Main image of article How Two Tech Professionals Made the Leap From Other Fields

When you’re looking to break into tech from another industry, several options exist to make the big change, from master classes to bootcamps to continuing education programs. And it may not take long to get up to speed.

Learning to speak the language of tech could take just five weeks, suggested Sophia Matveeva, CEO and founder of education platform Tech for Non-Techies, in a LinkedIn blog post. She offers a master class in “How to Transition Into a Career in Tech.” 

Although new tech professionals will need training in areas such as project management, technical analysis, and software development, soft skills such as communication, leadership, resource management and interpersonal skills are transferable.

In this piece, we’ll look at how two tech professionals made the shift from other industries to further their careers.

Emily Lockhart Jumps from Fundraising to Open-Source Software

Emily Lockhart is the vice president of customer success at open-source software company Percona, which offers MySQL, MongoDB and PostgreSQL. She previously worked in healthcare and the nonprofit world, participating in fundraising for social justice and racial equity initiatives for young people.

“I was looking for a little bit of a change from what I was doing as well as from the nonprofit sector itself,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart was attracted to the tech industry and open source because of the opportunity to solve big problems and make an impact. Since she had two little kids in day care, she needed a career with a competitive salary and benefits as well as flexible work arrangements.

“Just knowing that tech kind of prides itself on that was one of the reasons I felt like that would be a good fit,” Lockhart said.

Communications and problem-solving skills translated over into the tech world. “Looking at my skills, like a lot of those skills in communications and fundraising or sales, and then operations and management, were totally transferable,” Lockhart said.

Experience with customer relationship management (CRM) services also translated well from fundraising. “That experience in fundraising and communications really taught me the importance of clear communication, and customer-centric thinking, or audience-centric thinking, and what motivates people, what drives them? What problems are they trying to solve? And what do they care about,” Lockhart said. “I think those skills have really helped me bridge my nontechnical experience into the technical world in a way that drives solutions and meets the needs of our customers and the team.”

Lockhart was able to bring over skills in diversity of thought from fundraising that might be different from what tech industry veterans at a database company would expect.

“Coming from communications and fundraising, all of those roles are centered around really understanding your audience, wanting to make connections with people, and understanding what motivates and drives people,” Lockhart said. “And so at Percona, that is how I approach my role as well.”

When looking to get a job in tech, Lockhart recommends consulting the Technology & Services Industry Association (TSIA) or Dice. She also suggests pursuing a project management certification program to learn how to handle cross-functional projects. 

Percona had bite-size “tech for non-tech” courses that provided training in breaking down complex technical concepts into short courses around database software and services. That’s how Lockhart was able to become familiar with database software and services.

When moving to tech from another industry, tech professionals should ignore internal worries about whether they have the ability to work in tech without technical expertise. “Quiet that voice and just push forward,” Lockhart said.

Former TV Anchor Takes on Cybersecurity Strategy

Audra Streetman, security strategist at SURGe, Splunk's strategic security research team, was previously a TV anchor and producer in cities such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Palm Springs, California, where she anchored a morning show. At the time, cybersecurity was not initially on her radar. She started to cover security stories when she was a digital producer at KCNC, a CBS affiliate in Denver.

“The opportunity to cover these stories in an area where I was already a little bit interested but a little unsure at the same time, it really gave me an opportunity to sort of solidify in my mind that that was a topic that I was really interested in,” Streetman said. “And I just wanted to learn more in my free time, which I think is a good sign. If you are learning in your free time about something, that's a good way to know that you're interested in it.”

Her friend Joseph Kingstone, who shifted from being an Army mechanic to working in tech, starting on a help desk and then becoming a pen tester, suggested to Streetman that she pursue a new career in cybersecurity. He made recommendations to Streetman on which courses to take and the different pathways in cybersecurity.

“If someone had told me five years ago that I'd be working in cybersecurity, I would have thought they were joking because I had no background knowledge with computers or security,” Streetman said.

When she was working overnight on her morning show and nearing the end of her contract, she considered a change. Instead of moving into newsroom management, she switched career paths into tech.

Mentorship from Kingstone was pivotal for Streetman. When you are studying to become a tech professional, having a mentor to ask questions about their experience is key.

“When you talk to someone who's actually done it, and they can tell you what the experience was like and what they struggled with, I think that can be hugely helpful just to hear it from an individual’s point of view,” Streetman said.

Certifications Provide Key Training in Cybersecurity

In cybersecurity, tech professionals can pursue certifications, which can be more affordable than university degree programs, Streetman noted.

“I just kind of got into this loop of taking certifications, and in the last two and a half years, I've done 13 certifications,” Streetman said.

While still working in news in Denver, Streetman opened a separate Twitter account to follow people in cybersecurity and started listening to podcasts related to the field. She then got a job at Splunk, and the company offered self-development as part of her workday. Over her first year and a half, she took three certifications.

She began a certification called CompTIA Network+ and then Security+ to learn the basics in security. In Security+ Streetman learned about different types of attacks, security teams and methodologies.

“I do think if you have a certification like Security+, that can really help get past different HR filters for more junior jobs,” Streetman said.

Streetman says using generative AI to ask questions has also been a helpful part of her training at Splunk. In addition to ChatGPT, the Splunk AI Assistant (formerly called SPL Copilot) has helped with cybersecurity learning as well.

In fact, 86 percent of the CISOs that Splunk surveyed for its 2024 State of Security Report believed generative AI could help alleviate the skills gap and talent shortage, Streetman noted: “I think CISOs are sort of looking to that as a way to help with hiring maybe more junior analysts.”

Streetman recommends reaching out to hiring managers directly when job hunting and saying you would like to learn more about what they are looking for in an applicant. For the role she was hired for at Splunk, the company stated in the job description that it was looking for people who were interested in changing careers, Streetman recalled.

“It was very intentionally drafted to not give people a reason not to apply because they wanted to open it up to people from more diverse backgrounds,” Streetman said. “It even [requested] people coming from the humanities, which was really cool to see in a job posting. I think a lot of companies could benefit from seeking out career changers who bring their own different skills to learn on the job.”

Streetman recommends applying for jobs even if a candidate doesn’t satisfy all the criteria because sometimes the junior positions require three years of experience: “Look at what skills you bring to the table, even if it's not technical yet, and see if you can find opportunities where those skills can come into play while you're still building the technical skills.”

She has shadowed teams in threat hunting, threat intelligence, detection engineering and security operations centers (SOC) teams. “I've learned a lot just from interviewing experts in the field about their day-to-day and what they're seeing,” Streetman added. “I'm also really fortunate at Splunk that we have a job rotation that I've had a chance to take part in just in the last few months.”

Today in her role at SURGe, the strategic security research team at Splunk, she works on long-form, high-level research projects in security. In one project, her team analyzed ransomware encryption speeds to see how long it takes from setting off malware to encrypting files. The team then determines whether security professionals could defend against the malware during that time frame. In addition, Streetman interacts with customers to talk about Splunk security and observability productions at conferences like RSA. She also presents white papers from her team at conferences.

Along with Madeleine Tauber, a Splunk solutions engineer, Streetman cohosts a podcast called “The Security Detail,” in which they interview security experts about the top cyber threats in various industries.

For tech professionals looking to get started in cybersecurity, Streetman advises learning the basics first before diving into how to detect advanced attacks. “I know it can be tempting to just focus on that domain of cybersecurity, but I think having the basic fundamental understanding of how everything works before you learn more about attack vectors and threat groups can be really helpful,” Streetman said. “Just build the basics first.”


When switching careers into tech, you’ll find that you have more transferable skills to offer than you think, especially in soft skills like problem-solving and communications. In addition, be sure to explore certification programs and seek out a mentor to help you navigate the recruitment process and your first years in the tech industry.

Tech professionals should also incorporate diverse expertise and talents whenever possible. Leaders such as Lockhart and Streetman exemplify the importance of diversity of thought that professionals from other fields as well as women in tech bring. As Apple CEO Tim Cook told the BBC in 2022, “Technology's a great thing that will accomplish many things, but unless you have diverse views at the table that are working on it, you don't wind up with great solutions.”