With a degree in Network Infrastructure, several certifications, but no real-world experience, I was “overqualified” for junior level roles straight out of college.
Yet I still, simply put, couldn’t even begin to make a living in the field. This was 6 months after graduation, and 100s of applications and rejections in an allegedly ‘hot’ field. I had slipped through the cracks.
Even though I’m in tech, I always wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. It occurred to me: what if I wrote about tech?
I decided to put what I had learned to use and start my portfolio, to not only show employers what I learned, but also to remind myself what I could do.
The beginning involved networking with any spare bit of technology I could find in my home - routers from previous ISPs, out of commission phones. Then it grew to tracking how telecom providers operated in my town, day jobs I was contracted to do, which all culminated in a full, 4-day pass to Grace Hopper Convention in 2019.
I wasn’t being paid, but I was being seen because of my blogging.
“I want to learn new things – can I write about that?”
Most of the things I write about are things I’m learning, errors and all. Data scholarships gave me something to write about as I learned the basics of SQL and Python. Writing about the UI/ UX quirks I found on websites and apps taught me to alert companies about issues by cold-email. I occasionally do cloud projects for a small provider, and they encourage me to write and share configurations I make for them.
Even if you’re using this as a portfolio, people appreciate seeing the trial and error and the ability to learn.
Here’s a truth;
Blogging about the technologies I’ve taught myself has opened far more doors than networking. The journey will definitely be different for everyone, but documenting it will never hurt.
It has expanded my skills professionally and personally, and will one day do so financially. I do the work, let it stand, put the URL on my social handles and email signatures - it turns into (mostly) free advertising.
The only guaranteed cost is your time, as you don’t have to buy a domain or hosting capabilities - Medium is free, and LinkedIn has the option to write lengthy articles.
You don’t always have the bandwidth to meet for a “quick chat” to network - why not let a blog do it for you?
Use your writing in tandem with networking - It’s something for the other person to read over their coffee in the morning. What you write can lead to a conversation where they come with a bit of background about what you’re currently interested in. Not only does it show that you are learning and your thought processes, but also written communication is a skill that’s always needed in tech.
Don’t feel confident with your writing?
Totally fine. I’d still encourage you to give it a try (some of my earlier posts are rough!). You can also make videos, where there’s less writing and more visuals. Either way, you will get better with practice and as you show your learning.
‘What if I need help with what I’m learning?’
Then you’re human. I’ve run into multiple issues when learning a new technology.
Why is this not happening? Shouldn’t this be doing that instead?
That’s when I hop onto social media and shout into the void about what the issue is. Talk about how you attempted to solve the problem before asking for help. Twitter gets me the widest views, but you can also use an appropriate Slack channel (maybe your coworkers know!).
Not only will you pop up in search results when someone searches for that topic on the platform, but also so many people are excited to work through it with you. I’ve had advocates from Microsoft take time out of their day to help me out!
And, of course, never be afraid to search.
“It’s still a little anxiety-inducing.”
Start with a small issue. ‘I thought x was supposed to happen here because I did y? Do I have this right?’
Don’t feel like you aren’t allowed to learn in public as a marginalized person in tech
“I have to be publicly perfect to be hired in tech because I’m at a disadvantage”
Being open with your pain points in a productive way grows community, and sharing what you’ve learned shows you’re adaptable - traits that are always commended!
“People have already written about this.”
Yes, and you have a unique perspective that deserves to be heard. Your writing might be the article that helps someone finally understand Data Analysis. Even if you don’t stick with what you learn, you can use it in the future.
The time I spent poking around the UX space taught me how to give feedback as a side gig. Those data scholarships I mentioned in the beginning mean I can look at a SQL file and know the basics.
I’ll be direct: I still haven’t found consistent paying work, and it’s a process every day - my anxious brain imagines the worst in others, and stops me from taking chances. But writing a blog is a great way to show what we can do as a supplement to a resume, and I’m optimistic it can pay off for everyone. Consider one thing you can share with an audience and find the best medium to deliver!