Success does not always follow a straight line and the same is true for many career paths. Lighthouse Labs grads are no different; most are career changers who came to us having been in a completely different career field before finding their passion for technology. More and more, companies are finding there is a need for knowledge and ability in coding; skills that are useful in a variety of positions within an organization and not just at a developer level. There are some great opportunities out there for developers who can leverage previous interests and skills with what they learned at Lighthouse Labs. They can use those diverse skills to kick off their new careers and get a foot in the door of companies who may not necessarily hire many junior developers.
What is a Hybrid Role?
Hybrid or “Tech Adjacent” are roles where it's either an asset or a requirement that the candidate has the ability to understand and/or be able to write code, while still doing a job that is not considered a full developer. Depending on the role, other specific skills or experiences may be required. These roles could require skills that range from customer support, to marketing, to systems knowledge, to the ability to liaise between a developer team and other departments or clients. Companies may structure these types of roles as the standard entry point for all technical or junior staff and treat it as a training piece.
Starting in a hybrid role is not uncommon, even if you are hired as junior developer right off the bat. Devs of all levels will often start by working with the QA team or by doing testing as a way of getting familiar with the product and the code base.
Combining Skills and Experience
Combining your skills and taking on a hybrid role can be a great way to get your foot in the door, especially as competition for many entry level position are stiff. This is especially true in some of the smaller developer job markets in Canada. Hybrid roles provide a chance to really hit the ground running, highlight the soft skills you’ve already mastered while also showing your potential and eagerness to learn.
The best way to “hit the ground running” is to do your research and be as prepared as possible when apply for hybrid positions. The more you know about a product and company, the more valuable you become and the more likely a company will be invested in your growth. This is exactly the reason why it makes more sense for companies to promote these types of hybrids roles into full-time developer roles.
Taking the Initiative
Don’t hesitate to propose projects or initiatives that will help the company and give you the chance to gain more experience. Ask what skills you can work on developing in order to set you up for the next role. Particularly in a small or rapidly growing company, if you have additional experience and skills you are likely going to find a way to use them. Wearing differents hats is oftentimes the norm now and there is no shortage of work to be done!
HR staff are constantly thinking of ways to grow their company and their staff. They are hiring for today but also planning for tomorrow. Typically, you should expect to be in a more junior position for about a year before a company will start looking at where you can grow. However, we have certainly seen students that have really loved being able to combine diverse experience and skill sets and have chosen to grow within these hybrid roles. Many of these hybrid roles can become a great career path on their own.
Here are just a few examples of hybrid / tech-adjacent roles that you might find in combination with a junior developer position:
- Technical Support: a customer facing role that still requires a knowledge of code
- Support Engineer: a role that is not coding all the time, but still debugs and works with code
- Customer Success / Product Manager: working on a dev product, while also handling aspects of marketing and sales
- Business Analyst: using technical skills and coding knowledge to solve problems
- UI/UX Designer: focused on the user website experience while utilizing coding skills
If you are taking on a hybrid role with the goal of being a full-time developer, it’s important for you keep up your coding skills. Make sure you have other projects on the go, work through online tutorials to learn new languages, and participate in meetups, hack-a-thons, and stay connected within the tech community. The great news is that as you’re not spending all day coding you may find you have more energy to pursue your own passion projects.
Charlyne Fothergill is the Director of Career Services at Lighthouse Labs.