The tech sector has plenty of people who never set out to work in the industry, let alone ascend to senior roles. Yet through some twist of fate or chance encounter, that\u2019s exactly what has happened. And in some cases, they\u2019ve found themselves in major tech roles, with hundreds of staff reporting to them and managing massive IT budgets. People with traditional backgrounds should be on every CIO\u2019s radar.\nDavid Jones, who is Asia-Pacific chief at global recruiter Robert Half, says now is a good time for candidates without tech backgrounds to move into tech. The buoyancy of the Australian tech sector is a main factor contributing to record levels of employment in the country, which is leaps and bounds ahead of many economies still suffering from the pandemic\u2014and that means tech jobs are hard to fill. The ongoing travel restrictions brought by the coronavirus has also put an end to previously larger inflow of skilled migrants looking for jobs in IT and other technical professions.\n[ Don\u2019t get caught in a dead end: Avoid these IT jobs bound for extinction and learn the 16 most-wanted traits of indispensable IT pros. | Get the latest career insights by signing up for our newsletters. ]\n\u201cThis is leading people to think more laterally around what talent is available and what talent can you tap in to. People in hiring positions are beginning to think a little bit differently and probably looking at attitude and behaviour perhaps more so than just pure technical capability,\u201d Jones says. That said, the 30-year veteran of tech and other executive recruitment admits recruiters rarely have the luxury of responding to tech clients\u2019 requirements by putting forward candidates without any actual tech experience. \u201cWhat we do so see, increasingly and particularly when you get to the top of the food chain in IT is that the initial background of those people is quite wide and varied.\u201d\nJones sees HR and IT execs seeing anopthert advantage to look beyond just tech experience: \u201cWhen you\u2019re looking at change management programs and when you\u2019re looking at digital and tech innovation, at the end of the day it\u2019s not so much about the tech. It\u2019s more about the behavioural changes that are required and the people.\u201d\nIt\u2019s trend that been in train years before the pandemic, however, with Jones observing greater divergence in early career skills and experience between CIOs and other tech leaders. He says that as people move to the top of the food chain, their roles become more about influencing others and working collaboratively, often from home. CIO Australia spoke to three people whose moves into IT positions followed nontraditional paths.\nPablo Quintana: From sailor to systems architect\n Pablo Quintara\n\nPablo Quintara\n\n\nA former junior naval officer, Pablo Quintana is poised to become something of a poster child for this trend. He recalls the shock at being made redundant from his five-year job as a house painter when COVID ramped up in March 2020. \u201cIt takes a hit on you,\u201d he says.\nHaving acquired some basic tech skills serving in the Australian Navy, he started applying for junior tech roles in addition to all the other jobs he was looking at to support his wife and baby girl. \u201cAll the jobs that I\u2019ve applied for it always came back to me, \u2018You don\u2019t have enough experience, or you don\u2019t have this certificate, or we need this,\u201d he says.\nNot unemployed for long, Quintana was introduced to the Australian military veteran training and recruitment group WithYouWithMe. Soon after signing on to the platform, he received a call inviting him to come and discuss an entry-level role working largely with the workforce management platform Pegasus. Fast-forward a few months, and now he\u2019s working on secondment with the business and technology consultancy giant Accenture.\nOver the years, WithYouWithMe has helped thousands of Australian military veterans acquire new skills and find gainful employment after their service years end. Recently, the not-for-profit group sharpened its focus on helping veterans acquire and develop IT skills, itself learning along the way that careers in the military often segue nicely into the ICT industry.\nGerri Schofield: Problem-solving was the common core of her Army experience\n Gerri Schofield\n\nGerri Schofield\n\n\nAnother military vet, Gerri Schofield, found her non-IT background actually helped her tech career. She\u2019s now general manager for process, systems, and training at the Australian shipping container company Royal Wolf, after serving almost 20 years in the Australian Army to various jobs in transport, logistics, and adjacent fields before arriving where she is today.\n\u201cIf it wasn\u2019t for recruiters seeing something other than tech in my r\u00e9sum\u00e9, I wouldn\u2019t have had that opportunity,\u201d she reflects. \u201cThe military moves you around every couple of years and they don\u2019t really care what your last job was, or what you\u2019re trained in. They will expect you will pick up what has to be learned and crack on.\u201d The recruiters saw that too.\nHer varied military experience meant she had to develop better problem-solving skills, skills which are invaluable for her today. \u201cIt\u2019s being curious, being able to identify what the problem is you\u2019re trying to solve, and not thinking too much into the technology of it first. Also focussing more on the process: what am I trying to solve and what does that look like practically and then look for the IT solution,\u201d she says.\nFinbar O\u2019Hanlon: Guitarist to tech startup specialist\n Finbar O\u2019Hanlon\n\nFinbar O\u2019Hanlon\n\n\nFinbar O\u2019Hanlon started his working life plying his craft as a session-level guitarist, demonstrating the latest axes and other gear, playing in bands, or being a session muso, during which he developed a strong interest in digital media as well as audience engagement.\nFast-forward to just a few years ago and O\u2019Hanlon had founded no less than four technology startups solving different digital media problems, two of which he took to IPO.\nFor him, technical certifications and the swelling dictionaries of mind-numbing jargon flowing through the tech industry obscure the big picture, he says, which is to solve problems. Along the way he has created various technology solutions now in use with some of the biggest companies in Australia, and indeed the world.\n\u201cI was a terrible coder, but I learned to code myself,\u201d he gleefully admits, adding: \u201cEach part of the journey I learned something different along the way.\u201d\nAmong O\u2019Hanlon\u2019s most important lessons was how to interact with and influence executives at board level to actually get a product built and successfully to market. Again, this goes back to his understanding of the core objective for anyone in business to solve real problems.\nO\u2019Hanlon reflects on coming to the important realisation the application of digital technologies is really just another realm of \u201csystematised thinking\u201d, which encapsulates everything from dialectic thinking, lateral to human-centred design thinking. \u201cAnd most importantly, the tribal thinking methodologies. For me, it was how do I build frameworks around how to validate what customers want, how do I validate what my team wants, what the board wants,\u201d he says.