Myth: technology careers are just for people with computer science degrees


Holly Barrett, University of Bristol graduate, studied Chemistry and told us about her experience transitioning into a tech role with PwC.  

Going into my final year, I was none the wiser about what I wanted to do after university – just that I didn’t want to continue with Chemistry, my degree subject. A different challenge in a new area seemed like a more exciting prospect to me. I started applying to graduate schemes more because I thought I should be applying for something rather than because I was interested in the things I was applying for. However, I quickly realised that this wasn’t sustainable. Trying to work out what I wanted to do with limited experience was challenging but ultimately, I decided I wanted to work in tech, because it’s an area that has always interested me and it’s a fast growing, intellectually stimulating industry.

I applied to PwC’s Cyber Security graduate programme with no relevant technical experience, but with a willingness to learn all things cyber. Before my first day, I was convinced that the other trainees would have done computer science degrees and have long harboured a deep interest in cyber security. This was entirely wrong; in fact, the majority of the others who started with me had little or no experience in the area, and very few had done computer science for their degree. While STEM subjects represented a majority, we were just as inexperienced as everyone else when we started. 

It’s been a steep learning curve, and I won’t deny there have been times I’ve sat in meetings unsure of what people were talking about, and I’ve asked my colleagues countless questions despite the training I went on. However, starting a new job is challenging for everyone – you have to adjust to new expectations, a new environment, and new requirements – and that contributes about half of the learning curve.  

Additionally, a lot of what I’ve found challenging is not knowing specific technology, and it’s unlikely that a computer science student would be much wiser. My friends who started at the same time as me with technical backgrounds have confirmed that they, too, have sat in meetings without fully understanding what’s going on. We’ve all managed to survive so far, by being curious, asking questions and being keen to learn, we’re gaining new expertise all the time! Nobody expects me to know lots of technical information but all my new colleagues have been supportive and helped me to learn. 

Cyber security might not have been the most obvious career for me to transition into, but I’m glad I did. Although it’s challenging, it’s also immensely rewarding. I’m only six months into my grad scheme and already I’ve assessed the cyber security posture of a number of different companies, learnt about crisis management planning, and written policies for a major government department. My work is really varied, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn about different aspects of cyber security going forward, and experiencing different kinds of work within various sectors. 

Interested in finding out more about careers in technology? We have a whole week of events running to help you explore your options and hear about some of the challenges and opportunities there are in tech. Holly will be one of our panellists on Monday 11 March.  

If you’re interested in finding out more about careers within PwC Technology then click here