Startup careers 101: Roles for non-technical backgrounds


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Published November 13, 2014|4 min read

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Written by our guest authorLynxsy

Think you can’t join a startup because you can’t code?This is a misconception that we hear often from recent grads. Talent is always in demand, and the startup industry is no exception.Are you a connector? Do you have great strategy skills? Are you a people person? Are you creative? Can you write? startups need people who can build a brand, who can communicate, and sell a product.So even if the language you took in school was Italian that semester you spent abroad, and Python, C++, Java sounds more like gibberish to you, you still can build a lucrative career in a growing industry.

Below are 5 common non-tech roles at a startup:

1. Customer Experience

A business can only be successful if it has a strong customer base. Creating brand loyalty and name recognition is essential for startups to grow. You are the face and voice of the company.Day to day, this role could mean anything from answering phones, responding to e-mails, coordinating with team members, or creating processes to make the customer services more efficient. This role is usually very fast-paced, requires a lot of multi-tasking, strong communication skills, empathy, and an understanding of how to make customers happy.Growth potential – You won’t always be stuck answering phones; this is a great starting point into products, operations, or management roles.

2. Sales

Sales is exactly what it sounds like. Selling. Sales in startups is not a Willy Loman type jobs of the past—it does require a go-getter personality and an ease with people.Day to day, you’ll be working with clients, communicating your company’s brand. It could mean attending meetings and networking events, researching potential leads, supporting your sales team, analyzing data and looking at trends.Growth potential – Sales is all about expanding a brand, so there is a lot of vertical movement. Sales is a skill that is transferable to any industry, and sales at a startup—where you’re building a company from the bottom up—is a great starting point.

3. Business Development

Business development sounds kind of mysterious, but essentially it’s about finding potential partnerships, making those connections and networking. Are you strategic? Are you good at the schmooze? This could be where you can shine.Day to day, this could mean attending meetings with prospective clients or investors, communicating with top managers to forecast the company’s growth, attending networking events and brainstorming partnerships to leverage the company’s brand.Growth potential – Like sales, business development has a lot of applications, and startups can give you a strong background and prove that you’re a big-picture thinker.

4. Marketing

Marketing is all about communicating a message and building a brand. Perhaps you’re creative or a good writer, or you know the psychology behind demand—or maybe you’re just a natural Don Draper type, but marketing is an essential aspect of a startup’s success.Day to day, this would mean researching possible competitors, preparing press kits, communicating with media outlets, drafting emails and written materials for clients and the sales team to use, posting on social media and promoting the company’s profile, preparing analytics for the sales team and upper management to track the company’s profile and brand.Growth potential - Marketing positions and teams have a great deal of vertical momentum. Marketing is also an essential part of building a business, and if you are able to create a proven track record of success, you could jump into many other industries. Companies and startups have an ongoing demand for marketing, you could also use your knowledge to eventually create your own company or be involved on a management level.

5. Support/Operations

Are you organized? Particularly Type A? Excellent at multi-tasking? Support can be a great starting point—it’s a job that’ll let you see all aspects of the company, you’ll be communicating with a lot of people internally and externally, and you’ll grow to really know the company. This job could a be good entry point for management positions, and also it’d give you a lot of exposure to other possibilities such as development or tech.Day to day, this means interfacing with customers. Anything goes wrong? You’re the point person to help them solve it. This means a lot of attention to detail. You’ll be the point person for all the different teams to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Did the marketing team get everything sent to the sales people? Are customers having their needs met? Are all the details for the meetings set up and in place? This also means that you’ll be wearing a lot of hats.This job could be a good entry point for management positions, and also it’d give you a lot of exposure to other possibilities such as development or tech.Photo: Sandor Weisz