• Job openings at tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are competitive.
• Author and Cornell University graduate Parth Detroja managed to land a product manager role at Facebook straight out of college.
• He shared his tips on how people without computer science backgrounds can land a job at technology companies.
It's tough to land a job at a tech giant like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, or Microsoft.
But just try doing it with zero coding experience.
Facebook product manager Parth Detroja was able to do just that during his senior year of college.
The Cornell University graduate recently authored a book on breaking into the field of tech with some friends from Microsoft: "Swipe to Unlock: The Non-Coder's Guide to Technology and the Business Strategy Behind It." He emphasized that he can only speak about his own experience, and does not speak on behalf of Facebook.
At Cornell, Detroja majored in applied economics and management. As an underclassman, he said he felt pressure to pursue what was traditionally viewed as a "successful" occupation.
"At Cornell and many other top schools, you are almost conditioned to think of success after graduation as being defined as a job in investment banking or, to a slightly lesser extent, management consulting," he told Business Insider.
Detroja had always harbored a keen interest in technology.
"However, early on, I had pretty much wrote off tech as an option professionally because I didn't know opportunities existed in that industry out of college for people who couldn't code," he said.
He wasn't surprised when he didn't get any internship offers from the tech companies he applied to freshman year. Instead, Detroja interned for a marketing firm that worked closely with a tech company client. The following year, he leveraged that experience to snag a marketing internship at IBM. Junior year, he received a strong offer from Microsoft before hearing back from some major consulting firms he'd also applied for.
"I took the Microsoft offer as it seemed interesting and I really liked the people I had met there," he said.
The product management internship — which, at Microsoft, is a marketing role — turned out to be an excellent fit. When senior year rolled around, Detroja applied exclusively to opportunities at tech companies. At times, he did worry about his lack of of a computer science background. Facebook, which Detroja said encouraged people with all kinds of academic backgrounds to apply for the role of product manager, became his top choice.
"I was definitely a little worried as there are a lot of computer science and business double majors that I would be competing against for my dream product manager job — who seemed to have the best of both worlds in terms of relevant education," he said. "I didn't have a non-tech backup plan."
Finally, the acceptances began to roll in. Google offered Detroja a product marketing manager role. Microsoft came in with an offer for its product manager job. So did his top choice, Facebook.
Detroja said his best advice for breaking into tech without much coding experience is to learn all you can about the business.
"For example, if you are applying for a non-software engineering role at Google, you most likely won't be asked to explain how Google's ad targeting algorithm works," he said. "But they might ask you how you could increase ad revenue from a particular market segment. If you know how Google's ad platform works, you'll be in a far stronger position to come up with good growth strategies."
So, even if you don't have a computer science background, it's best to dive deep when it comes to your research and come to the interview with some "little tech side insights" prepared.
"I don't think you need to know how to code to work in tech, however it is extremely difficult to get offers without having a high level understanding of how everyday tech — think Spotify, Snapchat, Apple Pay — works under the hood," Detroja said. "I think my high-level understanding of tech really helped me in my interviews at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, et cetera."