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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

How to Take on Tech Work at Your Current Job (No Matter What You Do)

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Have you fallen in love with tech, but found yourself stuck in a dead-end job with no gadgets or code in sight? Or maybe there’s plenty of technical work to be done at your job, but your boss and co-workers don’t have you pegged as a “techy person” yet.

Don’t despair! The more your colleagues see you hitting the text editor or reading up on technical subjects, the more they’ll start going to you with their technical questions. Tech is everywhere nowadays, and that means you can make room for it in almost any job. Here’s how in three easy steps.

1. Pick It

Before you can start working in a more technical role, you have to figure out what you want to do. Remember that working in tech doesn’t only mean being a programmer or an engineer. You can still use some coding skills in marketing, communications, operations, finance, or even management.

During your next coffee break, ask some of your co-workers about the tech aspects of their jobs. You’ll be surprised how pervasive tech really is, and hopefully you’ll also get some ideas for some areas you’d like to try out. (Still stuck for inspiration? Check out this infographic.)

Or, find out what areas of tech need attention at your company and see where you might be able to fill the void. Take a look around—what software and hardware do you use at work? What’s your company’s website like? Is it active on social media? Maybe the email template could use a refresher, or the WordPress site needs a makeover. These are all places you could get involved in the digital side of your job.

2. Learn It

Now that you know what area of tech you’re interested in, it’s time to figure out how to do it. But don’t panic—you don’t have to enroll in college and go into massive debt. In fact, one of the best ways to up your digital skills is to study online, which you can do whenever and wherever it fits your schedule!

If you’re really pressed for time, you can start learning in just a few minutes a day—during your commute or even while you’re walking your dog—by using RSS readers, podcasts, and even Twitter. (Check out a few recommended resources here.)

Be sure to take advantage of real-life learning, too. Did you find out about some interesting tech tasks that your colleague does? Invite her to lunch—your treat, of course!—to find out how she learned her tech skills. Everyone loves to talk about themselves and their areas of expertise. And, if she’s up for it, you could even offer to help her with something you’re good at in exchange for “shadowing” her for an hour or so.

Check out local tech groups, too. If you live in a bigger city, you’re sure to find ones specific to your area of interest—digital marketing, social media, JavaScript or even WordPress. Or look for general organizations by Googling for “women in tech,” “hacker,” or “coding” groups in your area. And don’t be afraid to join a group even if it’s not exactly the area you’re looking for. You’re sure to make great contacts (who might have contacts in the area you are interested in) and learn a lot in any case. And, who knows? You might even discover another passion.

3. Do It

Once you’ve started honing your skills, it’s time to get real and do it! Try starting small. Learned some HTML and CSS? Offer to spruce up your company’s employee newsletter. Mastered the mystery of the perfect Twitter profile pic? Help update your company’s account. Or come up with a brand-new project—like building a to-do list app in Ruby for your team, designing a new template for email marketing, or even creating a better version of your department’s budget template in Google docs—and then do it!

Another great way you can flex your new digital muscles is to test your company’s tech. If you’ve been studying UX, comb through the website and offer some suggestions from a user’s point of view. If you want to get into coding, let your programmers know that you’d love to try the beta version of your company’s new mobile app and give your feedback. By testing things out, you’ll be doing three key things: learning more about tech, helping your company, and showing off your new tech savvy. (Hint hint, boss!)

Last but definitely not least, be sure to share your project with your manager when it’s ready. She’ll definitely be impressed and probably reconsider letting you take on work that will eventually lead to that tech job you’ve been dreaming of.

And if not? If your company isn’t so enthusiastic about you trying out your new tech skills at work, well, there’s no reason you can’t try picking up some work on the side!