How hiring tech talent from non-tech backgrounds can be an advantage

Hiring tech workers who started in non-tech roles is more common than many realize. It can also ease hiring in an elusive, rapidly changing industry, according to an Aug. 31 article from the McKinsey Global Institute

The article's authors dissected a data set of 280,000 tech professionals. Of that number, 44 percent started in non-tech occupations. Many hold leadership positions; McKinsey says 3 in 5 IT managers did not begin their careers in that field. 

Though tech professionals change jobs 20 percent more than their non-tech counterparts, they tend to cover a higher skill difference — learning new skills rather than bringing their past role's with them — with each move. Tech employees who started elsewhere move an average skill distance of 53 percent, 24 points higher than those who moved from other tech roles. 


The authors make three recommendations for hiring formerly non-tech talent to tech roles: 

1. Let people in your organizations move to tech roles if they want. It can be better than spending resources on someone outside who may not be a cultural fit while retaining the talent you trust. 

2. Look at someone's potential, such as evidence of problem solving and adaptability, rather than their past job titles. Many tech workers surveyed by McKinsey did not have college degrees. 

3. Invest in talent. Pay tech workers to attend workshops, for example, to keep up to date with the latest technology and further their skill sets. 

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