Transferable skills

Back Transferable skills

As I reflect on a year at SUSE, the topic of transferable skills has never been more relevant.

I regularly interview candidates, and I often ask their aspirations for the future. “What is the job they dream of doing? I’m not looking for a master plan, let's be honest not very many of us have one. I am looking to understand whether they have a sense of what they enjoy doing, and for some, even have shaped up a dream they never dared express because they don’t believe it’s possible. Recognising our aspirations helps us find our way into a career that fulfils us, even if we aren’t clear on the steps to get there.

I certainly didn’t have a grand plan. I’ve meandered my way from personal assistant into building and leading an IT team. As an IT leader I understood enough about being a buyer to move to IT sales. My sales career built from there. If I could lead a global sales team for large customer service operations, then transitioning to an operational role in customer service was feasible, and before I blinked, I was leading large scale customer operations and transformation. Leading transformation at SUSE, really felt like an opportunity to do all the things I love, most importantly, finding the sweet spot between executing leadership aspiration and protecting employee and customer experience. It also included a massive gap in my knowledge and experience. I knew nothing about open source, the heart of SUSE.

Moving roles, verticals, industries, jobs, countries, companies I’ve come to realise two personal fundamentals:

  • With the pace of change, my historical experience is less important than my ongoing desire to gain new skills and constantly challenge my views and methods
  • My subject matter expertise is important, but half the time, it’s not why I have a seat at the table.


To offer up some ways to recognise your transferable skills that worked for me:

  • Take the time to understand the overlap of your skills that are reliant to the new industry/ vertical. When I moved into IT, I had project management, business communication, budgeting and planning and stakeholder management skills. I knew that I was going to hire the deep technical expertise, and that I needed to teach myself enough, to do that well.
  • Your competencies are invaluable. Can you demonstrate results orientation, teamwork, leadership, decision making, problem solving, ethics etc.? Can you demonstrate on ongoing learning mindset? These competencies make the difference as to whether candidates get hired or not, and whether they thrive in their roles.
  • Do you have a personal interest, even a dream, that you can leverage to fuel your passion so that your job in tech is not just a job? Your real connection to the job will make you a more compelling candidate and employee.
  • Know your strengths. SUSE brings together the most inspiring women. However, it's also a constant reminder that as women we very seldom know how to acknowledge our strengths. Reflect on the feedback you have had from your leaders and peers. Take a test, ask colleagues for feedback. Make it your priority to know what you are good at and recognise that doing so is healthy.
  • Recognise that being new to an industry or vertical can be a real positive for your hiring company. I have found time and, again being the new person at the table, has allowed me to speak up for the customer who doesn’t understand our acronyms or tech speak. Harness that newness.
  • Find the intersection of where you come from and the tech industry such as the Martech or marketing technology sector, Fintech or financial technology sector. It will give you a strong base of knowledge on which to build.
  • No one wants to be hired because of our diversity, we want to be the best candidate for the job. That said, right now most companies have an important task to make their products and services fit for a more diverse world. Your diversity is a skill. You can see things others can’t. Recognise the value that brings.

The women in tech community is booming. Build a network, reach out to one person you don’t know but have something in common with and ask for a virtual coffee. Do your research and ask them the questions you can’t find answers to. Trust that the women of the world are in your corner, because in my experience they are. Once you have that job in tech, return the favour.

Happy growing!