Working in Tech for the Non-­Technical

Working in Tech for the Non-­Technical

By: Terence Chu
  14508 reads

As a student of communication and economics (two fairly non-­technical fields), starting a work term at my first tech company felt a little daunting initially. I was hired for a Technical Writer Co-op at Ericsson, a multinational Swedish telecommunications corporation with no prior experience as a technical writer or in the field of telecommunications. Since starting out, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share with you with regards to easing into a position within a high tech company.

1)    Take advantage of the internet to build your understanding.

Conduct some research on the internet within your first couple of days to gain a better understanding of the industry you work in. When I first started out at Ericsson, I often referred to Wikipedia to look up basic telecommunications jargon, terms and concepts. This method won’t give you a perfect understanding of your industry, but it’s a good place to start.

2)    Leverage internal training programs.

Depending on the size and resources of your company, internal training programs may be readily available to you. Ericsson has a number of tailored onboarding and training modules as well as an internal process library that helped me ramp up my understanding very quickly. You’ll learn a lot from these training programs and gain a better understanding of company standards.  

3)    Take evening or online courses in Computer Science.

With the demand for computer literate employees on the rise, increasing your computer science understanding will give you a competitive edge. I’ve taken a number of continuing studies courses in the field of computer systems technology in the evenings of my work term to supplement my learning on the job. These types of courses are both practical and geared towards working professionals.  Online resources such as, Coursera and Codecademy also provide useful tutorials and free courses on many industry relevant topics.  

4)    Read up on your respective industry.

Increase your understanding of the industry you work in and learn about where your company fits within it by staying current. The Verge is my go-­to source for general tech news and I rely on VentureBeat for tech start up news. Learning about industry trends and the general direction of Ericsson’s business really helped orient me in the extensive and complex field of telecommunications.  

5)    Ask your coworkers!

This may seem like a fairly obvious one, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Your coworkers have accumulated a wealth of knowledge and wisdom over the course of their careers and are generally more than happy to provide guidance. There’s a good chance you’ll be surrounded by engineers, software developers and subject matter experts so take advantage of the opportunity and ask questions.

I’ve completed my work term with Ericsson and it feels as if I’ve made a complete 180 since starting out. I’m much more confident in my technical abilities now and I hope the above advice helps you settle into a position within the world of tech as well.

The high tech industry is a fast-­paced and exciting one to work in. With an ever‐increasing number of tech companies setting up shop in the Lower Mainland, I would highly recommend exploring co-­op opportunities in this field!

Beyond the Article:

  • Check out Terence's LinkedIn account.
  • Find out how other students engaged with the tech industry for the first time in these co-op reflections by Christina and Kristine.
  • Need further proof the tech industry is booming in BC? Read co-op student Layla's conversation with Bill Tam, President and CEO of the BC Technology Industry Association.
Posted on September 08, 2014