How I Used Networking to Transition into Software EngineeringFeatured

I transitioned from growth marketing into software engineering in 2020. Graduating from bootcamp in March 2020 and figuring out this career transition was a challenge. Prior to making this switch, I had a non-engineering career in tech. Through the networking methods outlined below, I was able to generate several interviews which resulted in one summer apprenticeship at a seed stage startup and two full-time employee offers:

1) Software Engineer at a Series A fintech start-up

2) Apprentice Software Engineer at a prominent public tech company

I went with the big tech company because I wasn’t super sold on the longer term prospects of the startup and felt that I could learn a lot from Sr. engineers on my team at the big tech company. Three months into my new gig and I’m very happy with this decision, though I do hope to come back to the startup world some day.

Here’s how I utilized both warm and cold networking to land the job:

1) I applied to apprenticeship programs. I landed a summer apprenticeship last summer, and am currently a full-time employee as an apprentice software engineer at a prominent public tech company.

Before applying for apprenticeships, I always did a bunch of cold outreach on LinkedIn to current or past women apprentices for tips on how to stand out. I friend requested them with a note similar to below:

“I found your profile while researching the [name of company] apprenticeship program. Your journey from [previous profession] to Software Engineering is so inspiring. I hope to apply to the program on June 9th. Would you be willing to share any advice on how to stand out on the application? Thank you so much for your consideration!”

If they responded, I asked them if they’d be willing to speak with me for 30 minutes so I can learn more. About 20% of cold outreach resulted in a response, and 50% of those resulted in a phone call.

2) I individually outreached via email to folks in my network that are in tech and updated them on my recent happenings, generating several leads this way. I targeted my LinkedIn connections who are employed at tech companies, are connected to people at companies where I wanted to work, or are in VC.

I did not include a direct ask in this email, just an update on what I had been up to recently. About 50% of my connections that I reached out to responded. Whenever someone responded, around 50% of the time, they asked how they could help. If they asked how they could help, I’d ask them if they could refer me, make an intro for me, etc.

Here is a template for how I structured my outreach:

Hi [name],

How’ve you been lately? It’s been several years since we’ve been in touch. So much has changed!

On my end, I’ve been making a transition into software engineering, something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. I recently graduated from bootcamp where I absolutely loved [insert your favorite thing about what you learned/software engineering etc]. I’m currently figuring out my first opportunity in engineering and am [insert what you’re doing to further your learning while you look for a job] in the meantime.

On a personal note, [ if you feel comfortable, share something from your personal life. People responded well to this and usually shared something personal of their own]

And how are you doing these days, [name of person]? Would love to learn more about how things have been going with [their job/family etc] on your end.

Best,

Azra

3) I put my info on a few different talent directories that resulted in some inbound job leads including:

* The Elpha Talent Directory. I reached out to the team at Elpha who introduced me to a few companies and helped me land the summer apprenticeship at the seed stage startup

* Bookface YC internal network. A YC founder I knew & reached out to offered to post my resume on Bookface, the internal network for YC founders.

* The Lambda School (my bootcamp) student talent directory

* A friend who also transitioned into engineering recently had success landing a job through the AngelList directory though I didn’t try it myself.

As a result of the strategies I outlined above, I didn’t do a lot of cold applying to jobs and had something in the pipeline most weeks during my job search from April 2020 to October 2020 except for maybe Aug and Sept 2020 when I was focused on my summer apprenticeship. I hesitated to share these strategies as I understand they might not work for everyone but I figured even if a couple people get something useful out of them, they are worth sharing.

Wish you all the best and please don’t hesitate to comment or DM if you have any questions!

KiLo's profile thumbnail
This is so helpful! I'd actually argue that your tips are very helpful because they lend themselves nicely to other fields. Even better, you provided a template that someone like me can use. I'm all about practical advice that I can actually put into practice!Can you expand more about what an apprenticeship is and how is this different from, say, a bootcamp?
azra's profile thumbnail
Hi @KiLo, glad you found it helpful! Apprenticeships are sort of like extended internships at big tech cos with a path of conversion to Software Engineer. At some companies they are contract roles, at other companies they are actual full-time employee roles, sort of like associate software engineer.
maurathompson's profile thumbnail
This is so helpful, thank you for this post! As a recent bootcamp grad pivoting to a new industry, it's so inspiring and great to hear what worked for you in your job hunt. Thanks again!
azra's profile thumbnail
Hi @maurathompson glad you found it helpful! Best of luck in your journey into software engineering, I hope you land your dream job
meganh's profile thumbnail
Thank you for taking the time to share--this is super helpful:)
azra's profile thumbnail
You're welcome @meganh I'm so glad you found it helpful!Azra
victoriadepencier's profile thumbnail
Ohhhh wow so this transition is my dream, I am so excited you posted this! I have so many questions, of course you don’t have to answer if you don’t have time! How have you found software engineering now that you’ve been in it for a while? Which coding languages did you focus on? How well did the Bootcamp prepare you? If you’re comfortable, could you share a salary range for the types of entry offers you might expect as someone who recently transitioned to the field? How are you finding the work life balance where you are now? What’s your next move to keep growing in your new field? Also, your story is very inspiring. Thank you for sharing! I always thought this transition was possible but that I’d be crazy to pursue it. You just stoked a fire in me to do this too, I love this community!
azra's profile thumbnail
I'm glad this post was be helpful for you @victoriadepencier! Now that I've been doing it for a while, I'm happy with my transition though miss the ability to make business decisions sometimes. My current language is Java, at bootcamp I learned Javascript & Python. My bootcamp prepared me well for the startup world but big tech co is a different story - things are way more complicated and take longer to develop on at big tech cos! Entry level salary range in SF I've see from $85/90k-$140k, pretty wide range. Work life balance is pretty great where I am. My next move after a couple of years is definitely to join a startup that I'm really sold on as a backend engineer. And yes, I love this community too :) It has been so inspiring for me too and I'm glad to pay it forward
MaryMateo's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for sharing this! It is very helpful. I love how you approached networking in an authentic way. I will be saving this as a guide. I hope you're able to join a great startup in a few years!
azra's profile thumbnail
Thank you @MaryMateo Im glad you found it helpful! And I hope so too :)