Getting into tech

I was lucky enough to take part in a session recently, run by Izzy Obeng, founder at the amazing Foundervine. The session aimed to help people get into tech and software careers – particularly those from under-represented backgrounds.

Tom McDonnell
4 min readJul 2, 2021


So I thought it worth capturing some of the points we discussed.

There is of course huge demand for talent within technology in general. Not just engineering, but in product management, design, data science and so many other roles. At a time of great uncertainty it makes a lot of sense to consider working in the sector, but it’s also not for everybody.

Building software products, making them successful…that’s an incredibly difficult process and fraught with challenges. The level of skill required to do a fantastic job is also extremely high – it takes many years to become proficient.

Despite all that, if you can develop a passion and curiosity, it can be worth the graft for those glorious moments of satisfaction. Almost every problem in the world can be somehow addressed with the help of software – making digital products can be incredibly creative and rewarding.

However, getting into a world you know little about can seem daunting. Like many things in life, tech can be cliquey and a little scary if you feel like an outsider. I certainly felt that as a teenager wanting to get in.

Fast forward and I’m lucky enough to run a successful tech company (Monterosa) that provides a SaaS platform to media and sports organisations that want to better engage audiences – gamification, sports visualisation, voting and a lot more besides. My own path is and isn’t relevant, things are very very different now.

Here are my four main suggestions for anyone wanting to pursue a career in software / digital / tech. I would love to hear your own if you’d like to contribute.

  1. Get informed – If you’re thinking about a move or are at the beginning of your journey, having a feel for the landscape will give you a great advantage. Podcasts, YouTube, Quora, Reddit, Medium blogs, books, online training, academic open days, and my favourite…Twitter (follow me on @tommcdonnell). There are so many resources out there which will help you get a flavour, just start by searching for “learn to code” or “product management” or “best books on…”. You’ll uncover a world of inspiration and find good people to follow.
  2. Make stuff! As someone said to me recently “portfolio is everything”. If you want to get into the industry, you’ve always got to prove that you care enough to get your hands dirty and make things. When looking for that first job, if you don’t have work experience then real examples of projects you’ve created proactively are a great substitute. Create prototypes, make apps, model data, solve real problems for real people. Volunteer to help community organisations with challenges, setup systems and learn. If you don’t know how to code, there are lots of tools for prototyping and “no code” development. Figma, to name just two. If you get into a formal training course you might find the tools and guidance provided as part of it.
  3. Ask for advice (nicely) – Generally, people like to help, but only if you’re ‘helpable’ and they think you’ll be appreciative. Never be lazy – don’t ask a question if you can find out the answer with online research. If you’re reading this you have access to Google, Quora, Reddit and YouTube. When finding people that might advise, it’s often hard to know where to start. I suggest you write a list of friends, old classmates or family members who might have links into some relevant areas, and call them! Look for people in your local news, find virtual meet ups that you feel affiliated to – if you’re a female coder for example you might want to check out Ladies of Code. Write a DM, tell your story (briefly), what you want to do, inspire them with your motivation and ask your questions. Depending on where you are, your local community college might have relevant short courses and these could be a great way to dip your toe into something practical and meet tutors that could help steer you in the right direction.
  4. Don’t give up too soon – In the early phases of a new career, the odds are working against you. Whether it’s applying for roles or trying to get on the course, sometimes it’s a numbers game. In some cases, you might have to accept that a new direction is not for you, but don’t give up after a handful of rejections. Keep trying, learn wherever you can, keep improving everything about your approach and eventually you’ll probably get your big break.
  5. Never be greedy – In the early stages of your career, prioritise learning opportunity and environment over money. Never do free work or unpaid internships though, those days are gone.

Hopefully this is in some way helpful. Feel free to suggest other ideas and ask questions.

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Tom McDonnell

CEO at Monterosa - Real-time Engagement platform for sport and entertainment 🇬🇧🇬🇭🇮🇪