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Candidate Resources, Q&A

Q&A with Larry Mahl: How to Land a Job in Tech Without an Engineering Degree

Think Outside of the Box!

Not Technical? Not a Problem!

Today, people increasingly take non-linear paths toward their dream job, and our resident startup expert, Larry Mahl, is no exception! Today we are sitting down with Larry to discuss inroads to a career at an innovative tech company or startup. Non-technical opportunities are rampant at these companies, and can provide a fulfilling mix of excitement and professional development.

We’re here to help you think outside the box, learn what to look for, and ultimately help you secure your spot at a thriving startup without an engineering degree or fluency in a programming language. Larry has worked at several tech startups before joining Clarity to recruit for them, so read on to learn from his personal experience!

Q&A:

Communications Team:  Let’s start by getting to know a bit more about your professional journey. Your career has spanned a variety of industries over the past several years. Tell us a little bit about your path and how you ended up at Clarity.

Larry: I like to think that I was a “Millennial,” before Millennials became a thing! I did a lot of volunteering in college, which led me to accepting a two year teaching fellowship after graduating. I really enjoyed supporting talented young people and helping them achieve their dreams in Boston, Los Angeles and then NYC. After nearly eight years of being inspired by truly amazing accomplishments, I started to think about my own dreams a bit more. I’d always thrived in fast-paced, dynamic environments, and so I thought working at a startup might be a great fit. However, after so many years in the non-profit world, I wasn’t sure what I could add or be qualified to do. Then, as I was googling startups that were hiring in NYC, I saw that Yelp was hiring sales people. Not only that, Yelp was totally fine bringing in folks with little to no sales experience. It was a perfect match and an opportunity to make a big transition. The role provided great training, phenomenal colleagues, and a truly fun workplace dynamic. From Yelp, I went on to join two early stage startups in Mid-Market sales, but realized long-term that I’m naturally more concerned/focused on people rather than products. That was my “finding the yellow-brick road moment,” which led me straight to Clarity. Once I committed to opening up my search, I learned about Clarity through a former colleague of mine who used to work as a recruiter on the team. When he offered to make an introduction, I accepted and I’m so glad I did ー it resulted in another great opportunity and chance to leverage many transferable skills I’d collected over the years. My role here as an Account Executive allows me to flex my non-profit counseling experience, as well as my sales training, toward a meaningful career where I can genuinely connect with people and be a part of Clarity’s continued growth

Communications Team: What type of recruiting is most interesting to you?

Larry: I always enjoy working with startups that are scaling quickly, and are hiring employees who are going to set the tone for the company as a whole. There’s a true sense of urgency, and finding a great culture fit is never more important than in the beginning. It’s like casting for Season 1 of a great TV Show – there’s so much promise and yet there’s also uncertainty. Every hire matters, but in an early stage startup the stakes are that much higher! I also like to find opportunities for candidates they may not even know exist. For example, it’s a misconception to think you need highly technical experience to work for a tech startup, because there are so many administrative opportunities that truly keep ships running on time at a startup. These jobs are just as important as engineering expertise, especially when scaling a business. A lot of people know they want a startup environment, but don’t know where they fit. Years ago, I was in the same position, so now it’s a thrill to expose these opportunities for people who simply need some guidance toward the right next step. I love to pay it forward!

Communications Team: What would you say are the top three characteristics candidates must possess to be successful working at a startup?

Larry:1) Flexibility and adaptability – which go hand in hand: It sounds cliché but every day, week, and month at a startup can vary greatly, and you have to be willing to commit to a role with responsibilities that may be completely different within three months.

2) Positivity: There are going to be ups and downs at any startup, and having a positive outlook will help you appreciate the good times and weather the storm when things gets tough.

3) Can-do attitude: Startups are a live show – it’s like improv! If someone asks you to pitch in on a project, say yes! Even if you’re no expert, you’ll learn a ton. Startups are about failing fast quickly moving forward, so you can’t lose!

Communications Team: What are the greatest challenges of working at a startup?

Larry: The biggest challenges that I hear about regularlyー and that I experienced first hand ーare 1) uncertainty – where will the company be/what will I be doing in a year? AND 2) salaries are often lower than at established companies. Startups are not for everyone, just like roller coasters aren’t for everyone. But often times, it’s your ability and desire to take a risk early in your career that can really pay off down the line!

Communications Team: Now tell us what everyone clicked into this article to learn about! What kind of roles can new grads or junior level employees at more traditional companies looks for if they’re seeking startup culture and an opportunity to join a thriving, innovative and new company if they don’t have an engineering degree or technical expertise?

Larry: Great question! Here’s a not so short list: Office Manager/Coordinator, Customer Experience, Data Entry/Analysis, Sales, Administrative Support, Executive Support, and all levels of HR (from coordinator to HR Business Partner). I’d be happy to tell you more and walk you through our open roles since we’re working on quite a few of these right now at awesome startups and tech companies – just shoot me an email with your updated resume and we can get started!


Larry can be reached directly at Larry@claritystaffing.com

 

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