How did a history and politics student end up in tech: My journey
I’ve always been a planner. When I was 5, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up (medicine hello???). When I was 11, I already knew what kind of high school I would go to. So it’s pretty funny that I’m now a business analyst in a consulting firm focusing on tech and innovation when for most of my life I didn’t even know what consulting was. Or had any particular thoughts about a career in tech.
How the hell did that happen?
1. I had a plan but was open-minded
Had I stuck by my original plan I would be living in my small town in Italy and I would be a medical doctor (making my African immigrant parents proud). Instead I find myself living in London, working a job that has nothing to do with what I have studied.
I stumbled upon tech by chance. I had gone from wanting a career in medicine to considering two options: becoming a political fixer à la Olivia Pope or becoming a commercial lawyer.
When I was exploring the latter option, I found myself at the final interview for a spot on Linklaters’ vacation scheme (law internship for the non-Brits reading this). Somehow one of the interviewers was a lawyer in the TMT division. I asked her at the end of her interview about what she did…and that was it!
I ended up doing a stint in her department during my internship and I loved it. I got to look at the monitoring policy of a company, a dispute about patents, and I took a stab at finding answers on whether a client could sell the data it had on its books.
This was my first introduction to tech.
2. I didn’t under-estimate the power of extracurricular activities
During my last term as a second year student at Oxford, I got involved with It Happens Here, a campaign against sexual violence on campus. I had had my feminist awakening the year prior and I felt compelled to do my bit to make campus a safer place.
Somehow that meant at some point coding a couple of pages of an information app to help survivors of sexual violence in Oxfordshire.
My mind was blown.
“Wait…we can use technology to help people?”
I started thinking about what more we could do with tech. And I somehow found myself leading our efforts to use technology to spread our message: we needed a new website, we needed to produce content and share it.
I also wondered what else I could do with tech. Could I try to portray women differently by creating something?
That’s when I decided to start Spectra, a blog that then became an organisation helping young women of all backgrounds fulfill their potential.
3. Failure can be a blessing in disguise
Final year of undergrad. Grad schemes were opening and I was still pretty keen on the idea of becoming a political fixer, so I did the only thing I could think about to make it happen: I applied for the WPP fellowship.
I spent a whole month working and refining my application. I got all my friends to read it, I got the people at Rare Recruitment to read it. I send it off and I make it past the first stage. THen it’s a video interview…which I guess I bombed.
I spent a good half an hour crying into my pillow at my dashed dreams….I had put all my eggs in one basket. I had done zero prep for the PST test since i had miraculously made it to that stage for McKinsey….so I bombed that too.
I started looking around and somehow I decided that I would get a job somewhere in Asia. I sent tons of applications to places in Singapore or HK — no reply. As a last resort I start to look at jobs in Korea and I stumbled across this job ad for a startup based in Seoul. They were looking for a marketing and operations associate. I applied and somehow I got the job.
4. Connecting the dots
Fast forward a few years and a stint as a co-founder of a Seoul-based mark-tech startup, I’m currently a business analyst at a strategy consulting firm that specialises on digital and innovation projects.
Would I have thought I’d be here all those years ago? Probably not. But in retrospect I can now look at my past experiences, my masters program (shout out to Sciences Po), and connect the dots.
I’ve been keen on using my time and spending my career to make the world a better place from day 1 — cliche I know. I was planning to do that as a doctor, then as a political spinner working to get the right people elected. Now I see tech as a tool that can be used to solve problems we face in the world we live in.
I am not blind to the fact that tech can be used both for good and for evil, but I believe that with the right intention and by thinking ahead about the risks associated with tech, we can build a better world. This is why between a career in politics and one in tech I chose the latter.
And that’s how a history and politics student ended up in tech.
Hello internet universe! Asta here. This is my journey so far. I would absolutely love to hear about yours. If you’re working in tech, how did you end up in the industry? Was it by chance or did you know from a young age what your path would be?