6 Non-Tech Roles at Most Tech Startups

By: Lorne Bobren, Technology & Design Career Community Advisor

A recent study by Glassdoor found that nearly half of all job openings at tech companies are for non-technical roles. So, if you are craving that startup environment but don’t know Python from PHP, that’s ok!

In looking at the job functions listed below, be aware that there is often crossover between different roles. For example, sometimes the title of Project Manager is used interchangeably with that of a Product Manager. Use these categories as broad entry points that will help you get started.

Business Development

Do you consider yourself a people person? There will always be a strong need for sales and business development in the startup community. This could mean brokering a deal with another business to make your company’s product more widely available or pursuing leads to connect with new clients.

  • Business development could encompass both inside sales (phone and email communication), along with outside sales (face-to-face meetings and networking)
  • A good salesperson doesn’t need to know how the product works, but they should know the product thoroughly in order to answer questions and alleviate potential concerns from a new client.

If you can build trust and personal relationships through your interactions, you’re well on your way to being successful in business development.

Product Management

A product manager is often in charge of designing the overall look of a product. Typical duties include:

  • Wireframing to mockup a product’s appearance,
  • Designing user flows or journey maps to show how an end user may move through a service or site
  • Communicating with engineers and designers to create updates
  • Collaborating with marketing to determine the best way to introduce a new product or updates to a customer

While a product manager won’t be the one doing the coding, they should be tech-savvy enough to understand the limitations and possibilities of what the software development team can do. 

Project Management

The project manager ensures accurate planning and forecasting throughout a product life cycle. They oversee the project to make certain that it comes in on time and on budget. They often act as a buffer between company executives and the development team. A good project manager knows how to oversee and communicate with multidisciplinary teams, manage resources, has excellent negotiation skills, and is proficient at strategic planning.

Customer Support/Account Management

Once new customers have been acquired, they are usually handed off to the customer support or account management team. Working in customer support means making sure that the client stays a client.

  • A good account manager (or customer support specialist, user evangelist, customer advocate, etc.) will frequently touch base with clients to ensure they are satisfied with their experience.
  • The account manager may also be involved in product training, troubleshooting, dealing with policy issues and collecting feedback.

Customer support staff play an integral role in improving a company’s product because they are the most in tune with customer needs, wants and concerns. They should also be intimately familiar with the product so that they can easily relay any information or help the customer is seeking.

Community Management

A community manager’s duties may vary by organization but their primary role is to help customers feel appreciated and connected to the product, the company, and each other. As the name implies, this person is responsible for growing and cultivating an organization’s community. This can be done via managing social media, creating blog content, organizing events, and motivating users to give feedback.

In a small company, both community management and customer support may be run by the same person.

Marketing and Public Relations

Marketing and PR overlap heavily, and they may be in the same department depending on the size of the company. Since a marketing budget in a startup will be much smaller than at a large firm, you’ll need to be strategic and creative. An expert marketer is also a strong writer who can put together engrossing and succinct ad copy. What’s key here is the ability to break down complicated ideas and technical jargon in ways that are easily digestible for your target audience. Marketing departments can help articulate essential questions for a tech firm: Who is your target audience? How does the product or service help them? Are they even aware they need it?

 

The Career Center will support you in a variety of ways including connecting you with employers through networking events and job fairs as well as providing individual career advising. Many students visit us for mock interview practice, feedback on resume and cover letter writing, and to ask questions about navigating the job search process. We can also help you explore how your interests, values, skills, and personality fit into different careers.

Schedule a career advising appointment on Handshake today!

Communication & Media Degree: Career Possibilities for Every Interest

By: Brittany Wierman, DePaul University communication & media major ‘20

Few things are as frustrating to a communication and media student as being asked the ultimate, inescapable question, “what job are you going to get with your major?” Some students have their career goals cemented, but for those of us who are still unsure of how our major will lead us down the path of success, have no fear—the communication and media program is equipped to prepare you for a career in whatever niche fuels you.

So what exactly does a major in communication and media look like? Michael Elias, career advisor for the College of Communication explains, “the major itself was designed so students could experience classes across the entire curriculum in the College of Communication.” Essentially, students in this major can explore all different types of communication avenues including film, journalism, public relations, advertising, broadcasting and more to discover which field suits them best.

…Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths.

Since the field of communication is so broad, Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths. As a communication and media major, you can consider seeking career paths as a reporter, press agent, communication coordinator, event planner, human resources manager, and even a disc jockey, all depending on what peaks your interest.

The possibilities are expansive, which means taking different courses to help you uncover your interests and choose a concentration is key. Even if you have a hard time choosing just one specialization, don’t fret; at the end of the day the development of good communication skills through this program will benefit you in your future professional life. Michael elaborates, “[communication] is the foundation of how we relate with one another… it’s what makes us who we are, the ability to express ourselves.” In other words, whether you’re in an interpersonal, intercultural, mass media, or professional setting, the ability to communicate effectively is fundamental to your success.

For more information on specific career paths, major advising and career planning, check out these major and career guides, and stop by the Career Center to connect with your career advisor.

DePaul Diaries: Life as a PR & Media Relations Intern

By: Lucil Macwan, DePaul University public relations and advertising major ‘17

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.


A professor once told me that public relations is what keeps the world informed. During my last four months as a PR intern for DePaul, I learned that this is quite true. So, what do PR professionals do? Let me give you a glimpse of what you can expect when you begin your own adventure.

As a transfer student coming into DePaul, I didn’t have much time to apply for internships before graduation. Fortunately, I was offered a position at the very university I attend; from the time when I started working in the DePaul Office of Public Relations & Communications (OPRC) in September to now, I have grown to have much respect for the profession.

Being a PR intern, I quickly learned to create engaging and interesting content for the DePaul community by writing about upcoming events, feature stories and press releases. In the beginning, I was writing press releases that informed the public about exciting campus events. Our goal at the office is to provide public service by keeping our audience informed and spotlight DePaul’s great professors, students and achievements. This experience allowed me to research and strengthen my writing and communication skills.

As I adjusted to the company culture, I was given more responsibilities that provided opportunities to conduct one-on-one interviews with people whom I was writing a story or press release about. This was my favorite part about the job because it allowed me to become educated around topics I previously didn’t know much about. In the four months that I have been a PR intern, I have written about Shakespearean plays, medical research, movies and more.

Though PR consists of a lot of writing, refinement and research, you also have to have good communication skills; being able to talk to team members about ideas, feedback and planning is important. Each one of us at the office works as a unit to ensure DePaul is represented in the best way possible.

From my experiences, my best advice would be to not worry so much about having all the skills when applying for internships; you will learn and acquire skills as you progress through your career. When I was applying for internships, I often felt very intimidated by long job descriptions, but I soon learned that work ethic and a willingness to learn goes a long way with employers. As a PR intern for DePaul, I learned to effectively communicate with a team, to conduct research and to navigate the ins and outs many software programs used in the PR world. Not knowing everything is okay, but curiosity to know more is what matters.

I also highly suggest creating a portfolio of writing material that you have done in or out of class, as it’s a good starting point for recruiters to get a sense of your writing style. Remember, when you write, your audience may or may not know much about the topic at hand, it’s your job to make it as accessible as possible.

Now that you have an idea of what it’s like to work in PR, are you ready to take the next step?