You don't need a technical degree to get a job in Tech

Justine Shaw - Cisco.jpg

Justine Shaw took a graduate position with Cisco after she finished her degree. In this Q&A she talks about how she progressed from a non-tech background to becoming a woman in tech.

Did you have a clear focus of what you wanted from your career, whilst at school?

Yes, but it wasn’t tech! I always wanted to go into finance (sales and trading) and that was my dream for a long time up until I did an internship at a large bank and realized it wasn’t quite for me. I then did an internship with Cisco during the summer of my penultimate year at university and knew this what where I wanted to be.

What did you study at University?

Russian and Spanish (not technical at all!)

Did you have any interest in tech during this time?

Technology had never been on my radar to be honest as a potential career, however I had always had an interest in technology in general and once I found out more about Cisco and what they did, I was extremely interested in finding out more about the industry as a whole.

What made you look into a career at Cisco?

I knew of Cisco because my father works with a lot of Cisco equipment and therefore recognized the logo when applying for roles.

How did you apply for the job and was it an easy process?

I applied for the summer internship online via a recruitment website and filled out the application form, had a phone interview and then had 2 face-to-face interviews. In the last week of the internship we had an assessment center for the graduate role the following year.

What does your job involve?

My job mainly involves building and keeping strong, steady relationships with my customers on a daily basis whilst trying to help them reach their business goals.

Do you need to be a techie to do what you do?

As I am in sales, it is not necessary to be a techie. You get all the training necessary. So as long as you have the willingness to learn and ensure you keep up to date with a high level understanding of the technology and software, then you’re good to go.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in your job?

One of the greatest challenges in my role is feeling like I need to know every technical detail about what I am selling my customers. However, this is not the case and you begin to realize that as a sales person, it’s understanding the business value that you can give to your customers that is important. We have an amazing team of engineers who we work with who can help us and engage with the customer when things start to become technical.

There are a number of rewards in my job. One of the greatest is knowing I work for a company that values its employees and what it stands for as a company. I enjoy going in to work every day which makes me feel extremely lucky.

There’s a lot of talk about mentoring in the industry to help people progress, what are your views on this and do you have a mentor?

I think mentoring is a great thing! I have a number of mentors as I think it is important to get advice and learn from a number of different people who have different skills and do things differently. I also think reverse mentoring is effective too.

What advice can you give to other students/graduates who may be interested in exploring a career in the tech space?

It depends what area of tech you want to go in to and so I can only really give advice on my own experience as someone on the sales side. I would say make sure you do what you enjoy at University, you don’t have to do a technical degree in order to enter the world of tech (remember I did languages?!). In sales it’s about who you are and how willing you are to network and build relationships with people. When going in an interview don’t pretend to know things if you don’t – just say you don’t know but would be willing to find out or learn more about it. Lying won’t get you anywhere.

What does the future hold for you?

I feel that working for a company like Cisco has shown me that, in an ever changing industry, tying yourself to a specific job role is not productive or realistic. Instead I have an idea of the level or position I want to get to in the future and am confident that Cisco will help me achieve this.

You’re a great Tech Role Model and many thanks for joining the #GettingMoreWomenIntoTech campaign. Would you encourage others to get behind it?

Yes absolutely. I think it is important to promote women in technology and try and encourage young women to explore what the world of technology has to offer, beyond the building, designing and ‘mechanics’ of it all.