Arts Career Conversations: The Art of Tech Questions

In January of 2020, I was invited to speak at Arts Career Conversations: The Art of Tech. Below are a list of questions I was given about my experience as someone with a liberal arts education working in tech.

What skills did you develop during your undergraduate degree? And how did you develop them?

The skills I learned during my History degree:

  • Oral & written communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Learning & synthesizing ideas
  • Research
  • Organization & time-management
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Teamwork
  • Understanding motivation and behavior
  • Self-understanding
  • Editing
  • Pattern recognition
  • Asking good questions

I developed these skills by practicing them — over, and over, and over. Reading, analyzing, synthesizing, writing, editing, presenting: that's what I did for 5 years. If you're enrolled in a liberal arts education, you're developing the same skills. These skills make you extraordinarily powerful. And these skills will always be in-demand in any industry — including tech.

What additional education or course work did you take to land your job in tech?

I self-taught myself tech skills by taking online courses. Most importantly, I put my newfound skills to use by building projects. That was my real education.

Here are a few of the resources I used to learn tech skills:


Once you graduate from university, you'll feel compelled to read again. Everything you need to learn to work in tech you can learn by reading books. Sign up for a Goodreads account. Search for the skills you're interested in learning: digital marketing, design, product management, copywriting, etc. Save the top-rated books — and the ones that look most interesting to you — to your "To Read" shelf. Building a consistent reading habit is your additional education. Everything I use in my work and business comes from what I learned reading.


If it wasn't for podcasts, I would never have thought it was possible to go from a BA to working in tech. In particular, the Tim Ferriss Show showed me it was possible. Tim graduated with a degree in East Asian studies. He went on to build and sell an internet-based nutritional supplement company. Listening to his podcast daily gave me the confidence that I could work in tech. If you don't know where to start, start with Tim's podcast. And like books, there are dozens of podcasts on the skills that interest you. You can find all of them on the internet for free.


Udemy is an online course marketplace. I learned the foundations of HTML, CSS, digital marketing, copywriting, content marketing, and SEO using Udemy. It's a good resource for learning specialized skills. You'll be familiar with the course-like format. Note: never buy a course full-price on Udemy. As far as I know, a 90%+ off sale for every course is always a few days away.

Treehouse & Codecademy

Treehouse & Codecademy are tech-specific learning platforms. If you want to learn web design and development, information technology, or programming, these sites are for you. This is where I went deeper into web design, development, and programming basics.


Upwork is a freelancing platform. Clients post jobs, and freelancers bid on those jobs. This is where I started freelancing in web design, digital marketing, and copywriting. My skills would not have "stuck" if I hadn't used them. Upwork was as critical to my education as the learning resources I listed above.

Working on real projects — with real people and for real money — is where your real education begins. There is no education or course work as powerful as doing.

These examples are just a few of what's out there. There are an infinite amount of ways to learn tech skills on the internet. Most of it's free, and all of it is a few seconds away.

Above all else, remember this:

"Free education is abundant, all over the Internet. It's the desire to learn that's scarce."

—Naval Ravikant

How did you get into your role in the tech industry?

In 2012, 2 years into university, I figured that I wouldn't enjoy a career in law or teaching. I decided to pursue my interest in technology. I spent my last 2 years at UBC learning web design.

In 2015, I graduated from UBC. I moved back home with my parents. I started freelancing in web design. Many of my web design clients needed help with writing — so I learned copywriting. Many of those clients needed help marketing their websites — so I learned digital marketing.

In 2017, clients began asking for my advice — advice I learned I should be charging for. After all, the experience I had accrued was valuable in itself. I learned about consulting. I started writing publicly to generate interest from potential clients. Instead of hunting for clients on job boards, clients began to come to me through my personal website. I transitioned from being a freelancer to a consultant and business owner.

In 2018, I felt lonely and burnt out doing solo work. I wanted to try working for a tech company. I found the perfect opportunity on Indeed. The job description listed all the skills I had been working on for the last several years. There were a few skills I didn't have, but I knew that real learning was done on the job. So, I reached out to the hiring manager via email. I went through the interview process. They made me an offer, and I accepted it.

Honestly, it was easy for me to get into my role in the tech industry. And that's why I'm putting my entire process into a book: The Art of Tech: How to Build a High-Paying Tech Career With Your Liberal Arts Education

Do you feel like you belong in the tech industry with your Arts degree? Why or why not?

Before I started working in the tech industry, I felt some serious imposter syndrome. I thought "Why would anyone listen to — or hire — me? I have a degree in History. There is no way I could ever belong here."

Despite my hesitations, I started freelancing in web design. I won my first freelance project — and thankfully, the client didn't ask about my degree.

Then, I won my second freelance project. Phew! This client didn't ask about my degree either.

And then, I won my third freelance project. You guessed it — this client also didn't ask about my degree.

I went on to complete over 50 freelance projects. Not a single client asked about my degree. They didn't care about my degree. They cared about what I could do for them.
When I applied to my first tech job, they didn't ask about my degree. I wasn't surprised. They didn't care about my degree. They cared about what I could do for them.

You are not your Arts degree. You are the set of invaluable skills you learned throughout your Arts education.

If you can leverage these skills to solve problems for tech companies, you belong working there.

Are you surprised to find yourself working in the tech industry/would you as a first-year student have predicted you would go on to work in tech?

As a first-year student, I would not have predicted I would go on to work in tech. Like many Arts students who have no clue what they'll do when they graduate, I told people I was going to law school.

But looking back, it's obvious I would end up here. I loved computers. I always loved writing and building things. I loved reading and playing with ideas. It's only natural that my work revolves around doing all these things on the computer.

Seek to understand yourself before pursuing your career. You can't predict the future or where you will end up. But you can analyze your temperament, your interests, and your past behavior.

You can use this information to guide you towards a career that is fit for you — instead of trying to fit you (and your unique temperament, interests, and behavior) into a career.

If you are reading this, you have an interest in tech. Maybe you like computers. Maybe you're an introvert with a higher interest in things over people. Maybe you really just want a job. Whatever your reason, explore this interest. If you don't like it, you can cross it off your list. If you do like it, then you can build yourself a rewarding, high-paying career.

What works or doesn’t work when it comes to cold outreach for informational interviews?

What doesn't work is blasting out your resume to every company with a job posting. Don't do this.

What does work is to send highly personal outreach that is specific to the employer and their job posting.

When I set out to start my career in tech, I sent 1 highly-targeted resume and cover letter per day. After 20 applications, I had landed a job.

Here's the exact email I sent to the hiring manager for the job posting that won me the interview:

Hey {NAME}!

My friends raved about you back when we were at UBC — apparently, you threw some amazing parties!

I was stoked to see the Web Designer & Content Marketer position open at {COMPANY} and was even more excited when I checked out your website and learned that a fellow UBC alumnus was a part of the team.

I've attached my resume and a short cover letter which showcases some of my design work, content writing, and completed website projects.

Let me know if I can provide any further information. You can reach me at this email address ( or by telephone: {PHONE NUMBER}.

{NAME}, looking forward to hearing from you and learning more about {COMPANY}!


Notice how I'm leveraging the connection between us. If you can leverage any sort of personal connection to the hiring manager, your chances of landing the interview shoot way up. That's why referrals are so powerful.

I sent an email like this for every application. Whenever possible, I didn't apply through the job website. I went to the company's website (or LinkedIn), found who was in charge of hiring, and sent my resume & cover letter directly to them.

All you need to do is to get a response. The response will help you get the interview. And the interview will help you get the job. It's a series of steps. Focus on one step at a time.

How can I pitch my Arts degree to a tech employer?

Don't pitch your Arts degree to a tech employer.

Instead, pitch the skills you learned during your arts degree to your employer.

Skills like...

  • Oral & written communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Learning & synthesizing ideas
  • Research
  • Organization & time-management
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Teamwork
  • Understanding motivation and behavior
  • Self-understanding
  • Editing
  • Pattern recognition
  • Asking good questions

These skills solve problems for your tech employer. They help them make or save money. That's why they hire you.

If you can position yourself, your skills, and your degree as the solution to a tech company's problems, then they'll hire you.

Do you have any tips for recent grads just starting out?

The best way to get started — assuming you want to build a career in tech — is to build your personal website.

This accomplishes a few different things:

  • You will become familiar working with technology. Creating your own personal website forces you to learn a bit about information technology, web design, digital marketing, user experience, content marketing — and other non-tech specific skills like copywriting and personal branding. You'll learn which skills you like — and which ones you don't — through action.
  • You will stand out from other job seekers. Tiago Forte, one of the world's most foremost experts on productivity, tells a powerful story about this. When he was working for a consulting firm, he was responsible for hiring a new candidate. He received two piles of resumes: people with a website, and people without. He was told to immediately discard the resumes of candidates without a website. And this was back in 2012. Taking the time to create your own personal website shows a level of commitment that is very attractive to potential employers.
  • You will begin the personal development journey of a lifetime. Writing publicly and promoting yourself is extremely uncomfortable at first. But if you commit to it — using your personal website to do so — you'll change who you are. You'll become a better thinker. You'll help people and provide value. You'll build an audience. You'll create all kinds of opportunities for yourself — opportunities you'd never think were possible. In building up your personal website, you're building up yourself. And unlike you, your website can live forever: digital immortality.

This journey begins with one step: purchasing your personal domain name. And you can do it in less than 2 minutes.