.

You know what I mean? Whether it be automation or something like that. And what we’re seeing there is that they’re actually adopting it very, very quickly and enjoying it. And at the same time having impostor- is kind of funny because they’re having imposter syndrome. So they’re like, this is kind of easy.

I’m like, yeah. They’re like, I get paid for this? Like totally. You can get paid double what you were making before, even. So that’s with the teacher side, especially, you know. Like with Jen, she’s like, wait, this isn’t that- I’m like I told you I- for years on a con man. She’s like I thought you were kidding.

And I’m like, eh, a little bit. But I’m like, I told you this stuff wasn’t necessarily complex and that we were building systems to make it easier to build these larger kinds of systems together, you know, so that it wasn’t difficult. But in the end, all we’re doing is trying to like map things out and make things talk together.

So yeah. And they’re like, well, this just makes sense. And I’m like, fantastic to hear because I have people who’ve been doing it 20 years of light bulb. Why do I have to do it this way? Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I really took away from it because when you and I kind of had a conversation before this, is just how attainable it is for people. How there’s teachers or anyone-

I keep bringing up teachers because obviously you mentioned the anecdote with your ex-wife. But also- not tech but we’ve had good success hiring teachers here at Hirewell and kind of training them. We get that request a lot. It seems like there’s a lot of people in the teaching field that want to get into something different.

And I’m sure that people in lots of different fields too, I’m not biased towards teachers, but just, what’s been kind of top of mind for me. But it is something where these things are so much more achievable and doable than people realize. It’s just committing a little bit of time to it. And you’ve already have a lot of the skills and it’s funny because I’ve always made fun of imposter syndrome a little bit in the regards that everyone talks about it online.

And I’m always just like, just means you have a low self-esteem, but- but in reality, it’s that people don’t know how the Bacon’s made. They think it’s way more complex than it is, you know? They always think that like, what you do is so much more magical, complicated, and complex, and it’s really, you already have two thirds of it in your mind already.

And the people that you think are pros and whatever field, whether it’s technology or something else, they don’t really know that much more than you. They’ve just been doing it longer. Right. And some people just like, you have to read- it’s kind of funny with the bar you have to get to, it’s like, no, you just have to read like three paragraphs further than everybody else.

And you are so much further ahead because getting people to like- that was the interesting thing is like we have people that we pay, obviously, you know, not just this happens in every org where you pay them a decent salary and you’d expect them to go out and learn technologies like this, to go benefit the rest of the org because that’s kind of what you expected them.

And you’ll hear pushback on why they haven’t or can’t and blah, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, then you get someone like that sends a message to others that is too hard for them. When the reality is that in many cases, it’s just people being lazy or stuck in their ways. And then now when you have others going out there and they’re doing it,

it’s worse. And you have someone who’s kind of positive and motivational, like, yeah, you’re right. You did it. And they’re like, you’re serious. I did it? Like that’s doing it. That was the whole thing. And they’re like this person, made it sound like they kind of lied to you. I’m sorry. I can’t believe you get paid this much, working in tech.

Yeah. I should’ve done this years ago. I’m like, yes. Well, slight pivot because there’s one last topic we want to hit on. The LinkedIn open to work banner. Sure. There’s a lot of needless drama about this topic. I feel like it’s something where you get people saying it makes you look needy. You get other people saying there’s no harm putting it out there.

You got me saying, honestly, I don’t care. I think it’s the dumbest debate ever. But you actually had an interesting take on this that I think a lot of people missed and I think it’s worth. Yeah. Go ahead. I’ll give you the floor on this one. For sure. I being me, likes to experiment and test things out. And so when the feature came out a few months ago or a few years ago, whenever it was, I decided to just fire it up there for fun.

But I did have a backstory behind it is that it still goes back to the idea of what I’m trying to pivot to in a new career. I was like, hey, I’m looking to leave IT. Maybe not now necessarily, but it may not be, or I may be looking for something or open to work for whatever reason, but it may not be because I’m unhappy or anything like that.

It’s just, hey, this is personally something I want to do. And regardless of me saying that or even putting when it says open to work, when it says work type, I had stand up comedian. Apparently not that funny. Because one, no one called. And two, I got in trouble. Because regardless of what I said, they’re like, well that looks bad.

The organization wasn’t necessarily a fan of it or some, some people weren’t a fan. Let’s put it that way. That they’re like, well, this is what it implies that you’re unhappy about this. It’s like no. Sometimes it’s kind of like doing Uber on the side. Maybe you’re looking for something different to do.

Maybe I want to get into whatever it happens to be, you know. People make too many assumptions on what it means and that it obviously means that you’re unhappy because we can only do one thing for work. Sometimes some of us are just bored. No, I get it. Yeah. We live in a world where everything has to be like polar opposites- black, white. Either

you either love your job or you hate your job. There’s no in between. But reality, I mean we see that every day is there’s all kinds of people who are just they’re content, but they’re always looking for something better or they’re always open to it. Which isn’t how we’re supposed to be anyway?

Like looking for opportunity. Yeah. Unless it’s- you’re supposed to be that if you’re at someone else’s company, but not at your company. Now it makes sense. Yeah. Anything else you want to hit up on while I gotcha here? Not really. Like I said, you’re spot on like the, I have noticed more teachers than anything. I think just, you’re probably going to see more of those because they’re seeing the capabilities.

There’s that free time, the way the school systems have been kind of treated through the pandemic depending on which districts, you know. When and where, has been kind of some have been good or great, and then others not as much. There is a point in life where people just get fed up and they want a break.

And I think you’re going to see a lot of it because again, these are some of the most effective employees I’ve ever seen. Can they manage time? You’ve probably seen that with some of yours is like, I have so much free time now. Yeah. Which is awesome. So I’m excited about that and seeing what kind of evolves from it going forward.

Yeah, I would say kind of just like last thing and wrap it up, if you’re out there, if you’re thinking about a pivot, you think it’s impossible… it’s not. If you’re like, technology’s a great area to be in. There’s not enough technology people in this country. Do you want these roles? The types of roles are changing.

It’s becoming something where as Chris said, the low-code, no-code platforms are making things more achievable for anyone who’s just smart and intuitive and can solve problems. And there’s another career out there waiting for you. That’s it. That’s all I got for this one. Thanks again James for having me, pleasure. And thanks to everyone out there for tuning into the talent insights podcast. Like how I did that there?

Part of the talent insight series, which is always available for replay on talentinsights.hirewell.com as YouTube, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify and Amazon. Chris, thanks again. And everyone out there, see you soon.

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