Brayden Haws

April 6, 2021

Making The Shift To Tech

My whole life I have been deeply interested in Technology, paying attention to trends and keeping up on the latest news. I was drawn to it but at the same time didn't know how to get started in technology for myself. I went to grad school thinking I would spend my career working in business and admin. I quickly learned that it was not a career path I would enjoy. It was the final nudge I needed to make the switch to a career in technology. But then again came the question of how to get started. I eventually realized there was no clear cut path and I would never know "enough" to get started, I just had to jump in. The great thing about technology is that it is always evolving, so no one knows everything, and anyone can have a chance to learn and become an expert in different parts of the field. I jumped into a healthcare tech company knowing next to nothing about the field and even less about the actual technology they were using. The last two years were filled with intense growth and upskilling. But I am now on my second health tech startup and feel incredibly comfortable engaging at all different levels and depths of the tech stack each day. I have been asked by a lot of students and professionals similar to myself how I made the switch. The following is a list of some of the things I did that helped me learn quickly and be able to become a valuable contributor:

Learn SQL
SQL is a table stakes skill in any tech company but it is also a super power. If you can learn SQL you can answers some of your and your customer's toughest questions without needing to involve engineering. It gives you the ability to quickly and deeply explore data and perform proof of concepts on potential features. It also gives you the ability to triage issues and develop a theory of what may be wrong, saving an engineer from needing to do so. There are a lot of flavors of SQL out there but once you know one of them you should be able to quickly navigate others (StackOverflow and Google are your friends when trying to find comparable functions). PostgreSQL is where I have spent a lot of my time, it is easy to understand and many popular data engines (Redshift, Hadoop) use derivatives of PostgreSQL. You can find online bootcamps for SQL all over. Look for one that walks you through setting up a database, installing any needed software and has test/projects for you to complete. The syntax can be challenging to pickup at first but once you get it you can move to advance features and functionality pretty quickly. I took a great bootcamp through Pierian Data a few years ago that I would highly recommend.

Become data literate:
SQL will give you a tool to query, transform and use data to solve business problems but to make it useful you need to understand data. To me this falls into a few buckets. The first is understanding data at the structural level, this includes things like: data types, schemas, tables/columns. You will pick a lot of this up in a data heavy course (SQL, R, even advanced Excel). The second bucket is the data pipeline; understanding what generates the data, where it is stored, how it is transmitted etc. The last bucket is understanding the data in the context of the business, you have to understand what the data represents before you can begin to meaningfully manipulate it or use it to answer business questions. A few things come to mind around developing this knowledge, one is simply look at the data, sorting it, playing with it. The other is to dive into the processes that generate the data to get a real world understanding of what the data represents.

Get certified in a framework/methodology:
I am framework driven in my personal work, I need to bring structure to how I make decisions and work. Frameworks are incredibly popular in the business & tech world and can greatly benefit teams when applied correctly. This is an area where I previously deep dived, in the past few years I have done: Certified Associate in Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, IHI Quality and Safety, Professional Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Product Owner. In my mind each framework has pro's and con's, it is up to you to take all that they provide you and figure out what applies to your particular company, team, project. The bigger message to take away from any of these is they teach you structure that looks something like: document how we are going to work, execute against that documentation and then look for ways to improve. There are obviously other specific details that each will teach but that was my overall take away from each. I think any of these will bring you value and look good on your resume, but a Scrum Master Certification is probably the most interesting for someone wanting to go into tech, since it teaches you the specific scrum master role but also gives you a broad knowledge base of software development and team dynamics.

Learn about the cloud and get a certification:
The trend is that all companies, even those in the slower moving healthcare industry, are moving to some type of cloud architecture. If you are at a health system they may not have moved yet or may be using a hybrid cloud. But if you want to work at a technology company, especially a startup, it is likely they will be full cloud. This is because cloud allows you to move quickly, saves money (you only pay for what you use) and let's you point your limited resources at building product instead of maintaining infrastructure. Even if you will not be writing code or building product directly understanding how cloud works and what functionality they offer will be beneficial. All of the major clouds offer certifications that allow you to learn about them and also demonstrate your competency on their platform. AWS and Azure are both extremely popular and both offer similar options with AWS being more forward looking (I am biased towards AWS, I am working on a few certifications on there myself at the moment). Google Cloud is also popular and growing but from what I have heard their certifications are very challenging if you do not come from a developer background. Coming out of a certification you should have some hands on experience with a cloud provider and a good knowledge base of what is possible. Even if you never log into a console and use a cloud service directly, being able to talk about them intelligently will be a massive benefit to yourself and your team.

Take notes on everything and research:
Technology is like healthcare in that it is incredibly complex, with tons of moving parts and an endless list of acronyms. Getting started will be like learning a new language. At my first startup job I think I went home everyday for the first month with a headache from trying to process so many new ideas and terms. What saved me was taking the time to capture all of those ideas and terms and learn what they meant and how they applied to what we were doing. I couldn't do that all at once, it took months. But what I did (and still do) was had a text editor open on my laptop all the time, each time I heard a new term or piece of technology that I didn't understand I would write it down. Then at night I would take that list and start Googling and reading until I had a firm understanding of the concepts. It is also a valid approach in a meeting to raise your hand and say "I don't know what that is", but when you are constantly hearing new ideas that can get a bit disruptive for the team. Regardless of if you work in tech or not I would recommend doing this, when you hear something new make a note of it and then go learn about it. This will quickly make you knowledgeable in a  lot of topics and help you uncover areas of interest where you want to deep dive and become and expert.


Above are some of the key things I did to grow myself and my tech skills. Below are a list of ideas/areas/tools that I would encourage those interested in tech to take the time to research. If you have other questions or want to talk in more detail feel free to email me:


    • This is a rigorous security framework for healthcare. It requires documenting what your processes are and proving you abide by them. It is becoming more critical as many organizations, especially payers, are beginning to require their vendors/partners to be HITRUST certified.
  • HL7/FHIR
    • These are data standards for transmitting, sharing and storing data between healthcare organizations. Currently healthcare data is a mess with tons of variation. HL7 and FHIR are attempts to standardize this data. There are also certifications available for those looking to becoming deeply specialized in healthcare data structures.
  • dbt
    • dbt (data build tool) is meant to allow for non engineers to build ETL and databases with little to no support from engineering. It is becoming increasingly popular because it gives those who know the data best the ability to build useful data outputs. There is a cloud version of dbt that is sold by Fishtown Analytics, but it is also open source so you can download the local version and begin using with low barrier to entry. You will need to know SQL and some Python to use effectively. (Arc is an interesting alternative to dbt).
  • Amundsen
    • Amundsen is a tool built for making data more accessible to the business. It is effectively a catalog of metadata (data about the data). It allows for the discovery and sharing of what data is available in the system, who owns that data and who uses it frequently. This is an open source tool that was developed by Lyft.
  • Python
    • Python is one of the most flexible programming languages. It has applications in data engineering and data science and is also used in developing software. In my opinion it is an easy language to pickup, especially if you are just looking to have conversational knowledge rather than actually building with it yourself. Again Pierian Data has a great bootcamp.
  • AWS Services (these are great to experiment with since AWS offers a year account for free):
    • Lambda - Serverless service that allows you to focus on building a process or function without worrying about the compute that will execute it. It supports the most popular languages, including Python.
    • Lightsail - Serverless service that is AWS's fastest way to launch a web service, such as a website or application.
    • Quickstarts - These are prebuilt solutions from AWS and its partners that you can deploy in your own environment. There are 100's available including some targeted directly at healthcare for example: a HITRUST compliant environment, FHIR compliant APIs and a data masking solution.

About Brayden Haws

Healthcare guy turned tech wannabe. Doing product stuff at Grow. Building Utah Product Guild⚒️. Constantly tinkering on my 🛻. Occasionally writing poor takes on product strategy and technology⬇️.

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