Can I get on an IIT 1?

The crux of qualification: IT career as a career changer

Successful in the IT industry without studying and training?

In times of self-taught people who learn web design or programming languages ​​in their free time, high-quality IT skills are not just limited to industry professionals such as computer scientists. But does that automatically mean that with the appropriate background knowledge and experience from private projects, you can start an IT career without having completed the appropriate training? What options do IT talents have who are technically in top shape but have no qualifications on paper?

A career as a computer scientist or in the tech industry is a very popular goal for many young people. The sector is interesting and dynamic, is constantly growing, offers lucrative prospects and in many cases already overlaps with the private interests of many tech-savvy people.

IT and self-taught

In this digital age, many young people have already grown up fully with computers and the Internet, which makes them familiar with the technology in great detail. The term for this generation is called digital natives, as they were born into a digital world from birth.

Among them, but also among older cohorts who have come into contact with computers in their lifetime, there are numerous people who have acquired a great deal of in-depth knowledge in certain IT areas.

Since it is a very interesting field in which you can immerse yourself very deeply in the subject with just one computer from home, most subjects are well suited to learning a lot on your own as a hobbyist. In addition to the hobby programmers, there are also some people who, regardless of their previous job title, have taken on various IT duties in their company.

Lateral entry into IT - what makes the industry so interesting?

The IT industry exploded in the 80s and is still growing. The comprehensive digitization of all areas of everyday life and life, which seems to never end with new aspects, has only accelerated it in recent years.

Above all, the change to Industry 4.0 has meant that companies from all economic sectors need more and more IT specialists - so that there is a large number of vacant positions. The shortage of skilled workers is particularly noticeable in such a specific field.

The demand for qualified workers remains high and the average pay is very attractive - good opportunities and prospects for newcomers. Another advantage: Many startups are based in the tech sector. The often younger, more modern corporate culture there could be a great advantage, especially for career changers with certain skills.

Application without training? Is the?

A large proportion of jobs in the IT industry usually require a degree. An academic career is the classic career path for software developers or business IT specialists. There are also some apprenticeships - IT specialists for system integration or application development, for example. In the creative media field, training is often the right choice anyway.

But what do you do if your own professional and school background has no direct contact with information technology? A recognized job title is still very important in Germany and is often the first criterion with which possible candidates are sifted out from the large number of applicants. One possibility that is particularly suitable for younger career changers are jobs that take place in or affect the IT area, but which do not necessarily require a degree or training in this area.

An example of this would be service desk employees in the IT support area. IT knowledge is often an important prerequisite there, but it does not necessarily have to be accompanied by appropriate training. Lateral entrants who already have communicative work experience are therefore popular candidates.

Diverse industry with good entry opportunities

As an employee in a technical or IT-oriented call center and as a key or help desk account manager, there are many junior positions that are accessible with limited or no professional experience in the IT sector. Such transferable skills in the résumé are therefore quite helpful to facilitate lateral entry into IT in such entry-level positions. These are perfect as a first step, as it is much easier to apply internally for more in-depth positions.

It is important that the professional qualification is both promoted and demonstrated with the help of additional obligations that one takes on in the context of the position. Incidentally, not all companies are equally suitable for this type of internal lateral advancement.

In startups or medium-sized companies, motivated career changers often have a good chance of gaining professional experience in the IT sector. If such tasks suddenly arise there - which is always the case in the course of digitization - it can be very helpful to take on these duties. In the best case scenario, this even enables a new position to be taken on directly for these tasks, which means that an actual IT job title is on the résumé.

Which qualifications are desired and popular with companies?

Computer science and the IT area as a whole are therefore very interesting for career changers. However, it can also be difficult to gain a foothold in the industry. The absolute majority of all entry-level positions are given to graduates of courses in this area. Even for highly qualified lateral entrants, it can be difficult to address the HR offices with your own application if there is no indication of a completed degree. So the crux of the matter is drawing attention to the actual skills that are relevant to the position.

Therefore, the first step before the application process is to acquire the relevant skills. Even those who see themselves as versatile experts and have learned many skills as an autodidact in the context of voluntary lessons or hobbies may not directly meet the requirements of companies.

These often require very specific knowledge or even certificates in order to guarantee that the tasks involved are not a problem. Regardless of the actual skills, these hard skills should definitely be right. In many cases, these are quite similar for different jobs in the entry level area. These are the typical basic skills that are very often in demand as an IT employee:

  • Basics: Word processing, spreadsheets, network technology, IT support and web development are often a blanket requirement, regardless of the ultimate job description.
  • Database processing: The database language SQL and specific applications such as Microsoft SQL Server, as well as interface programming and experience in evaluating and analyzing large amounts of data.
  • Cloud computing: The "latest craze" in every IT department. Distributed computing is the basis for more and more applications, especially in companies, and is therefore often an aspect in which in-depth knowledge is required.
  • Knowledge of specific environments: This is where autodidacts often have problems because they cannot access these programs privately. Very specific certificates and further training are often required here for working with very specific program versions. SAP and Cisco are just two names of many that appear frequently in the list of tasks.
  • Experience with a wide variety of tools: Theoretical knowledge is extremely important, but practical experience with typical business programs such as ERP and CRM tools is usually required. Fortunately, you can also get to know these in positions that are not in the field of IT.

Importance of "soft skills" in IT

Soft skills are also extremely important due to the job interviews that are still held with people. Although there is the cliché that in the IT area you only work in front of your own screen and have little contact with other employees, this is no longer the case in the age of modern software development or project organization.

Therefore, good soft skills, which are advantageous for the respective work environment and areas of responsibility, are very important for career changers in order to convince future employers. The following soft skills are often in demand:

  • Ability to work in a team: More and more IT work takes place in larger teams, possibly even with many off-site employees who can only be reached by phone or email. It is therefore important to be able to work effectively under these circumstances or, best of all, to promote a positive atmosphere.
  • Experience in leading positions: Regardless of the industry and technical aspects, leadership qualities are always in demand and extremely important for a pleasant collaboration.
  • Communication: Either internally, with superiors or team members, but also in dialog with business partners or customers, professional communication is very important.
  • Creativity: It is not uncommon for the challenges, especially in application development, to be of a less technical nature, but rather require a creative approach. The classic "thinking out of the box" is therefore a welcome skill.
  • Resilience: Especially in agencies or in management positions, it is often necessary to work under time pressure or to find solutions due to a certain deadline in order to be able to finalize a project despite sudden difficulties. It is therefore a very sought-after professional trait to remain calm in such situations and to be able to continue working with focus.

Armed with these basic skills and personal characteristics, a job interview is no longer too much of a challenge. Particularly in the technical qualifications, however, specializations in areas that are particularly relevant for the respective position are far more important.

Especially in larger or basically IT-oriented companies, the areas of responsibility of most employees are limited to a specific area. Even within a discipline such as network technology, there are certain forms of application that require specialized training, such as working with certain Cisco standards.
It may therefore be necessary to acquire the appropriate skills at least for a further career in IT, for example in the context of further training - more on this later.

Keyword portfolio and application

When trying to get started for the first time, however, these are often not available and a longer training period between jobs is either not possible or not desirable. Then it is important to get into a position in which you can convince potential employers of your own added value and skills.

The application is the first step. Depending on the company or industry, it can therefore be a good idea to deviate from the established standards in the form and design of the application folder. A creative application that highlights both your own personality and special skills can therefore be the first step in making applicants stand out against other candidates with more academic achievements.

There are a few more tips that will help you put your strengths in the spotlight in the application:

  • Emphasize motivation: A particular advantage for career changers is that they often have a disproportionate self-interest in the respective industry, which sets them apart from graduates in this field. The question that is frequently asked in job interviews, why you absolutely want to work here, can be answered in these cases with a passion for the subject.

  • Focus on skills: What you actually master, what you have real practical experience with, is more important to many employers than a certain title on paper. This is exactly where career changers can score with the right qualifications.

  • Transferable qualifications: Experience from the old career has a special position, especially if it is directly applicable to the operations of the new employer. If an IT company creates applications for motor vehicles, for example, the existing experience as a mechatronics technician can also be very helpful in an application for a position as a programmer.

  • Emphasize willingness to learn: Anyone who has been able to acquire the knowledge to meet the technical requirements for the position as an autodidact has been shown to be more than willing to learn, especially in this subject area. Such special properties should by no means be neglected.

  • Build a portfolio: In many IT areas, such as application development or digital media design, stand-alone projects are an ideal way to enable aptitude for entry into the professional world. It is therefore advisable to build up a portfolio to present your own skills.

Subsequent training in IT to start a career

Since, despite the shortage of skilled workers, the lack of formal training in IT can be a major obstacle to lateral entry, it may be necessary to make an effort. Fortunately, it is never too late for in-depth training, distance learning or further training and this can solve the biggest problem for a change of industry.

Financing a second training course is often a problem. Since there is little or no money to be made during classroom studies, the question of money must be clarified for such a retraining before you quit your current job. There is currently a good situation for career changers, as loans for a financing bridge are currently available very cheaply thanks to the favorable location with particularly low interest rates. In order to survive the period of reduced income, this is definitely a good solution, as the desired professional qualification can be achieved without worry.

Those who are still employed by their old employer can take advantage of extra-occupational offers that make it possible to carry out further training or retraining at the same time. A computer science course as an evening course is offered by many institutes and can be completed with comparatively little effort, especially by experienced IT hobbyists. In addition, it makes sense to examine funding opportunities for the respective further training within the framework of the so-called advancement BAföG.

Innovative training opportunities

The modern “Accellerated Learning” programs may be of particular interest to career changers. These make it possible to acquire the necessary knowledge for a qualification in a new industry within a few months in intensive courses. Concepts of this kind are now quite widespread, especially in the IT and tech sectors, as they arose as a reaction to the shortage of skilled workers in these sectors. The training courses are kept very compact and are based very closely on the practical challenges that await in professional life.

Another advantage of these programs is that they are up to date. In IT in particular, requirements and standards change over and over again, which is why it is important to be up to date. This applies to both the secondary topics that IT has to deal with - such as developments in the field of sustainability, as well as the detailed everyday work. No matter how well you can master certain tools or programming languages ​​and thus achieve great results, if these are out of date this has no professional relevance.

As an important tip, one can only recommend IT talents in Spe for preparing for lateral entry to specialize in a relevant area if possible. For example, companies have their own advanced training programs or crash courses that set important standards in IT.

One example is the courses on SAP consultant training. Since the German software company provides IT solutions for a large number of different companies, experts are in demand in many places for setting up, maintaining or using the programs.

This is particularly suitable for career changers, as the learning content is aimed at young professionals and does not require any special qualifications. Therefore, such training is a great way to get the often required paper-based qualification.

Start your own business with your own tech startup

A career opportunity for IT talents that is not suitable for everyone, but has already led to great success in many cases, should not go unmentioned here.Anyone who has a lot of passion, appropriate knowledge of the subject and perhaps some creative ideas for a product may have the chance to build the basis for a career in the IT industry on their own.

Above all, web developers and programmers have the opportunity, for example, to offer their skills as freelancers or to develop a commercial product in personal union. Especially those who have already developed fully functional programs privately and thus in principle meet the full-stack standard, have great opportunities here. If the idea for a corresponding market model exists, it may be a good idea to found a real startup.

This can be done without any formal training, as everyone in Germany is free to set up their own company. This may sound very attractive to many, but it comes with many additional challenges:

  • There are also management tasks. As a founder, it is usually not possible for long to fully take care of the tasks of the core business, but have to take on other duties.
  • Many startups fail in the first three years. The success stories are well known and shouldn't be ignored. But despite a good product, it is not always easy to address customers with it or to create a long-term marketable concept.
  • The time required is, at least at the beginning, much higher than in an employee relationship.

However, those who fully trust their vision can take advantage of a great opportunity as a career changer with their own company and possibly skip some steps on the career ladder. So you don't have to worry about a second education path or an entry-level job that is still a long way from the desired position.