FIVE Top Tips for Technical Relaunchers

Returning to work in tech? Don’t miss these keys to success, and learn more about the STEM Re-entry Task Force, developed by SWE and iRelaunch.
STEM Reentry Task Force

By Carol Fishman Cohen

As we enter our fourth year co-leading the STEM Re-entry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers and nearly 25 global companies to pilot, implement and expand return to work programs for technical relaunchers, we have collected some of the best advice for relaunch success in IT, coding, programming, engineering and other technical roles.

#1: If you don’t know the programming language referenced in an interview question, reframe the question and answer using the language you do know:
Recruiters may ask technical questions in an effort to evaluate logical thinking rather than in-depth knowledge of a particular programming language. Jennifer Howland, Executive, Pathways for Experienced Technical Women at IBM, who launched and expanded IBM Tech Re-entry, IBM’s return to work program, recommends to candidates to feel comfortable saying “I have not used that language to solve the problem you are presenting, but I did use language x to solve something similar and this is how I did it.” She comments, “demonstrating you get the logic is the important part.”

#2: Free courses through edX, Coursera or other high quality education platforms are considered legitimate credentials by most employers for updating purposes. But you must complete them.
From a successful tech relauncher: “I did a lot of courses on edX and the free open source classes that universities conduct. I took courses in Python and Java and also in Agile and scripting.” It’s important to complete the courses and list them on your resume. You do not have to pay to take the version with the certificate. The free versions are fine.

#3: Use GitHub to build, archive and access a portfolio of your work/coding projects.
If you are doing coding projects for your courses or as a volunteer, make sure to keep the projects you work on in GitHub or similar portfolio archiving software. If you are doing projects for a paying or pro bono client,  make sure you get permission to share it for your own recruiting purposes, and remove identifying information before sharing. GitHub gives you a place to store your work, and access it easily. Also you can share your work by simply providing a link for employer recruiters.

#4: Don’t forget about YouTube Video Tutorials
We tell relaunchers that YouTube Video Tutorials are the perfect resource for refreshing basic skills such as creating pivot tables in Excel or embedding videos into PowerPoint, but our technical relaunchers have sworn by them as lifesavers for much more sophisticated coding, programming and other technical challenges.

#5: When to Hack vs. When to Ask
Once on the job, set limits for yourself in terms of how long you allow yourself to hack at solving a technical problem. The prospect of “looking dumb” keeps some relaunchers from asking for help. Return to work programs with technical mentors for relauncher participants solve this problem because the technical mentors are there specifically to be asked the questions everyone is afraid to ask. Here’s IBM Tech Re-entry graduate and Data Scientist Jennifer Jones talking about how she decides when it’s time to ask versus continuing to hack away.

Crowdsourcing Time! We’d like to hear from you - what would you add to this list?
Please comment below.

Carol Fishman Cohen is the Chair and Co-founder of iRelaunch, the pioneering company in the career re-entry space and the co-leader of the STEM Re-entry Task Force with the Society of Women Engineers. Join the nearly 60,000 people who have listened to the 3,2,1 iRelaunch! podcasts, which include several episodes produced specifically with technical relaunchers in mind.

  • Pat says:

    This seems very IT/Tech centric in terms of the types of jobs the advice concerns.

    Any tips for those looking to get back into design / manufacturing ?