The tech industry and the lucrative, prestigious job opportunities that it offers, has job-seekers from around the world flocking to San Francisco and New York, hopeful to get their big break at the next “unicorn” startup.
A common misconception is that these opportunities are only afforded to expert coders or those with a specific professional background. In actuality, plenty of non-technical roles, especially sales roles, exist, ripe for the picking for both recent grads or those looking to make a career change. It can be intimidating though to break into a competitive field when you’re up against other candidates with more “official” experience and have seemingly more transferable skills than you.
Luckily, training is accessible–and at no financial cost to you–in the form of SV Academy’s Business Development Fellowship.
Our partner SV Academy Business Development Fellowship is an online, 4-week, tuition-free skill-building and mentorship program that connects job-seekers with employers hiring for full-time sales roles in tech. It can and does change the lives of its students: close to 99% of people who finish the program are offered full-time roles with salaries starting at $79,000, and receive on-the-job coaching for a year after that.
If it seems too good to be true, it’s not. The Fellowship is available at no cost to the students because SV Academy’s employer partners–fast-growing tech companies, eager to hire top-tier talent–believe in the program and happily cover the cost.
It is a rigorous program, however, and requires significant dedication to see it through. We spoke to four recent graduates of the Fellowship from a wide range of diverse backgrounds to discuss what it was like and how their lives have changed since getting matched with a job in tech.
What moment or factors in your life made you want to pursue a career in tech? Were you aware of how many non-coding jobs there are available in the tech industry?
Anthony Banks of Model N: Learning about SV Academy was the moment that my focus switched to wanting to work in tech. I’d always felt that it might be tough to land a tech role due to a lack of diversity, but SV Academy provided me with a great opportunity. I was not aware I could work in sales; I thought I’d need an engineering or computer science degree to even be considered for a job in this industry. I was wrong, and have learned that an open mind can lead to opportunities you would never imagine.
Alba Molina of Credly: I always imagined myself attending law school and becoming an attorney; I wanted to help others, and in my mind, the only way I could was through defending them in a court of law. After I graduated from college, however, I was exposed to a fair share of businesses and realized the way to help others is by helping them help themselves. I wanted to learn how businesses and organizations are founded and grown, and that led me to want to pursue a career change. Until SV Academy, I had no idea that I could work in tech. I wish I did, as I would’ve gotten my career started a long time ago if that was the case.
Loi Laing of Primer AI: I’ve always had an interest in tech and had spent years applying for positions in the industry. It’s interesting, constantly evolving, fast-paced, and the compensation is lucrative.
Kehau Likio of Pilot.com: Being a first-generation Tongan-American that was born and raised in Hawai’i has definitely been the main reason for this career choice. I’m extremely grateful for my upbringing but I realized very quickly how limited my resources and opportunities were, and that’s why I set my eyes on breaking into tech. It’s the most innovative industry in the world, filled with brilliant people solving hard problems, and I thought to myself, “If I can just find a way to get my foot in the door and work hard, the rest will take care of itself.” Before I found SV Academy, I thought my only options were to become a software engineer or start off as an office manager. I had no idea how many opportunities there are in the go-to-market side of the industry.
How did you first learn about SV Academy and what drew you to their program, in particular?
Anthony: I am a member of Delta Mu Delta International Honor Society in Business and I first learned of SV Academy as they sent me an introductory email sharing how I could get a non-coding job upon completion of the Fellowship. That email drew enough interest for me to do my own research, and ultimately determine that I could see myself working in business development.
Loi: I learned about SV Academy from an ad on Instagram. I was drawn to them because they had previous success, the program was an opportunity to get my foot in the tech door, and it was completely free.
Kehau: I found SV Academy on a job board at the beginning of my last semester of college. I had submitted and been rejected by about 80 job applications prior to applying to the Fellowship. The thing that drew me in the most was that the program could be done 100% remotely and was totally free. I was a full-time undergraduate student at the time, working three jobs to pay my tuition before graduation, so the thought of a job training and placement from the comfort of my own home and at zero cost felt like a dream to me.
Kehau, what motivated you to join SV Academy immediately after graduating from college? How do you think this program complimented your undergraduate studies?
Because I worked so much during college to pay for tuition, I realized pretty early on how disadvantaged I was in terms of “real world” experience that would help me land a job after college. I couldn’t afford to do free internships like some of my classmates and didn’t have the time or bandwidth to join extracurricular clubs that would help pad my resume. When I saw what SV Academy was offering (job training and assistance with job placement, at zero cost) I thought I had hit the jackpot. Had it not been for SV Academy, I think it would’ve taken me triple the time to get to where I am today.
Loi, what was it like to pivot into the technology field after having worked in law and education for so many years? How did your past experience in different fields help you during this career change?
I think both were excellent preparation. It was reading through the blogs on the SV Academy site that I found out that teachers have an excellent track record when transitioning to sales. The ability to empathize, listen and ask questions are things I honed as both a lawyer and teacher. I was excited to pivot because I’d wanted to be a part of the tech industry for so long.
Were you aware of how many non-coding jobs there are available in the tech industry?
Alba: Honestly, no. I wish I did, I would’ve gotten my career started a long time ago if that was the case. I went to college without any idea of what I would be studying, and so I just studied what I found interesting. With no guidance in terms of career paths or what to expect from the real world I essentially went to school for a degree without mapping out a plan on what I wanted my career to look like.
What challenges did you face when starting fresh and fully committing to SV Academy’s program? Were there any moments when you thought about quitting? What motivated you to continue on?
Loi: Initially, I found it challenging to get over the feeling of imposter syndrome. I worried that I was too old, but after a conversation with my growth mindset coach and a fellow cohort member, I got past that very quickly. At no point did I ever think about quitting, because I was fully committed to doing the best I could. Just knowing that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a job helped so much, as did setting an example for my son, who saw every day just how much effort I was putting into the program.
Anthony: One of my challenges was learning new tech tools, like Salesforce and ConnectandSell. I put unnecessary pressure on myself at first, but as the Fellowship went on, I learned that I could count on the SV Academy staff and I got better with asking questions. I never thought about quitting, so for me, completing the fellowship was never an issue; I was motivated by the fear of not completing what I started. Back in college, I had lost a scholarship due to lack of focus, so I told myself I would complete whatever I committed to because I owed it to myself to do so.
Kehau: The most challenging part at the beginning of SV Academy was definitely time management. Working, going to school, and then taking on an entire fellowship took its toll on me at times. When I was accepted into the program, I told myself that I deserved the opportunity to make a better life for myself and when things got tough, that was what motivated me to finish.
Was there anything about the process that was easier than you expected? What were some of the most rewarding outcomes or lessons learned?
Anthony: SV Academy challenged me the entire time. No part of the Fellowship was easy, because they actively prepared us for an on-the-job feel. Having the staff hold us accountable was what I needed most; I knew I wasn’t going to quit, but I needed that extra push to be on time and to turn assignments in on time while dealing with the stresses of life.
One of the pivotal parts of SV Academy’s program is mentorship. How did working under the guidance of mentors help with the job training process?
Loi: Working with the mentors was great for insight into the daily workings of a tech company. We also learned best practices and things to be mindful of in the context of selling on a team.
Kehau: I can’t even begin to describe how valuable mentorship is. You could read all the books in the world and study every piece of collateral ever created in order to prepare for something like a job, but all of those pale in comparison to listening to someone’s lived experience. I was lucky to have two mentors during my time with SV Academy and both of them increased my business acumen and confidence exponentially.
What were some of the feelings that you experienced when you were matched with your employer? Excitement? Nerves? Was your job assignment what you expected it to be?
Loi: I was excited. My thought was, “Finally!” I felt like I’d been working up to that moment for years. I was prepared to go to a start-up, so I knew that my role was not going to be as narrowly defined.
Kehau: I honestly cried when I received my offer letter. I knew I had worked hard for it and I felt like it was the right place for me, but the experience was still surreal.
Anthony: Landing the role with my company was so exciting, but relocating to Colorado for the job made me a bit nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be a change for the better. The job assignment was exactly what I expected; it’s been a challenge, but one I feel I was prepared for.
Alba, you’ve had to face your fair share of adversity over the years. How has overcoming challenges in your personal life made you a stronger job candidate? How do you think the tech industry (and any industry) benefits from having a diverse roster of employees?
Alba: I am a huge proponent of diversity in the workplace, but I do not want to be considered for a position just because I am Hispanic, or a woman, or because I belong to the LGBT community. I want to be considered for a position because all of those things have shaped me into the energetic, passionate, and hardworking woman that I am.
I crossed the border as an eight-year-old and lived as an undocumented immigrant until the age of 19. I’m a stronger candidate for it. Many studies have shown that almost half of Fortune 500 Companies were founded by immigrants or their children; this speaks volumes to me. Having come from absolutely nothing sparked a longing to want to accomplish more; this is why I am the last person to leave the office every single day. To me, the American Dream is not a white picket fence home with a golden retriever, but rather having complete access to opportunity.
Anthony, you’ve seen your salary double since completing SV Academy’s program. How has your career and financial success impacted your lifestyle? What tips do you have for someone seeking similar results?
Since landing a role in tech, I’ve seen a difference in my mood—I am happier. I’m not constantly thinking about doing without or trying to figure out how I can pay a bill or set up an emergency fund yet. I can now provide for all my needs. For anyone seeking similar results, my advice is simple: never give up. It won’t be easy, but it’s worth chasing after what you want and need in life.
What is your final tip for those working on making a major career change?
Kehau: Remind yourself constantly that you deserve all of the good things that lie on the other side of this hill you’re about to climb. Whatever reason it is that you’re changing careers for, whether for financial gain, creative freedom, or just a change of pace, remind yourself that you deserve that, and never settle until you get there.
Loi: You need to do your research so that you understand fully what you’re getting into. Reach out to people in the field, ask questions, and provide value to those who help you. Learn as much as you can outside of a formal education setting and never stop learning. Don’t second-guess or be afraid. Just do it.
Anthony: Go in with an open mind and be ready to learn a new skill. It will make you much more marketable as you’ll have a broad background. If you learn to work in tech sales, you can work in almost any industry.
This article is brought to you thanks to our partner, SV Academy. The SV Academy Business Development Fellowship is an online, 4-week, tuition-free skill-building and mentorship program that connects job-seekers with employers hiring for full-time sales roles in tech. To learn more and apply, click here: sv.academy/a/findspark