Pivoting Into Tech: You Do Not Need to Have a Tech Background

04.10.23 by Henrieke Max

Pivoting Into Tech: You Do Not Need to Have a Tech Background

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5 min read

From a background in economic policy, Henrieke Max, Data Science Manager at Delivery Hero, transitioned into Tech and now leads a team of Data Scientists, Analysts, and Engineers.

Introduction: Who is Henrieke Max?

My name is Henrieke Max, and I have an educational background in the social sciences. About two years ago, I joined Delivery Hero as a Data Analyst, and I am now leading the team. Our team’s scope spans Data Science, Analytics, and Engineering.

How Does a Social Scientist End up Working in a Tech Company?

Had you told me a few years ago that I would be working in a Tech company, I would have been surprised. To answer your question, I first need to walk you through the journey of how I ended up in Tech and the learnings along the way. 

When I was little, I had a stereotypical idea of my dream job: I wanted to be a ballerina, or worst case, if that did not work out, an author. Yet when choosing a path after high school, I realized that I valued a career path with stability, which is not something that most artistic careers can generally offer. At the same time, I specifically enjoyed math and statistics and was curious about politics and social dynamics, so I settled for a social science and statistics degree. After acquiring a lot of theoretical knowledge, my top priority when leaving the university was to have a visible impact through my work.

After graduation, I took a job in economic policy at a humanitarian aid organization in London, which fit that goal perfectly. While working there, I realized that, despite the relatively modest pay in non-profit organizations, the number of people who are qualified and passionate to do non-profit work is high, while the supply of well-paid jobs with clear career paths is low. This makes skill and career building difficult. So I decided to move into management consulting, focusing on public sector clients. However, while management consulting felt more like a good fit for my background and skill set, I still missed the opportunity to apply my statistical background and the challenge of working with large and complex datasets. I also started thinking much more about a sustainable work-life balance. These considerations prompted me to teach myself how to code and ultimately join Delivery Hero in a data analytics role.

How Did You Come About the Decision to Change Industries and to Decide to Work for a Tech Company Like Delivery Hero?

Over time, I adopted what I now figuratively call the “Bayesian Approach” to navigate my career choices. That means, at any given point, I have a hypothesis about what may be a great job or place to work for me, but as I collect more information from my experience, I may let go of or revise those hypotheses and update my goals and plans. And sometimes, that can lead to a more significant change in direction.

“Bayesian inference is a method of statistical inference in which Bayes’  theorem is used to update the probability for a hypothesis as more evidence or information becomes available.”

I believe that no matter how enthusiastic you may be about what an organization or a company is doing, what matters most is finding a role where you can leverage your strengths and do things day-to-day that energize you. For instance, I truly believed in and respected the work of the humanitarian aid organization I was working for, but I could not identify roles in the organization that would challenge me intellectually in the ways I personally most enjoyed. 

A crucial factor I had considered throughout my initial jobs was the types of organizations and industries women tend to be attracted to, or self-select into. Relatively speaking, we are better represented in the public and non-profit sectors, and underrepresented in the corporate world and STEM fields. Not only does this have financial implications at a personal level, but it also has a massive impact on shaping the workforce and, ultimately, the type of future we will live in.

By moving into Tech, I went from environments where women were in the majority, to the opposite. While that felt challenging, it was also very rewarding, as there were lots of opportunities to change how things were done and to inspire more people in the minority to join Tech and diversify the perspectives represented at the workplace.

What Advice Do You Have for People Considering a Similar Career Path?

I would say, go for it! The Tech ecosystem is quite broad and provides many career opportunities; you must not be a coder to work in the space (but you absolutely can become one!). The job descriptions might not mention important transferable skills, such as critical thinking, business acumen, and communication – which are essential in many tech roles. Suppose you have only worked in a less technical role before; you may bring interpersonal skills that will give you superpowers to excel in a Tech role.

Also, many software developer or data roles do not explicitly mention the importance of cross-functional collaboration and the ability to communicate complex information in simple terms; this is key to every Tech role. Hence, I would recommend chatting with people who are already in Tech, and asking them what their pain points are, which will help you to understand how your previous experience will add value in unexpected ways.

“A lot of Tech companies are trying to integrate with people’s lives in countless ways; that means, whether you worked in journalism, art history, politics, research, or policy, there will be a connection between your previous work experience and your new tech role.” 

I have worked in teams with colleagues who were fantastic logical thinkers or had years of experience writing code, but I was able to help think about the quality of our data and raise critical questions about how we were processing it. Working in the field, I found it easy to collaborate with and understand the work of other teams, as I had worked across many different contexts. So, you do not need to have the answers to everything, only the tools to find the answers. And the more questions you ask in a diverse group of collaborators and colleagues, the better the guidance you can provide later on. 

And finally, know that your skills are in demand. Ask for more, and do not stay with a company that caps your growth.

If you like what you’ve read and you’re someone who wants to work on open, interesting projects in a caring environment, check out our full list of open roles here – from Backend to Frontend and everything in between. We’d love to have you on board for an amazing journey ahead.

Pivoting Into Tech: You Do Not Need to Have a Tech Background
Henrieke Max
Manager, Data Science
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