Succeeding in tech as a non-technical person: How these 20 pros did it

I asked 20 non-tech professionals how they broke into tech, their most interesting career highlights, and the challenges they face due to their non-technical background.

Succeeding in tech as a non-technical 	person: How these 20 pros did it

"How can I excel at a job that requires coding knowledge when I suck at maths and my head explodes each time I take an IT-related course?", I asked. "I can’t work in tech. It's not for me", I concluded.

That was my career dilemma barely three years ago.

Fast forward to today: I’m a content marketer for tech companies and venture capital firms. And I've realized how my previous belief sabotaged my career progress for the longest time. Thankfully, I now know better.

The tech industry isn’t exclusive to only technical geniuses. It has enough space for non-technical people like me to thrive. All I could've done all those years was to ask for help. Like Brian Hilson tweeted, "Breaking into tech is hard, but having help makes it a lot easier".

Many non-technical people want to break into the tech industry but are confused and timid like my younger self three years ago. I sought to help them get clarity in this article. I asked 20 non-tech professionals how they broke into tech, their most interesting career highlights, and the challenges they face due to their non-technical background.

But before we get to their answers, what are non-technical roles? Non-technical roles are job positions that do not require you to have coding or other core IT skills. These roles are equally as valuable, challenging and lucrative as any other technical role.

1. Aisha Owolabi

Content Marketing Manager at Wizeline

How did you break into tech?
I broke into tech by landing a job at Carbon as their digital content manager. Before this, I was a content creator and social media marketer.

Career highlights

  • At Carbon, I ran a weekly newsletter series as "Aisha from Carbon" to an audience of 1 million+ Nigerians, creating a unique, fun, and relatable brand persona.
  • In 2020, I joined Wizeline remotely from Nigeria and eventually relocated to Mexico in May 2021 to work closely with the team.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
While developers and designers are usually lucky in tapping international opportunities, marketers are not. So I had difficulty getting a remote international role as a marketer living in Nigeria. This compelled me to redefine my job search strategy.

2. Alfred Jarikre

Product Marketing Manager at The Balance Bowl

How did you break into tech?
After doing digital marketing for five years, I decided to transition into tech. So I applied for the product marketing role I saw in an ad. And as they say, the rest is history.

Career highlights
My top highlight is successfully managing three campaigns for three tech companies in one week. There was also a campaign I managed for a company based in the United States. I enjoyed this as it involved major aspects of digital marketing and exposed me to how healthtech works.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
I’ve had to work on products that aren’t technically ready. This often stalls my projects as I cannot market an unfinished product. Unfortunately, my non-technical skills don’t help matters as I can neither code nor develop products.

3. Aremu Anuoluwapo

NLP Researcher at Masakhane

How did you break into tech?
While studying linguistics at the University of Lagos, I got bored of my classes because I felt they were theoretical. In my search for experiential learning, I met Kola Tubosun who made me a volunteer as a researcher on his YorubaName project. Shortly after, he started paying me. This was my first tech role.

Career highlights

  • I designed the first African indigenous crossword board game — YoobaLingo.
  • I performed in different leadership roles in the language technology ecosystem.
  • I got an internship in terminology management with a U.S.-headquartered firm in my final year.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
I sometimes get tired when working on (natural language processing) NLP-related projects as they’re always dominated by engineers and computer scientists who love communicating with their lingo. It’s always an uphill battle trying to keep up.

4. Chiamaka Chukwudolue

Compliance Analyst at Binance

How did you break into tech?
I started as an intern with no idea of how compliance works. I was scared and unsure because I didn’t have any "tech" skills. However, I learned fast on the job and developed along the way.

Career highlights

  • I was privileged to professionally review KYC (know your customer) documents in Nigeria and other African countries within the first six months of my internship.
  • I was also able to switch to Binance with less than two years of experience in Compliance. This was a huge win for me.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Not a lot [of challenges], as Compliance is just as important as the engineering or design team. It’s the backbone of operations and a company’s first line of defence (in the event of regulatory or policy issues). So not having a core "tech" skill has never affected me. I’m as relevant as my technical colleagues.

5. Chiamaka Friday

Product Marketing Manager at StartWeb.Africa

How did you break into tech?
I’ve always had an interest in tech. My first passion project was in front-end development when I attended CodeLagos in 2017. I then covered some tech stories as a reporter at The Nation Newspaper.

Career highlight
My biggest highlight is training hundreds of Nigerian business owners and online professionals to set up professional e-commerce websites and take their online presence to the next level without coding knowledge.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
There is a lot to catch up on as there are new trends almost every day. Consequently, I have to be on my toes and learn daily. Further, I find some technical parts of my job difficult as my technical skillset got dusty after a little employment gap.

Succeeding in tech as a non-technical person: How these 20 professionals did it

6. DC Okoli

Co-founder and CEO of Dropper

How did you break into tech?
I resigned from my sales job at a fast-moving consumer goods company after realizing I wanted to solve real problems at scale. This pushed me to work with a logistics tech company where I learned about the tech space and figured out what I wanted to do — make order fulfilment as simple as money transfer in Nigeria. I co-founded my company, DropperAfrica, after this.

Career highlights
One of my most interesting highlights is getting stakeholders in the e-commerce ecosystem to join a community where they can share their problems and I (hopefully) come up with actionable solutions.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Before my co-founder came on board, my non-technical background handicapped me from creating tangible solutions. And that stalled my progress. Fortunately, I now know better. I can use no-code solutions to solve my clients’ problems. I don’t have to wait to be a genius at coding. I’m taking courses to get better at coding though.

7. Elizabeth Anuoluwapo

Head of Influencer & Community Manager at RelianceHMO

How did you break into tech?
I was curious about the tech industry and kept applying for different marketing-related roles until I got a job as the Head of Influencer & Community Manager at RelianceHMO.

Career highlight
I have guided and managed 30+ brands through influencer marketing.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
As an influencer marketing personnel in Nigeria, it’s challenging working with influencers, especially in terms of getting them to prove the returns on their campaigns’ investment.

8. Emmanuel Olowookere

Product Marketer at Nguvu Health

How did you break into tech?
I didn't plan to break into tech. I'd been a social media manager for most of my career. However, I got tired of it as it wasn’t paying enough and I wanted to do more tech. This pushed me to jump on an advert for a social media internship at Nguvu Health. The role appealed to me because it fitted my medical and social media background.

Career highlight
I’ve been able to contribute to the growth and diversity of a fast-growing healthtech startup. This has been exciting and challenging.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Tech startups have their respective unique approaches. So I’m challenged to stay adaptable as what works for startup A might not work for the next company I join.

9. Israel Oladipupo

Sales and Marketing Manager at CoralPay Technology (Nig) Limited

How did you break into tech?
I joined an early-stage fintech company that was looking to achieve financial inclusion in Nigeria and other African markets. This was a life-changing opportunity as I was the first Nigerian employee in the company.

Career highlights
I increased PalmPay users from zero to two million in less than three years. This stood out because the month-on-month monthly active users figure was exciting and that exposed me to how the fintech ecosystem works.

Another highlight is my experience launching Vetifly in Nigeria. Although I had a short stay in the company, it was a defining job as I was able to increase their market size.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
There are periods where the technical team doesn’t accept my ideas regarding what is possible per sprint or product release.

10. Jason Horby

Founder of JXMA

How did you break into tech?
My friend and first mentor, Nana introduced me to tech. He exposed me to how the tech industry works and shared opportunities I could access as a non-technical person.

Career highlights
Helping and seeing brands scale and improve is my biggest highlight. For example, my agency helped a client to work with the United States State Department. Another got to sign a deal with Selfridges.

Another highlight is working with amazing people in Silicon Valley. Through my work, I’ve made numerous new friends and people I can call family. The journey is better with them in it.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
When I first broke into tech, many people criticized me for not being knowledgeable enough. My agency also lost some high-profile gigs because we thought we weren’t ready. I almost gave up at a time as it wasn’t easy improving my learning curve, managing clients, and schooling simultaneously (I was a final year student at the time).

11. Kartikey Bhatia

Customer Success Manager at OurPass

How did you break into tech?
I got into tech through a digital marketing internship with Stallion Group Africa. My core responsibility was managing their upcoming food website for their Jolly brand.

Career highlights

  • I became a CS Manager at a very early age.
  • I built the fastest one-click checkout for digital commerce as part of OurPass.
  • I helped get OurPass into the Techstars Accelerator programme

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
I don’t understand some technical aspects during discussions with the product and engineering teams. And I occasionally have to step out of my comfort zone by contributing to product development even though it is outside my job description.

12. Mary Imasuen

Podcast Creator at Bitnob

How did you break into tech?
While I started off writing HuffingtonPost features for some tech companies back in 2016, my tech journey kicked off in 2019 when I transitioned to tech law and launched my podcast, The FintechX. I reviewed Bitnob in one of my episodes. They invited me to host their podcast, Nobcast, a few months later, landing me my first formal tech role.

Career highlights

  • I think one of my meaningful career highlights is being part of a tech company I love so much. I’m a huge fan of Bitnob, and it’s been wonderful being a part of it.
  • I’m able to tap into the minds of tech superstars without leaving my house through my podcast.
  • I’ve helped non-technical people transition and see them thrive in tech roles.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
It can be hard to keep up with tech trends as something new and exciting is always coming up daily. This is both challenging and adventurous.

13. Matthew Victor

Talent Specialist at Klasha

How did you break into tech?
A friend referred me for an opening. Even though I didn’t fulfil 100% of the qualifications, I took the chance. Surprisingly, I got in.

Career highlights
None in particular, as every workday is a highlight for me. As a talent specialist, I interact with different types of people in the tech ecosystem. This exposes me to different mindsets, personalities, and ideologies — the combination of which could pass for an interesting TV show.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
I have to automate some aspects of HR processes, requiring me to develop some basic technical skillset. I also have to learn technical terminologies to relate well with engineers and developers. Else, I’ll be irrelevant.

14. Nafisat Ojolowo

Growth and Marketing Lead

How did you break into tech?
I started as a programme associate, moved to programme management and got promoted to a growth manager role after a year.

Career highlights
Every day is a highlight for me as I thrive in the marketing department. I’ve created a marketing impact at global companies like Utiva.

What are the challenges you experience due to your non-technical background?
I often find myself doing something out of my job description just to get my task done. Also, there are a few people to reach out to for mentorship or guidance. There are not enough non-technical trailblazers in the tech industry.

15. Olumide Adaramoye

Growth Marketing Manager

How did you break into tech?
As an undergraduate, I was an ambassador for tech companies such as Cowrywise, Utivia, and Data Science Nigeria. I was also a member of tech communities like Google Developers student clubs, Hult Prize, Campus Labs, Data Science Nigeria AI+ clubs, AI Saturdays. These piqued my interest in growth marketing for tech startups.

My interest in growth marketing, however, soared after meeting Tobi Olagoke. He introduced me to growth hacking. Afterwards, I geeked out all things growth, shared my learning online, branded myself as an expert growth marketer, and got involved in relevant communities.

Shortly later, I got an offer via LinkedIn to understudy a senior growth executive at a global fintech company. That was my first formal tech role.

Career highlights

  • I've built three different online communities with over 10,000 members combined.
  • I achieved more than 100% growth in user base quarter-on-quarter and 200% in user engagement month-on-month for an African fintech despite the regulations.
  • I secured my last couple of jobs via referral and not the usual application pool.
  • I’ve helped thousands of growth and marketing enthusiasts gain clarity, build impressive portfolios, and land job offers.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
When I started working in tech, I experienced impostor syndrome when handling technical tasks like analytics and growth tools integration. I feared my non-technical background would make me fail. Fortunately, I overcame that problem after I learned to ask for help. The tech ecosystem thrives on feedback and collaboration. So I shouldn’t be afraid to seek aid whenever I’m stuck.

Succeeding in tech as a non-technical person: How these 20 professionals did it

16. Oluwatobi Abiodun

Product Marketing Associate at Kyshi

How did you break into tech?
I broke into tech through cold-pitching. I sought out my desired tech companies and sent them emails pitching how to solve their problems. I got a truckload of rejections, but a fintech company eventually invited me to work with them.

Career highlights
My career transition has been my major highlight so far. It’s been a roller-coaster transitioning from being a spoken word poet to a career in tech.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
I’m not fully acquainted with tech jargon. As a result, sometimes, I have no idea what the engineering and product teams are saying. I also have to constantly keep up with the ever-changing tech trends.

17. Peace Obinani

Product Marketing Manager at Piggvest

How did you break into tech?
I was a freelance social media manager and used to work on a lot of events/ shows. Then, someone sent me a link to apply for a "social media customer success intern" role. I applied and got the job almost immediately. I eventually became the social media lead and now product marketing manager.

> **Related:** [Until Piggyvest, I never liked the idea of a 9 to 5 — Peace Obinani](/under-the-hoodie-peace-obinani-social-media-lead-at-piggyvest/)

Career highlights

  • My swift career progression; I moved from an intern to a team lead in less than two years.
  • Structuring our social media/support team is one of my biggest highlights. At the time I joined the team, we had just 2 people on the social media team, but right now I lead a team of over 10 people.
  • As the social media manager, I worked on establishing our online presence. Today, Piggyvest has one of the strongest social media presence among tech companies in Nigeria.
  • I was also opportune to lead several marketing efforts for the brand, including our Big Brother Nigeria campaign.
  • I also built a thriving community of non-technical people working or transitioning into tech.

What are the challenges you experience due to your non-technical background?
It took a while to figure out my path when I started, as I was multi-skilled and tempted to take multiple non-technical opportunities simultaneously. Working in a cross-functional role means that I get to work with engineers and sometimes, I wish I had some technical skills to "quickly" get some things done as the priorities of both teams are sometimes different.

18. Priscilla Oshunremi

Head of Community & Social Media at YAYZY

How did you break into tech?
I've always loved the [tech] industry as I believe it defines our present and future. So when I realized you don’t need technical expertise to provide value in the industry, I jumped on the opportunities I saw.

Career highlights
Seeing my insights and contributions get implemented by technical teams. It is a big deal to see my sociological perspectives accepted by technical teams who think methodologically

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Sometimes, my insufficient technical knowledge makes it hard to give meaningful feedback. However, my CPO, Angel, helps me cope better. He breaks down technical terms, so I don’t get confused.

19. Temitope Olowookere

Product Manager at Zone Tech Park

How did you break into tech?
While working as a marketing specialist in early 2020, I got motivated to explore product management after listening to my friend explain his job as a product manager. I finally took the leap of faith in December 2020 by taking Product Dive’s course on product management. Eventually, I landed a role as a Product Manager at Zone Tech Park in June 2021.

Career highlights
My most interesting highlight is my transition into product management. I feel fulfilled knowing my curiosity translated into a rewarding tech career.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Understanding developers is my biggest challenge yet. Thankfully, I get to work with brilliant and kind developers who communicate clearly. But, I still wish I had a technical background so developers wouldn’t have to spend time demystifying their processes to me.

I also wish I had a better understanding of coding as it can help me communicate with my stakeholders more effectively.

20. Victor Adeyemi

Associate Product Manager at Flutterwave

How did you break into tech?
I stumbled on a tweet advertising a customer experience intern role, I applied, got in, and the rest is history.

Career highlights
My career progression is my most interesting highlight. Barely two years ago, I didn’t know what to do with my life. Today, I have grown to become a product manager working on two products at Flutterwave.

Challenges faced due to a non-technical background
Initially, it was difficult to work with engineers as I didn’t exactly understand their terminologies, processes, and expectations. Thankfully, I have improved and can now cross-collaborate better.

Takeaways

  • Be curious. Most of these professionals weren’t exactly qualified for their present jobs when they started. A thirst for growth and desire to offer value was all they had.

    Similarly, you should be enthusiastic and insatiably curious if you want to break into tech. You don’t need to be Steve Jobs to land your first job. All you need is a flexible mindset and a drive to excel.
  • Consider internships. You should consider internship programmes in tech companies if you have no existing skillset or experience. Internships are a low-effort, high-reward avenue to break into tech.
  • Improve your collaboration skills. As you can see, non-technical roles involve heavy collaboration with the technical departments. As a result, you have to be a team player to thrive in tech. Analyse your teamwork capacity and figure out how to work better with people in other fields, especially in technical areas.
  • Build quality friendships and connections. Who you know determines how far you can go. This rings true for most of these non-techies as their friends introduced them to their first role in tech. Others were lucky to have met acquaintances who were kind enough to give them a chance. You should make an intentional effort to establish and deepen your relationships today. Network horizontally and vertically with your peers and those ahead of you.
  • Develop technical knowledge. Poor technical knowledge will limit your efficiency even if you’re great at your core roles. This is because you might have difficulty interacting with technical teammates, contributing to technical projects that contribute to your company’s bottom line or solving some technical difficulties that might arise while working. As a result, you need to develop basic knowledge of coding. You don’t have to master them, but you should know the basics.
  • Keep improving. It’s easy to relax on professional development after landing your first tech role. But don’t. The tech industry is fast-paced and ever-changing. It’s either you keep improving, or you become obsolete. Continue to upskill and reskill. Take mini-breaks if you must. But growing yourself should be a lifelong journey.

This is a guest contribution from Jeremiah Ajayi, co-founder and CEO of The Phat Enterprise — a company focused on helping ambitious African talents land their dream roles while connecting them to a community of peers and resources to propel their careers.

Jeremiah also writes content that engages, acquires, and converts customers for SaaS and B2B brands. Outside of work, he stans Beyoncé and loves wasting time on TikTok.