Service Industry Chops Will Help Your Tech Career

A number of us at Daggerhart Lab are very familiar with working in the service industry. Some of us only for a few years in high school or college. Others held service industry jobs on the side while freelancing for many years into adulthood. Many of us still have friends with happy, rewarding, and lucrative careers in the service industry. That said, working through these years of covid has a lot of others anxious to get out of the service industry altogether. It is becoming increasingly common to make the transition from the service industry to tech. Why is that? Well, we have some thoughts!

Service industry hours can be challenging as they’re most often nights, weekends, and holidays. This can also be optimal for taking on new studies. In a former blog, we discussed different avenues for approaching a career in tech. The focus was on whether a college degree is necessary or a coding certification is enough. Whether you take the college or online coding academy path, having your days available can help to approach either option. This isn’t to suggest that you can just magically get home at 1 AM after closing down a bar or restaurant, be showered, fed, decompressed, and in bed by 1:15 ready to get up at 9:15. It’s not that simple.

However, getting into a healthy routine for putting yourself into bed at about the same time every night, even if they’re not “normal hours” to others, is crucial. It makes it a lot easier to get up the next day. You can take advantage of having daytime hours to dive into your homework and/or attend classes.

The Seque From Service Industry Into Tech Industry

From our collective former service industry experience, we can all say it positively affected our tech careers. There are quite a lot of admirable traits that come along with having service industry experience. All of which will really benefit a career in tech. We’ll explore the key takeaways that some of our team members gleaned from their time in the service industry.

Work Ethic

There is a common misconception about the work ethic affiliated with the service industry. However, anyone who has actually done it knows you really have to work. If you drag, you will get replaced sooner than you might think. Many of these jobs can be cutthroat depending on the level of service and/or how hefty the tips are. Service industry employees have some serious challenges to face.

They have to remember a ton of information and it can and will change swiftly depending on service levels. They have to manage people’s emotions from co-workers to customers. Most of the time this is with little privacy to process apart from the walk-in cooler or the bathroom. There is also side work like cleaning, inventory, and stocking. This happens on every shift no matter how busy service is. Mind you, all of this has to be done while keeping everything behind the scenes and customer-facing in motion smoothly. Equally, food and drinks have to keep going out at the exact right timing. This also has to be accomplished without showing your stress levels as it can negatively affect how much you earn. The expectation is to keep your head down and get it done, or everyone’s pocket takes a hit.

Accomplishing all of that successfully feels as if you’ve passed a crash course in establishing quite a beastly work ethic. This is certainly not to say that there aren’t many other effective ways of building your work ethic. We’re just focusing on this path for this week’s blog.

Below we’ll review some of the most positive traits people bring along when moving from the service industry into tech, in our experience.

Keep Your Head On a Swivel

A lot of what can be considered a strong work ethic also relates to the personal growth of being able to “keep your head on a swivel”. This is to say, adapting to rapidly changing expectations, environments, and outcomes is something you need to brace yourself for. This is true of both the service industry and the tech industry.

At any given moment you may be asked to switch the task you’re working on to address something more pressing. In both the tech and the service industry, you have to think and move fast. Whether it’s a client with an unexpected technology request or a party of 20 who show up without a reservation. You must move swiftly and ensure the client/customer is getting great service from you and money isn’t being lost.

Turns out, having the experience of a customer who asks you for the French Onion soup without the texture of onions is pretty good preparation for a client who asks you to create a design using mostly black but not make it too dark. 😅

You adapt quickly and find incredible ways to either make the impossible happen or say “no” while remaining professional. It requires using a lot of emotional intelligence to be heard.

Team Work

Nearly every career path requires the ability to work well with teams. That said, we have met many hiring managers who seek out candidates with a service industry background. One of the first things mentioned is that there is almost never any teamwork training or adjustment needed. Once you’ve worked a few wild shifts that kept the front of house, back of house, management, and clientele happy, the concept and practice of teamwork are pretty well set in.

This is a great transferable skill to have for a career in tech. Whether you’re a Designer, a Developer, Product Manager, or a Project Manager – you’re always a part of a team. Being able to handle the unexpected demands of a client or co-worker without negatively impacting the project’s outcome is crucial.

Understanding Chain of Command

Similar to having a well-established sense of teamwork, there comes the understanding of a workflow and chain of command. This is particularly true if your development agency runs an Agile environment.

It makes sense though, right? In an Agile development environment, there are certain aspects that remain steadfast, like when you are heads down in a Sprint. That said, you meet frequently to see where adjustments need to be made and if anything needs to be reprioritized. You easily can draw similar comparisons in restaurant or bar service. As far as chain of command and flow is concerned, much like line cooks follow the lead of their Sous Chef and Head/Executive Chef, developers follow the guidance of the Lead Developer and Project Manager. You know where your role stands, and who to reach out to when direction is needed.

Transferable Skills For Working In Tech

Beyond this blog, we could come up with a million other ways that having a background in the service industry sets you up well for a career in technology. From having a tremendous amount of adaptability to the plethora of transferable skills, it’s a move we encourage anyone to make if they’re contemplating it. If you’re considering this switch, we always encourage folks to look into the Drupal community. There are lots of free resources, as well as a very affordable online training school. *We are not sponsored by Drupal or anything of the sort, we just dig it.

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