Breaking into Tech: What no one else tells you by Darlene Miranda Alison Weingarten Zainab Khan Patricia Torvolds Angela Friend Dana Liebowitz

Video Transcription

Let's start. So uh joining me today are some of these wonderful women from daily pay. Um We will start by just giving quick introductions. Um Go around the room, tell us a little bit about yourself. And how did you break into tech? Um We'll start with you, Angela.

OK. That's awesome. Um So I, I took a long path to get here. So I'm a, I'm the Director of Data Science here at Daily Pay. I have a team of five. I just had my most recent team member join us. And um I actually have my phd in cognitive psych and behavioral genetics. So I, I took a, a little bit of a different path. I actually spent many years as a K 12 educator. I've taught everyone from uh preschoolers all the way to college students. And uh I, I saw that Jennifer um is also a veteran educator. It turns out that being an educator and managing a room is a great skill set. Um We have found ourselves um needing to spend more and more time working together and collaborating. So soft skills are just as important as hard skills. And I am really excited. I've actually just joined Daily Pay in January of this year. It's a wonderful company to work for if any of you are interested, you know, definitely ping me after.

That's Great Angela. Um It's a really interesting experience to have, you know, come from an educational background and I'm looking at the chat and seeing, you know, other folks as well from different industries, so glad to have you all join us. Um I'm gonna go ahead and ask Alison the same question. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your introduction into tech.

Sure. Um So my name is Alison Weingarten. I run the analytics team here at daily pay. Um Working my daily pay like and uh I've been working in data and analytics for over 10 years um mainly in higher education and professional services. So similar to Angela, I did have a, a winding and uh path to get here, but it wasn't until we started preparing for this talk that um I even realized that I had broken into tech. Um I thought I was just continuing the sort of work that I always been doing. So in that way, I guess I just sort of fell into it. It wasn't exactly uh an intentional um shift but a path like mine if taken deliberately uh is definitely a viable and, and I think you'll find not uncommon way to break into tech.

Yeah, definitely. That must have been an epiphany. Oh I am. I am a tech.

Oh yeah, look at me.

Uh data. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience breaking into tech?

Sure. Yeah. My name is Dana. I'm a senior manager of product at Daily Pay. My experience, this is I think my fourth tech start up in New York and by far the most fun. So if anyone's interested in daily pay, definitely let us know. We'd be happy to tell you um how much fun we're having here. But my path to tech, um I, I started out my career after college in a recruiting firm where I was recruiting for engineering product roles and learning a lot about tech companies and realized sounded really interesting and I wanted to move into tech. So I started, I was still pretty early in my career and started from the ground floor in a role that um I didn't really have need to have a lot of experience beforehand. I started in customer support, entering tickets and really learning everything about the business.

That's really cool customer facing role into product. That's always an interesting transition. That was the transition for myself as well. Patricia. Could you tell us about who you are and also your transition into tech?

Hi. Um I'm Patricia. I've been at daily pay for a year and a half. I'm a software developer here on the API team and I spent most of my pretty short career working in API S, but I've also had internships working as a backend developer in Cooper. And I've done full stack work at a healthcare start up. So I graduated in 2019 from Duke University with a Computer Science degree and this is my second, I guess, full time job

on. Thanks, Patricia. Um Did have another question for all of you um or rather for you, Dana. Um Could you talk a little bit about some of the barriers that you faced while you tried to transition and successfully did into tech? And what were kind of your strategies for overcoming

them? Yeah. So as I mentioned, I trans transitioned into tech pretty early in my career and some of the barriers I face was, it's usually easy to make one switch, whether it's industry or role, but making two switches is quite hard and I knew I wanted to go into tech, but I knew I didn't want to be in recruiting.

I wanted to learn as much as I can because I ultimately wanted to make my way into product. So I probably applied for, I think over 50 roles blindly and realized I wasn't getting a lot of call back. So I started to switch my strategy. I talked to anyone that would listen, I went to events like everyone here is doing. That's definitely the right thing to do. Talk to people tell them why it makes sense. Even if your resume might not align with that. Role, I would talk to friends of friends of friends, any connection I could talk. And ultimately, um ended up getting a few interviews. All of those interviews were from either friends or some sort of connection I made. And then once I was in the company was able to make my way into products. So really the hardest part is getting, getting your first role and even harder is getting the interview. So definitely, um makes sense to talk to a lot of people.

Yeah, that's great advice. Um And, you know, that's, I think one of the reasons that we're all here as well to, you know, continue networking um and try to learn about other industries as well and what have been other folks' experience, you know, breaking into tech. I know for myself that interviewing can be a pretty um intimidating process, especially if it's your first interview and product. But one thing that's been really important has been the case studies. So, you know, ultimately when you get to that last level and you're asked, you know, a nice product question, um It's really about, you know, how you think critically and how you present the case. So for me studying up on that and really practicing even in front of the mirror was, you know, it really went a long way. I just

add a little something to this specific conversation. It's something that I hadn't really thought about. But one of my colleagues did and it can make a difference. So um your job title can sometimes be an enabler or blocker to be able to get in the door and get those interviews. So as your role evolves in a company, as you begin, for example, like Dana start moving into product, you should consider also having conversations with your leaders or your manager about making sure that your job title reflects what you do because that can make a big difference into, you know, whether a bot you know, is going through linkedin and looking for job titles or what your experience is um that can help you that can help open doors and get recruiters coming to you.

The other thing that I learned from a very senior leader is um in that little bio set, describe what you want to do, not just what you're doing because there are algorithms that are searching those keywords and um you will get greater visibility into the roles that you're interested in.

So just a

couple tips. Yeah, such a relevant point, you know, technology, but that is such great advice.

Yeah. And one more thing um when you're trying to break into tech, every company today has technology and there's always opportunities to learn more about technology. And one of the things I did, even at the recruiting firm, we were working with an outside firm building an in-house technology for us. And I asked to be kind of the product liaison there to try to get experience. So even if you think you're in a company that's not tech, there's probably an opportunity to learn something about tech and also put that on your resume and talk about it in an interview. Awesome.

Yeah. Does anyone else have any, uh, advice on this panel breaking into tech? If not on the topic of advice, if you could go back five years into the past, what is one piece of advice that you would give to yourself? And Patricia, I'm gonna pick on you for that.

Um Definitely. So I'm pretty early career and five years ago I was wrapping up, um kind of like the first part of my computer science education and I really felt like I didn't really have the skill set yet to be picky about what role I got or what company I worked for. Um But I found that it's, it's super worth it to find roles that you're passionate about and we're lucky to work in a very wide field and you deserve to have those choices and options. Um I guess I thought about, I've been really interested in pay inequality and a political approach to a living wage for a long time. I think that it's been very interesting and really, really rewarding to join daily pay and work on these problems very directly in a new way. Um And I found that working on a company that's so focused on these problems and providing financial resources for people who for, for example, like they don't necessarily have access to an emergency fund.

And that means that my coworkers are very thoughtful people and they care deeply about our customers. Um The problems that we're trying to solve. Um I would tell myself just not to settle and that you can find opportunities in tech that match your interests and that you can feel proud of the work that you do every day.

Um I'll take us back to the last question because I, I do have a little more to say about breaking into tech. Um My advice is, is kind of two fold. I would focus on developing good experience and, and developing a good community and some of this is what the, the folks in the panel have already touched on. Um But for the experience piece, if you're really struggling to find a job in tech right now, I would recommend taking a year or two. Um and, and getting parallel experience in another industry first and just making a, a really deliberate and strategic career choice in that way.

Uh You can do data, science or engineering or product at non tech companies, but getting some good projects under your belt and being able to talk about those and having that proven experience and like Angela said, the job title in many cases, will help position you for a tech role in the future and the community piece um is both about having people who support you and also sharing good information.

So network, join professional organizations, make friends come to conferences, but find other women in your field to connect with and learn from each other. Talk about your careers and your experiences, talk about your salaries. Um One of the ways that, that women and particularly women of color are disadvantaged when trying to break into tech is that they're less likely to have. Um, you know, the exact prior experience that interviewers may have in their minds for the roles they're hiring, you know, we're still underrepresented in stem degrees and in jobs in tech in general. And so that lack of exposure can impact your preparation for an interview um while not impacting your ability to succeed at a job, right? So building these connections to learn as much as you can about the expectations, um the interview process, the salary to ask for as well as just having the support of people who've been in similar situations. I think it is really helpful for getting your career in tech off to the right start.

And um once you break into tech, I would say, don't pull the ladder up behind you, uh create opportunities for other women, find ways to do that, refer other women, hire other women if you're in a position to do that. Um And just try to help someone else the way that you wish you were being helped today.

I love that. Don't pull the ladder up behind you. I think that's fantastic. Um We, we're getting some questions about how do you um show your soft skills and also how do you, um how do you, how do you get the opportunities to actually have these conversations to break into tech? And um I actually really um struggled with that early in my career. Um because being able to read a room and optimize how a team functions together. It seems to be one of my special sauces and I could never figure out how to actually um get that in writing and, and put that in. And so I had actually, I, I started talking, trying to get sort of um uh meetings with more senior women in my previous companies and also uh male allies. Don't, don't uh ignore male allies and uh senior leaders. And I had one of them tell me something that was incredibly useful, like seriously useful and it will help you on your resume and it will help you showing all of your skills, formal and informal. This is what he said for me to do.

Create an I love me folder. Any time somebody says something nice about you. Wow, man. She really did a good job on X or blah, blah, blah. Go to your I, I love me folder and write that down. So and so said X about me on date Y and then pepper your resume with those details. Also ask people to go on linkedin and give you, you know, shout outs, right? Colleagues say, hey, wow, that person's really good in quantitative analytics or just that what not? And then the last uh tip, I've spent a lot of time trying to uh help more junior colleagues. But when I see talent, I try to wanna, I wanna bring that talent out and help them shine in all areas of the organization. So that's been, that's something that's really fun for me. But yeah, definitely have an, I love me folder. Uh When you make connections, make connections on linkedin, ask people to put, you know, comments on your linkedin profile. Um I, I never say no to a recruiter. If a recruiter wants to talk to me, I never say no. And even if I'm not looking for a position, I'm listening for, what are they looking for? Where's the market going? What should I have on my resume? What am I not thinking about? Even as I'm looking at uh hiring more folks

anyway, so things as well. Um We do want to interact with the audience a little bit. We've been getting questions, so I'm gonna go ahead um and just throw this out to anyone who wants to answer Ken. Um So one question that we got is as an early careerist, I'm struggling to break into tech because I have a little work experience and it seems like many roles, say entry level, but actually need the two or three years of experience. So how do you kind of make those skills transfer transferable as a former paralegal working in that industry for, you know, about a year and a half, brief experience as an account manager. I'd love to hear how early careerists who don't have much work experience in general and are making a pivot can break into tech.

Oh, I can take that. I can take that. We

all have answers. I know. Right.

Yeah. It sounds like that's a really great experience, especially for some customer facing roles at tech companies, which there are many um something I did when I was looking to break into tech is it's easy for someone to just pass your resume along. But how do you make them go to that for you? Right. Um So when I would write my resume, didn't exactly align with the roles that I was applying to. But I know friends or people I spoke to, I had to convince them to go to bat for me and say, hey, her resume might not make perfect sense and her experience doesn't need align with what you're expecting. But can you take 15 minutes and talk to her and see why this might make sense? So if you ever, you know, pass your resume to someone and get re rejected, ask them why ask them for a follow up? Um Persistence is key, especially when you're trying to make a switch.

Um I as a hiring manager, I'll, I'll give some, some input here too. Um If I'm looking for an entry level, you know, person, even if it does say 2 to 3 years, what matters to me is, um that they, that a, that a person has had some experience, you know, working in, um J just job experience in general knowing how to, how to work cross functionally and talk to folks and just the ins and outs of, of working in a, in a place like this in general, right?

That's part of it, just kind of baseline um stepping up to the, to the plate there. But in terms of uh transferable experience or um you know, directly related to, to what the job is looking at what Dana brought up before about finding projects that you can work on that will highlight um or improve your skill set that, that translates to the job that you're looking for.

What Angela talked about, about trying to adjust job titles, things like that, if I see that you've got a year and a half paralegal, um and you tell me that you've uh and for analytics, this is me specifically and you've um you know, worked on projects, help, help to work in a consultative role to, to help people figure out questions and, and dig into research or data or you've got experience teaching yourself this or that or you did a boot camp here or you have an internship at a place, you know, all of that adds up to me, um, to, to show me what you're looking for, who you are, how you think and, and where you're headed beyond just, you know, needing.

I, uh uh, you know, it doesn't necessarily mean you need 2 to 3 years experience working in tech in the exact same title in a place before this. So I wouldn't take it at its space there. Um And I would also always stretch, you know, for something if you, if you've got two years and asking for three, apply for the job.

Um I do a lot of technical interviews here at daily pay. So for people who are looking for strictly technical roles but are transitioning out of a different career or have recently attended a boot camp, we hire a lot of people from nontraditional backgrounds at daily pay and I interview a lot of them. Um Not everyone is going to be going to have that like very fluent knowledge of how to write code. Like if you've just come out of a boot camp or you're self taught, you might not know every single convention, but it matters so much more to me that you're able to speak confidently that you seem to have enthusiasm about the you're applying for and that you're willing to learn.

Like we love hiring people who are hungry to learn. We have programs that bring, um, early career, um, or career switchers in as support engineers. And then the plan is to, um, bring them up to junior engineers. And that's been just an amazing program that I've watched people really succeed in. But like, the number one thing that sets people apart is just a willingness to learn and like a clear ability to communicate and express yourself that goes so much further than you think and just not second guessing and being willing to put in that time to solve a problem. Even if it's a simple like algorithm problem, it'll really take you a long way.

Yeah, you're absolutely right. Great confidence and patience and practice. Go a very long way. I can speak to that as well. I think a lot of us can. Um So here's a question that I think affects most of us with the current and maybe post current hybrid setup of work. Um How do we make ourselves more visible to the team that we're working with? How do you not get lost, you know, in the sea of people? How do you increase your team's engagement with each other at work

there? Can I, I'll, I'll take part of them would love for others to add in. Um something I saw on linkedin and article and I had this also realization that people at a certain level, always have their camera on. It might seem silly at points but putting your camera on is really important for people to see your face. Um They kind of remember you more, especially in a sea of remote worlds, you can get lost if you never have your camera on. So that's like one piece of quick advice to just make sure you're not getting lost in a huge remote world.

It's a great point that does go a long way. Um I was working remotely um before the pandemic for many years with uh with a company that had plenty of remote workers with lots of folks in office. And there was always a concern about whether or not being there um in person, you know, had an impact, a negative impact on your ability to, to grow and move up with the company. Um Dana's advice is, is simple but it's, it's very effective. Um I've noticed that I notice it and uh aside from that, the important pieces I think are um having regular, like you have to, you have to try extra hard to be seen um and to have connections and, and communicate with folks. So put in that effort, right? Um If you've got, you know, whatever tech you use, but you know, slack people throughout the day, um stay in touch, make your work more visible where you can um be in meetings. I know nobody wants that. But if you're talking about visibility and trying to get to the next level and trying to get your, um your name and your work out there. Uh You do have to work a little harder um when you are remote to do that.

Um One of the things that I did when I was trying to break into uh leave academia and break into industry, which I think is potentially relevant. And I, I had my first industry job and, and um it was a pretty big company. I had an elevator pitch ready and uh what I wanted, what I wanted to do, what I was passionate about what I thought I could help in. Um I never talked about problems. I always talked about solutions, you know, how can we turn things around? And I basically had a little pitch deck in my head. And um and I ended up actually getting to lead a very visible cross functional team for the, for the company because when the question was finally starting to be visited by leadership and they were trying to figure out well, how do we solve this problem? Almost every person in that room were like, well, I know that Angela is thinking about this and she's got this, this, this, this and this and it was about helping people build a mental model of my skill set in a way. And I was always willing to help anyone and everyone with whatever they were working on. So I always made myself very available in that way. And uh I created a brand for myself within the company.

And this is one of the ways you can also highlight your soft skills.

Yeah, just to add on to that, what's really important when trying to break into a new role in tech. If you've got your first opportunity, try to do the job that you want, not the job that you have. If you want to transition, let's say, from a customer facing role to a product role, you're probably not gonna get that role by doing exactly what your job description is. If you ask anyone on a new team, if you can help them in some way, um People are usually really busy and if you've proved that you've done good work in the past, they're probably not gonna turn you down. So take opportunities to work outside your job if that's what you ultimately want to do. Ok?

Yeah. Um I love like interviewing people who maybe you don't have a clear idea of where you're going. But like Angela said, you have this knowledge of where you came from and that informs what you're curious about or what you want to learn if you're interviewing um for a front end position. But you tell me like, oh, I'm up to doing anything. I would so much rather hear like, wow, I'm really curious about working on front end web apps. Like maybe that's not the exact role we have for you, but it shows that you're curious and that you have something that you're interested about and you want to learn about. So, like having that through line of like, this is what I've worked on. This is where I'd like to go. Like, that's impressive and that shows like a, a depth of research and that's a really exciting thing to see in someone who's a career switcher, early career

Patricia, speaking on the topic of like switching careers and we've had this question a couple of times and you spoke about it a little bit earlier. So I'm gonna ask you, uh, to elaborate a little bit. But what are some like, courses and boot camps that, you know, people should try to consider or look at in order to like upscale to become a product manager? Uh, questions, not just for you but for everyone, but I, I'd like to start with you.

Um, I can speak to product management but I know that from engineering we've hired from boot camps just not only across New York but also remotely the, I think what, what the most important thing is following, what you're interested in, whether it's a three week free course that you just like kind of drill down on some concepts that maybe you learned in school or that you have been curious about for a while or it's like five months.

You know, these boot camps can really be, um, like to the level of almost a degree program. But just pursuing a boot camp. That makes sense for you and that you're genuinely curious about, um, it will pay dividends and like I can see people who I speak to, who have that curiosity and who have really committed themselves to learning something new. We don't expect that you'll be at the level of someone who has been working for two or three years. But we've hired, I think we hire a lot from App Academy because daily pay is um a ruby shop. But a good friend of mine who was recently hired here as a support engineer, did a free online program um in which she learned Ruby and has been kind of working on it on her own since doing um personal projects and then was hired here um after she felt confident to interview, that was like really great to see

who's Patricia. Um One other question that I have for you ladies is, you know, we've been kind of talking about just pieces of advice. Um Things from your experience that we've all found has helped pave the way of breaking into tech. Um But kind of looking at it the other way, you know, someone mentioned, don't bring up the ladder behind you. What are some ways that we can empower, you know, other women um that are either looking into breaking into product management, just tech in general. It's such a growing, growing industry and, you know, very much horizontal to a whole other bunch of industries. Um Women are taking on a more a larger role in product management specifically and engineering. So, you know, what are some of the ways mentorships, um experiences and interactions that, you know, have helped either mentor you or that you've done to help mentor others or empower others.

I know Angela's gonna have a good answer for this one.

I Yeah. Well, I'm a, I'm an extroverted nerd. So it turns out it's a good combination in industry. Um when my career was stalling out. Um I realized I um I, I was there was this ceiling between um leadership roles and individual contributor roles, right? And I knew that one of my soft skills is an amplifier. I, I take teams and I figure out how they work together in a way that everyone feels not only are they getting to use their strengths, but everyone is amplifying everyone's work. And I was trying to figure out how do I get, how do I get that message out? So I um I first asked my manager, hey, is there anybody that you recommend for me to talk to about career growth? I'm really interested in moving up in this career. Like I have this plan of being Chief data officer, you know, and you know, how do I get there? So, um I just started putting 30 minutes on people's calendars and I always came in with, I wanted to be a win win situation, both for the person that I'm talking with and for myself. So um it was, it was always an opportunity for me to learn. And then also for me to say, well, is there anything I can do to help you? Right.

Even though I didn't report for that person, I was, I would say, like, look, if there's an opportunity where I can help you on one of your projects, um we can, you know, I'm, I'm available, right? And I let my manager know and I'm always been, I've always been very transparent and then when I've seen uh other team members and maybe I see somebody struggling in team meetings or I see someone who has this huge skill set and yet no one seems to know this about them. I reach out and say, hey, I, my understanding is that you're really good at X. Is that something you're interested in doing here? Can I help you figure out how you can leverage that? So I'm always looking for opportunities to be able to build others up to work collaboratively and also to share my own sort of special skill set that I, that I bring to the table. And as I've been doing this for the last 20 years, I've gotten much better at it and, and my pitch has gotten better, but it practice makes perfect. And, and if you're a shy person, which I know some of us are shy folks um, sometimes you've gotta, you gotta be uncomfortable to get comfortable

and, and on the other side of that, um, coin don't be afraid to tell people what you're interested in, even if it feels like a big jump. Um, I think at my first role when I was in customer support, everyone that could know that I wanted to be a product manager, didn't know. And there were other times later in my career where when roles were given, you know, we, we recruited someone from the outside and people said, oh, well, I was interested in that role and it would have been really helpful to know that six months ago because they probably had the right skill set and could have been mentored to that role.

But if people don't know what role you want to be in, then they're not going to take the time to mentor you into that role.

Yeah, branding with a little be you, you gotta promote yourself and it's not bragging. It's about how if you put it, you position it as how can I help you? You know, how can we make this a win, win situation? Um Nobody is gonna turn out, turn down help, right.

Yeah, definitely. Um And on that note, um that's all the time we have for today. Thanks everyone for joining. Um We're all from daily pay. Look us up online. We have a great mission to change the way that pay works with. Technology um and have a great day.

Thank you. Thank

you, everybody.