Advice Learned Along The Way
Breaking into Nontechnical Roles

Breaking into Non-Traditional Tech Roles: Avoiding the Coding Interview


In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, the roles we once held as concrete have started to blur. The binary distinction between technical and non-technical positions is fading, paving the way for an era of hybrid roles. Whether it's a solutions architect liaising between business needs and tech capabilities, a DevOps engineer integrating development and operations, or a product manager straddling the line between technology, user experience, and business strategy, these non-traditional roles demand a unique blend of skills.

For seasoned developers with 15+ years of experience, this seismic shift presents an opportunity to leverage hard-earned technical skills while breaking the boundaries of the traditional developer role. In this cheatsheet, we're going to explore these non-traditional paths and discuss how to land such roles without ever having to sit through another whiteboard coding interview. We'll cover everything from understanding the importance of these roles, preparing for a smooth transition, to bypassing traditional coding interviews, and standing out as the top candidate. Let's decode this together and open doors you never thought existed in your career.

1: Why Seek Non-Traditional Roles in Tech?

Importance of Non-Traditional Roles in Tech: Why Talented Developers are Pivoting

In today's tech ecosystem, non-traditional roles are becoming increasingly pivotal. These positions often occupy the space where technology intersects with business, operations, or user experience, acting as crucial bridges that ensure seamless communication and integration across diverse teams. They combine the critical thinking of a developer with the broader perspectives needed to steer a product's direction or to innovate within a company's tech stack.

For developers brimming with experience, the allure of these roles can be compelling. Perhaps the challenge of pure coding has lost its sheen, or maybe the lure of influencing broader business decisions has grown. Non-traditional roles provide the perfect opportunity to utilise years of technical expertise while venturing into new areas that can reshape your career path. Whether you're seeking increased engagement, wider influence, or simply a breath of fresh air, these roles offer a stimulating avenue to broaden your horizons beyond the traditional confines of software development.


  • Do recognize the value you bring as a developer transitioning to a non-traditional role. Your knowledge can bridge the gap between technical and non-technical teams.
  • Do be open to learning and exploring outside of your comfort zone. Diversifying your skills will only add to your value.


  • Don't be discouraged if you lack experience in non-traditional roles. Your technical background is a powerful asset.
  • Don't dismiss the importance of soft skills in these roles. Communication, leadership, and project management are critical in most non-traditional tech roles.

Analogies to Development

  • Transitioning to a non-traditional role is like refactoring code: it can be a significant change, but it leverages the solid foundation already in place.
  • Consider the non-traditional role as a new function you're writing. You're not abandoning your previous code (skills), but instead utilizing them in a different context.


  • "It's not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas." - Edwin Land, co-founder of Polaroid.
  • "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways." - Robert Greene, Mastery.

Book Recommendations

  • "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport - a guide to crafting a meaningful career by building up skills rather than following passions.
  • "Deep Work" by Cal Newport - explores the importance and value of focused, uninterrupted work, a concept that applies well beyond traditional development roles.

As an experienced developer, you bring a wealth of understanding and insights into any role you undertake. The key is recognizing the value of your skills and knowing how to apply them effectively in new contexts. Non-traditional roles in tech can offer fresh challenges and opportunities to leverage your strengths in novel ways.

The Coding Interview Conundrum: Issues and Drawbacks

The traditional coding interview process has been a long-standing gatekeeper in tech hiring, yet it carries several glaring issues that make it a far cry from an ideal assessment tool. Its focus on algorithmic puzzles and data structures can often neglect other vital aspects of a developer's skill set. Soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving, frequently take a back seat, despite their undeniable importance in a real-world development environment.

Moreover, for seasoned developers with a wealth of experience, this process can feel reductionist. Years of hands-on experience, navigating complex projects and building scalable systems, can be reduced to a single algorithm puzzle. Acing these interviews often becomes more about rehearsing known problem types rather than demonstrating real-world coding expertise or strategic thinking.

Hence, it's no wonder that many experienced developers are looking to bypass this process. They seek roles that appreciate their broad skillset and respect the depth of their experience, without putting them through a coding examination largely disconnected from the realities of the job.

The Pitfalls of Traditional Coding Interviews

  1. Narrow Focus: Coding interviews tend to focus on algorithmic and data structure problems, which represents only a fraction of what developers do in their jobs.
    • Don't assume that acing these problems equates to being an effective developer.
    • Do remember that communication, collaboration, and practical problem-solving are equally, if not more, important.
  2. Stressful Environment: Coding interviews often take place under stressful and artificial conditions, which is far from the everyday working environment.
    • Don't equate your performance under pressure with your value as a developer.
    • Do seek opportunities to demonstrate your skills in more realistic settings, such as pair programming or project-based assessments.

Tips for Bypassing Traditional Coding Interviews

  1. Build a Strong Portfolio: A comprehensive portfolio that showcases your abilities can often speak louder than any interview.
    • Do include a range of projects that demonstrate your breadth and depth of experience.
    • Don't neglect to document your thought process, challenges faced, and how you overcame them.
  2. Networking: Building strong professional relationships can often open doors that bypass traditional coding interviews.
    • Do engage with the tech community, contribute to open-source projects, or attend networking events.
    • Don't underestimate the power of a strong recommendation.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell - Although this book is designed to prepare for traditional coding interviews, understanding the content can give you a clear idea of what to avoid.
  • Book: Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual by John Z. Sonmez - This book focuses on the other critical aspects of being a successful developer, which are often overlooked in coding interviews.
  • Website: Pramp (opens in a new tab) - This platform offers free mock interviews for software engineers. Use it to understand the traditional process and hence, what to avoid.
  • Website: GitHub (opens in a new tab) - Building your portfolio and contributing to open-source projects.

Actionable Insight

Invest time in the aspects of your career that bring you fulfillment and exhibit your true skills as a developer. Master the art of showcasing your work and communicating your expertise effectively. Networking is as much a skill as coding; nurture your professional relationships. Understand that your worth as a developer isn't confined to a whiteboard coding session.

Building Skills for Non-Traditional Roles

  1. Continuous Learning: To step into non-traditional roles, constantly upgrading your skills is vital.

    • Do invest in learning beyond coding - like project management, data analysis, business development, or UX design.
    • Don't stop at acquiring a new skill. Ensure to put it to practical use.
  2. Side Projects: Engage in projects outside of your typical work to build and demonstrate new skills.

    • Do consider open-source contributions, freelance gigs, or personal projects.
    • Don't underestimate any project. Even small-scale work can exhibit significant skills.
  3. Mentorship: Seek mentorship opportunities, either as a mentor or a mentee.

    • Do share your experiences and knowledge with others, or learn from the journey of seasoned professionals.
    • Don't neglect the power of networking that comes along with mentorship.

Leveraging Coding Experience

  1. Problem-Solving: A developer's problem-solving skill is a valuable asset in any role.

    • Do use these skills to improve processes, develop strategies, or optimise operations in your new role.
    • Don't forget to highlight this ability when making your case for a non-traditional role.
  2. Technical Insight: Developers bring a valuable technical perspective to any team.

    • Do leverage your coding background to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical team members.
    • Don't shy away from using your technical knowledge, even if your new role isn't coding-centric.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: The Pragmatic Programmer: Your Journey To Mastery by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas - This book offers insights into various aspects of software development that are transferable to non-traditional roles.
  • Book: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries - Understanding startup methodology can open doors to many non-traditional tech roles.
  • Website: Coursera (opens in a new tab) - Online courses on a range of subjects can help you acquire new skills.
  • Website: LinkedIn Learning (opens in a new tab) - An array of professional courses can aid in your journey to a non-traditional role.

Actionable Insight

Think outside the box of traditional coding roles. Look at your skill set holistically, beyond coding. Pursue continuous learning and always seek to apply new knowledge. Realize the value of your unique combination of skills and use it as a strength in your pursuit of non-traditional tech roles.

Positioning Yourself for Non-Traditional Roles

  1. Leveraging Your Coding Expertise: As an experienced developer, your technical knowledge is a unique selling point. Frame this skill in a way that resonates with non-traditional roles.

    • Do highlight how your understanding of software development can be applied to roles like Technical Project Management, DevOps or Solution Architecture.
    • Don't solely focus on coding languages or frameworks; emphasize your problem-solving ability, data analysis skills, or your knack for debugging and troubleshooting.
  2. Communicating Your Impact: Demonstrate the tangible outcomes you've achieved in your previous roles.

    • Do quantify your results, i.e., code optimization that increased application performance by 40%, or how you automated a workflow that saved 20 hours per week.
    • Don't just mention your achievements; connect them with your team or company's success.

Creating a Standout Resume and LinkedIn Profile

  1. Resumes That Speak Volumes: Your resume should demonstrate your multifaceted skill set and reflect your potential as a non-traditional tech professional.

    • Do include specific projects or roles where you've taken on responsibilities outside of pure coding. Show where you've had cross-functional impacts.
    • Don't cram your resume with every tech stack you've dabbled in. Prioritize depth over breadth.
  2. Leveraging LinkedIn: Make LinkedIn work for you by actively participating in relevant groups or discussions. This platform is not just an online CV, but also a place to exhibit your understanding and insights.

    • Do post about your projects and share your thoughts on tech trends. This is your opportunity to be visible to a broader network.
    • Don't neglect the importance of engaging with others' posts. Support your peers and gain visibility in the process.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – A brilliant read on rethinking work to do less and create more.
  • Website: Medium (opens in a new tab) - Follow tech thought leaders and join conversations on trending tech topics.

Actionable Insight

Step out of the developer shoes and look at your skillset from a broader perspective. How do your problem-solving abilities, understanding of software architecture, or experience with agile methodologies translate to non-traditional tech roles? Present this narrative in your resume and on LinkedIn. Engage in discussions on trends and topics that interest you, establishing yourself as a thought leader within your network.

Positioning Yourself for Non-Traditional Roles

  • How to present your experience in a compelling way
  • Tips for creating a standout resume and LinkedIn profile

Making Your Experience Compelling

  1. Align Your Narrative: The tech industry values experience that's relevant and adds value to the role.

    • Do tailor your narrative to highlight the projects and roles where you've used relevant skills or solved similar problems.
    • Don't merely list your past roles and responsibilities. Instead, focus on the challenges you overcame and the value you added.
  2. Showcase Your Strengths: Your technical background is a strength, not a weakness. Use it to your advantage.

    • Do highlight projects where your coding skills enabled you to contribute in non-traditional ways.
    • Don't downplay your technical skills. They provide a unique perspective that can be valuable in non-traditional roles.

Creating a Standout Resume and LinkedIn Profile

  1. Focus on Impact: In your resume and LinkedIn profile, it's crucial to not only list what you did but also show the impact of your work.

    • Do use numbers, metrics, or specific achievements to demonstrate the value you've added.
    • Don't use generic descriptions or industry jargon. Instead, use clear, concise language to describe your accomplishments.
  2. Tailor Your Application: For each application, tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to the job description.

    • Do highlight the most relevant skills, experiences, and achievements for each role.
    • Don't send a generic resume or LinkedIn connection request. A tailored application shows that you're seriously interested in the role.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Knock 'em Dead Resumes: How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Job Interviews by Martin Yate. It offers practical tips to make your resume stand out.
  • Website: LinkedIn (opens in a new tab) - Apart from your own profile, check out profiles of people in roles similar to the one you're seeking. This can give you a sense of what skills and experiences to highlight.

Actionable Insight

Your past experiences and technical background are unique strengths. Align your narrative, showcase your strengths, and focus on the impact of your work. Tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to each role to present a compelling case for your candidacy.

Acing the Non-Traditional Interview

  • Preparing for interviews for non-traditional roles
  • Tips and strategies for successful interviews

Preparation: Your First Step to Success

  1. Understand the Role: For non-traditional roles, job descriptions can be vague or broad.

    • Do reach out to people in similar roles, ask clarifying questions to the interviewer, and thoroughly research the company's work and culture.
    • Don't go into an interview without a clear understanding of what the job entails.
  2. Align Your Experience: Non-traditional roles often require a unique blend of skills.

    • Do identify instances in your career where you've used a similar skillset and prepare to speak about those experiences.
    • Don't undersell your technical background; it's a strength, not a liability.

Strategies for Successful Interviews

  1. Show Your Passion: In non-traditional roles, enthusiasm for the subject matter can often be as important as technical skills.

    • Do talk about your personal projects, learning experiences, and your motivation for applying to this role.
    • Don't be afraid to show your excitement for the job; passion can often be a deciding factor.
  2. Focus on Problem-Solving: Many non-traditional roles involve a level of problem-solving that goes beyond algorithms and data structures.

    • Do illustrate your problem-solving process with examples from past experiences.
    • Don't get bogged down in technical jargon; focus on your problem-solving methodology and how you'd apply it in the new role.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell - While aimed at coding interviews, this book provides excellent tips on problem-solving and communication, which are valuable for non-traditional roles too.
  • Website: Glassdoor (opens in a new tab) - A treasure trove of interview experiences and company reviews that can give you insights into what to expect.

Actionable Insight

Invest time in understanding the role you're applying to and aligning your past experiences. Show your enthusiasm for the role and demonstrate your problem-solving skills during the interview. Remember, your technical background is a strength and it provides you a unique perspective. Leverage it to your advantage.

Networking and Building Relationships

  • Importance of networking in tech
  • How to build relationships that can lead to non-traditional roles

Networking in Tech: Your Golden Key

  1. Understand the Power of Networking: Networking is the lifeline in the tech industry, opening doors and presenting opportunities.

    • Do attend tech conferences, meetups, webinars, and forums that resonate with your career aspirations.
    • Don't underestimate the value of informal settings for networking like social events or online communities.
  2. Maintain Active Participation: Being present isn't enough; active participation is key.

    • Do involve yourself in discussions, ask insightful questions, or volunteer to present at events.
    • Don't just passively attend meetings or gatherings; show your involvement and enthusiasm.

Building Relationships for the Future

  1. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships: Building relationships is a lot more than exchanging business cards or LinkedIn connections.

    • Do follow up with the people you meet, express interest in their work, and seek ways to help or collaborate.
    • Don't approach relationships purely with an expectation of a return favour; authenticity is key.
  2. Leverage Online Platforms: Virtual networking platforms are a boon, especially for connecting with international tech professionals.

    • Do engage in tech forums like GitHub, Stack Overflow, or tech-specific Slack and Discord communities.
    • Don't refrain from reaching out to people whose work you admire; most tech professionals are more approachable than you'd think.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – A fantastic read on developing and maintaining your professional network.
  • Website: Eventbrite (opens in a new tab) - A great platform to discover tech events and webinars to meet like-minded professionals.

Actionable Insight

Identify networking events that align with your career direction and actively participate. Make it a habit to follow up with connections made during these events. Engage in online tech communities and don't hesitate to reach out to people who inspire you. Building these relationships with a genuine interest can be instrumental in steering your career towards non-traditional tech roles.

Acing the Non-Traditional Interview

  • Preparing for interviews for non-traditional roles
  • Tips and strategies for successful interviews

Preparing for Non-Traditional Interviews

  1. Research, Research, Research: The more you know about the company, its values, and its mission, the better prepared you'll be.

    • Do thorough research on the company's website, recent news articles, and social media profiles.
    • Don't rely solely on what the job description says. The company's culture, values, and current goals are just as important.
  2. Practice Problem-Solving Scenarios: Non-traditional roles often require skills that aren't easily assessed by typical coding problems.

    • Do practice problem-solving in areas relevant to the role, like product design, project management, or data analysis.
    • Don't neglect your technical skills. Be ready to explain how your technical background informs your approach to these problems.

Tips and Strategies for Successful Interviews

  1. Show Your Thought Process: In your responses, show how you approach and solve problems.

    • Do walk interviewers through your thought process, explaining the steps you take to reach a solution.
    • Don't give short, closed-off answers. The goal is to demonstrate your problem-solving skills, not just to provide the correct answer.
  2. Ask Insightful Questions: Asking good questions shows that you're genuinely interested in the role and have done your homework.

    • Do ask questions about the company culture, the team, the role, and the challenges the company is currently facing.
    • Don't ask questions that can easily be answered by a quick Google search.

Recommended Resources

  • Book: Cracking the Coding Interview by Gayle Laakmann McDowell. Although it's focused on coding interviews, many of its strategies are relevant for non-traditional roles.
  • Website: Glassdoor (opens in a new tab) - Look for interview experiences shared by people who applied for similar roles at the company you're interested in.

Actionable Insight

Success in non-traditional interviews comes from thorough preparation, practising problem-solving, demonstrating your thought process, and asking insightful questions. Your technical background is a unique strength - don't forget to leverage it in your responses.


Transitioning to non-traditional roles in the tech industry can present an exciting new chapter in your career. For developers who have honed their skills over many years, stepping out of the traditional development role can provide fresh challenges and opportunities.


  • Do keep an open mind. Transitioning into a non-traditional role can seem daunting at first, but many roles allow you to utilise your coding skills in new and innovative ways.
  • Do leverage your existing skills and experience. The critical thinking, problem-solving, and technical skills you've developed in your career so far will serve you well in non-traditional roles.
  • Do invest time in personal branding. How you present yourself online, through your resume and LinkedIn profile, can greatly influence your chances of success in securing a non-traditional role.
  • Do prepare for non-traditional interviews. They might be different from what you're used to, but with the right preparation, you can excel.
  • Do keep learning. The tech industry is always evolving, and keeping your skills up-to-date is key to remaining competitive.


  • Don't be deterred by the challenge. Transitioning into a non-traditional role might seem difficult at first, but perseverance and a willingness to adapt will go a long way.
  • Don't undersell your abilities. Your years of experience and skill set make you a highly valuable candidate for a variety of roles.
  • Don't forget about networking. Building connections can open doors to opportunities you might not otherwise have known about.
  • Don't give up if you face rejection. It's part and parcel of any job search. Use it as a learning experience and keep going.

So to the seasoned developer, ready for a new journey: embrace the possibilities. Your expertise, tenacity, and passion for technology make you well equipped to navigate this new landscape. Go forth, and make your mark.