You Don’t Need to be a Techie to be in Tech
Almost every time I head home to the East Coast, I get asked by young students how someone like me can get a job in Silicon Valley. To them, and many others, I don’t fit the typical mold — that is, I don’t have a technical degree. I have a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin. And yet, I’ve been working in Silicon Valley now for nearly a decade, first as litigation counsel at Google and now as the senior director of intellectual property, litigation, and marketing groups at Adobe. The truth is, you don’t need to have a technical background in order to get a job in Silicon Valley or any tech hub in the world.
The conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion in Silicon Valley is simple. We need to develop and hire more diverse candidates. Part of this strategy for many tech companies is to build a diverse pipeline by partnering with organizations that promote STEM education for women and members of underrepresented groups. Although this is a crucial part of building out diverse talent in tech, it’s limiting.
Yes, we should be encouraging everybody — especially women and underrepresented groups — to get into STEM education, but where is the discussion with candidates outside of this bubble? We have to promote training and opportunities in departments such as legal, design, marketing, and especially enterprise sales — which is typically the largest hiring group next to technical roles.
When I stumbled into the tech industry it interested me most because it seemed to say, “There’s opportunity here for you.” Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career in tech that’s been intellectually challenging, financially rewarding, and fulfilling in a lot of ways. I want to make sure people like me can benefit in the same way — and that they know they don’t need to be a “techie” to be in tech.
Yes, there will be times where you may be the only person in the room who looks like you. But early in my career, if I let that stop me I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today or the power to bring others like me into the workforce. It always starts with one person, and then others will follow. Pretty soon you’re building a community. I’ve spent a lot of time building out the Black Employee Network at Adobe, and I remember when we had only a handful of black employees. Since then, our numbers have increased because progress builds onto itself.
So, my advice for people like me who want to find opportunity but don’t have a technical background — join the tech industry. There’s a spot here for you, and there are people like you who want to help you succeed.