Book Review: You Belong in Tech

Book Review: You Belong in Tech

How To Go From Zero Programming Knowledge To Hired by Anna Jean McDougall

Anna McDougall's You Belong in Tech could easily be the new bible for those looking to break into tech. This concise guide, which Anna calls “my way of giving you career coaching by providing guidelines, exercises, and practical tips for how to reach a goal,” covers it all: how to learn, what to learn, where to learn it, and much more.

When Anna made the decision to change careers from being an Opera singer to tech, she was 32 yrs old, a new mom, in a foreign country. Anna's personal experiences become learning opportunities for others in You Belong in Tech. The book delivers clear-eyed advice as she takes the reader step-by-step on how to go from being a complete beginner in tech to getting hired.

The book is well organized. As Anna points out in her introduction, the content is divided into three concepts that can be summarized as follows:

  1. Learn the technical skills
  2. Create a network or community
  3. Find a job by talking to your network about your skill

The book begins with an overview of how we learn (Recognition vs Recall). Anna stresses the importance of active as opposed to passive learning. This section also discusses how to deal with Imposter Syndrome, as well as what skills, tools and programming languages to learn. This is followed by a description of the options available to learn programming, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

You Belong in Tech advocates for an "agile learning" approach. This involves using Scrum, a popular agile technique, as a framework to craft a learning plan that consists of small, achievable goals, and working in short cycles to achieve those goals. Key takeaways from this section are that as you embark on your journey into tech, you need to be realistic and have an agile mindset.

“Finding Your Identity and Growing Your Community” is perhaps one of the key sections in the book. It outlines a detailed strategy to get your technical skills noticed. The author states that "if you start networking on the first day of your job search, you’re too late." Included are specific steps involved in creating a personal brand identity, and becoming a social media hit. This section includes personal anecdotes showing how Anna built her personal brand and leveraged social networks to land her first tech role as a junior software engineer.

The book's final section focuses on the actual job search. Chapters like “Creating an Application Kit” and “Understanding The Classic Job Interview Stages for Tech” cover topics needed to apply and successfully interview for jobs, with stories that both demonstrate what to do and what not to do, showing what happened in Anna’s own experience.

The informal and not-too-technical writing style of this book sets just the right tone, and Anna’s sense of humor livens up the subject matter. Written in clear and accessible language, You Belong in Tech will resonate with people of various backgrounds.

For an engaging, all-in-one blueprint with actionable steps to break into tech, Anna McDougall's You Belong in Tech is hard to beat.