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Career and Interview Tips

How to Fake It Till You Make It in Tech

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Scott Morris, Skillcrush

One minute you're chatting confidently with your coworkers—throwing around jargon left and right—and the next, you feel like you've jumped into the deep end of the proverbial pool. Sheer panic. But don't worry: It's okay not to know everything, and—in fact—knowing what you don't know is crucial for success in a tech career. So how can you navigate conversations about new tech or industry changes without sounding like you're totally out of the loop—or pulling our editor's move of hearing unfamiliar terms in meetings and frantically googling them on her phone?

I asked four tech professionals to weigh in on faking it, making it, and how the two relate in a professional setting—and right from the jump, one thing's clear: whether you're a bootstrapping entrepreneur or working your way up the ranks of an established company, everyone has moments at work when they feel like they're totally pulling things out of thin air. But it turns out, faking it can be traded in for making it with just a little bit of outlook adjustment.

Mark Cook, Director of Marketing at ApplinSkinner, says that some of the most skilled tech professionals he knows still suffer from imposter syndrome. Since tech has so many specialized fields, even if you're an expert in one field (or many), it's a given that you'll find yourself out of your depth at some point, he says. A UX designer doesn't necessarily know the same things a front end developer does, and vice versa.

Cook's advice in these situations is to be proactive and treat them as learning experiences. If you find yourself in a meeting or conversation that's straying into unknown territory, be up front about it and move into question mode. "[People are talking to you] for a reason," says Cook. "You're there…because you [do] know about something." No matter how out of place or unprepared you might feel, you're still being asked to participate in that meeting,. interview, or chat. Lean on your own expertise in the conversation.

One way in is to ask about the comparative pros and cons between the new tech being discussed and the tech you're already comfortable with. That way, you can get information about what they're talking about while still contributing your own knowledge. It's also a way to be honest—asking questions instead of pretending to be an expert avoids the risk of coming off as disingenuous, Cook says.

Ask away, and remember that engaging in these conversations is also a career win. You'll always be learning, especially in the tech industry, and the sooner you become comfortable with that, the more successful you'll be.

Lest you think that this feeling only happens to beginners, Ellen Butler, UX Director at Happy Boards, says that sometimes it's career success itself—and the changes that come with it—that brings on those creeping feelings of faking it. At a past job, Butler found herself moving from Account Manager to a member of the UX team overnight. Because of her sudden position change and feelings of insecurity in a new field, Butler says she found client interactions particularly terrifying—it's hard enough to be in a new environment and feeling like an imposter among colleagues, but those feeling are more magnified and intimidating when you're expected to deliver for a customer.

Eventually, Butler says, being open with her team and trusting them allowed her to realize it was okay to tell clients, "Let me check on that and get back to you." Butler credits her co-workers with accommodating her newness to the field, and says they had no problem jumping in to answer questions until she got her bearings. In fact, Butler says it might be better to skip the notion of faking it all together. "Honesty is refreshing," says Butler. "So many of us in the tech world are entering from all kinds of different places: different backgrounds, different career paths, different educations. To assume we all know the same things is frustrating and short-sighted. The only way we'll all learn from our communal knowledge is by being unafraid to ask questions."

If asking questions doesn't feel like the right fit for you, you can try the approach that Jan Bednar, CEO of ShipMonk, takes. He does what you might call a strategic form of winging it. Take, for example, a moment when a client asked about his company's ability to integrate with the client's platform. "I knew that we could integrate with the platform, but I honestly didn't understand the mechanism that allowed [us to do it]." At a loss, Bednar started drawing a diagram on a whiteboard to walk his client through the process, and by the end, Bednar was able to articulate the mystery integration mechanism. The lesson here, says Bednar, is to recognize and accept those moments when you don't know something, and allow the things you do know to help fill in the gaps. Your path to understanding may be half-built, but it's also all you need.

Fake? You're as real as it gets, so if you're ready to put your hopefully newfound confidence to the test and hit the job search, download our free Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Resume. Just remember: Take a breath, don't be afraid to be honest, ask questions, or rely on the knowledge you already have to wing it.

Career and Interview Tips

How to Keep Up with the Constantly-Changing Tech Industry

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A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Cameron Chapman, Skillcrush

Sometimes it seems like new technologies, techniques, and standards get released on an almost daily basis, making the tech industry dizzyingly fast.

For someone new to the industry, keeping up can feel puzzling—or nearly impossible. How do you stay on top of changes that happen all the time, especially ones that can directly impact the work you do and what your boss (or clients) expect?

I talked to web designers, developers, and other techies to find out what they do to keep up. The answers are more straightforward than you might expect.

Follow Influencers on Social Media

Almost everyone I spoke to said one of the best ways to stay on top of innovations in the industry is by following influencers on social media. Setting up custom lists (or following lists others create) on Twitter can take a lot of the legwork out of finding the news you need to keep up with.

Watching what influencers are doing in their spare time is a great way to know what might be coming next. "Things like 'Initial Coin Offerings' and AI seem like moonshots, but the smartest people I know work on those subjects in their free time. That makes me confident that some big businesses will emerge in these areas," says Philip Thomas, co-founder and engineer at Moonlight. Pay attention to what gets developers excited and you'll know where to look for the next big thing.

If you're looking for whom to follow on Twitter, try Skillcrush's Women in Tech list—our favorite influencers and experts.

Spend Time Reading Every Day

"Read. Read. Read." That's how Kate Chan, a full-stack marketer at, stays up to date on changes in the industry. She sets aside time daily to read about tech, insuring she won't fall behind. James McCarthy, CEO and lead web developer at Boldtask, is specifically a fan of A List Apart for long-form articles that keep him up to date. We also love:

Staying in the Know Doesn't Mean Falling for Trends

Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise (a spin-off of the wildly popular Basecamp project management software), warns against the appeal of quick fads at the expense of staying grounded. "I think keeping up with changes is far overrated. We're better served by studying history and how companies that are decades old, if not older, have made customers happy. It's a fool's game to keep chasing fads and responding with knee-jerk reactions."

It's a fair point and one that's well evidenced. He uses Google Wave as one such example, touted as a revolutionary product that would change how we all work together. Instead, Wave was dead within three years due to lack of interest despite all the hype of its release.

The moral here: Focusing on user needs can allow you to create successful projects without falling for fads.

Skip the Four-Year Degree

As Erik Zuuring, a 10X programmer who dropped out of college, told Mashable, "One of the biggest issues with post-secondary education in the technology industry is its ability to keep a curriculum current and at the cusp of technology…Just in the web-sphere, trends and technology change on a monthly basis."

We see this proven over and over again at Skillcrush: You don't need a four-year degree to find success. What you learn in your first semester might be obsolete by graduation day. Learning in a faster-paced environment sets you up to actually start working in the tech industry in way less than a quarter of the time it would take to get a degree.

Want to get started in the tech industry right away? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Coding for Beginners for a step-by-step plan to launch your tech career.

Career and Interview Tips

15 of the Most Careless Interview Mistakes People Make

Partner Content

A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.

Cameron Chapman, Skillcrush

There's nothing quite like the feeling of opening an email that says: "You got an interview!"

But that sense of elation melts away when you start to think about the interview. It's the kind of dread you only feel when you're afraid you won't get something you really really want.

I've been there! Interviews are nerve-wracking, especially if you haven't done one for awhile. It had been almost a decade since I'd had an interview when I started looking for a more traditional job after years of freelancing. And I'd never even done a video job interview before I started interviewing with tech companies last summer. Extra scary.

Below, I pulled out some of our top tips from our Ultimate Guide to Interviewing for Your First Tech Job, so that you won't blow your tech job interview with any of these common mistakes. Get the full ebook here for even more great advice on nailing your interview—it's free!


Putting your coding skills to the test in front of a potential employer is nerve-wracking. There's no doubt about it. But if you're applying for any kind of developer job, you're almost certainly going to be asked to do some kind of code test, likely at the interview. How else will prospective employers be able to tell if your real-life skills match those you listed on your resume?


Whether it's on the code test or during the interview itself, there's a chance you won't know the answer to a question you're asked. That's okay. Employers don't expect you to know everything. What they do expect is that you'll keep cool under pressure and you won't freak out. So remember, when you don't know the answer, just stay calm, take a deep breath, and then deal with it rationally. In some cases, interviewers ask you things you're unlikely to know just to see how you cope.


Before you step into any interview, be sure you've researched the company you're interviewing with. Find out exactly what the company's mission is and how you can help them.


Make sure you know exactly what the original job description said. Re-read it before the interview, and mark any areas that you have questions about so you remember to ask in the interview.


Your portfolio and website both need to be up to date before your interview (they should really be up to date before you start applying for jobs, but definitely before the interview). Make sure all your projects are prominently displayed in your portfolio, and check that your site looks great on different screens and devices and is free from glitches or missing links.


The impression you make at your interview can make or break whether you get the job. Showing up late, being dressed sloppily, or otherwise coming across as not being professional (or not taking the job seriously) are going to seriously hurt your chances of getting hired.


I'll admit, I'm guilty of this one. Sometimes an interviewer is so thorough about explaining the job and the company that you can't think of any questions to ask. But you should think up some questions ahead of time so that when the interviewer asks if you have any questions, you'll have some ready to go.


This ties into first impressions, but if you want to work for a company, you should have an idea of what the company culture is like. After all, if you show up to a casual startup office wearing a suit, you may come across as not understanding what the company is like, and also looking very out of place (the reverse is also true).


Being negative is a buzzkill. Talking down about yourself, your past work, or anything else during an interview is a really bad idea. It will make the interviewer question whether you're going to say negative things about them down the road. Besides, no one wants to work with someone who's always negative.


I already talked about researching the company and familiarizing yourself with the company's culture. But prepping also includes more basic things. Make sure you know where you're going, how to get there, and where to park (there's nothing worse than showing up early and then spending 15 minutes trying to find parking).

Be sure you eat something, too! You don't want to listen to your stomach rumbling during an interview and wonder if the interviewer can hear it, too. You might want to avoid the onion bagel, though.


Especially if you're new to tech, be sure to familiarize yourself with common terms that might pop up in the interview. Things like agile, scope, lean, and MVP, among tons of others. Read Kelli Orrela's 99 Terms You Need To Know When You're New To Tech for a comprehensive list of terms that might come up.


Companies want to know that you have career goals and ambition. People who have career goals work harder and do more for the companies they work for than those who are happy to stay put in the first job they get.

That said, if your big goal is to become a tour boat captain in the Bahamas and you're applying for a web developer job, you might want to keep those plans under wraps.


In most cases, the person interviewing you has interviewed quite a few people before you, for the position you're applying for or for others in the past. They've heard all the stock answers to the questions you're most likely to be asked.

You need to come up with something different. When they ask you something like, "what's your biggest weakness?" don't answer with, "I'm a perfectionist."


You HAVE to follow up after a job interview. Send a thank you email after the interview, and include any questions you may have thought of. Not following up can make the difference between you and another candidate if the interviewer is having a hard time deciding. Just keep it short and sweet, and don't suck up.


Since so many tech jobs are remote, you may find yourself doing some interviews via video chat. There are some special considerations you need to think about before your video interview, including making sure you're familiar with the the software you'll be using (likely either Google Hangouts or Skype), and making sure that you've found a good place to actually have the interview. Make sure you check out these 11 Tech Tips for a Stress-Free Video Interview.

If you want even more great tips for nailing the interview for your first tech job, be sure to download our FREE Ultimate Guide to Interviewing for Your First Tech Job!