De’Audra Ansley didn’t dream of working in tech until 2000 when she watched her older brother De’Arcy tear down a pc on the ground of their den.
It was a part of a homework task that De’Arcy, a pc science major at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, where their family lived, was sprinting to complete.
Computers were still a rarity in her neighborhood on the turn of the millennium. Ansley, then 10 years old, marveled on the neon wires and beaded microchips that lined the hardwood.
“It looked like a puzzle to me, I desired to understand how each piece fit together,” Ansley, 33, recalls. “That is once I fell in love with tech.”
Ansley followed in her brother’s footsteps and enrolled as a biomedical engineering major on the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2008, but left midway through her freshman yr after feeling burned out and uninspired in her classes.
“I felt like I wasn’t getting all the practical skills or hands-on experience I’d have to work in tech from my classes,” says Ansley. “At that time, I used to be like, ‘Well, how far can I’m going with no bachelor’s degree?'”
Now, Ansley is a product manager at an actual estate firm based in central Texas.
She works remotely from her home in Houston and earns over $100,000 a yr, in keeping with financial documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. Ansley declined to share the name of her employer and exact salary so she could speak freely about her work situation.
Here’s how Ansley built a six-figure profession in tech with no bachelor’s degree:
Ansley landed her first corporate job after college as a production assistant at BMF, a creative marketing agency in Austin, by highlighting the soft skills — communication, leadership and time management — she picked up at volunteer gigs and part-time jobs on her resume.
At BMF, Ansley learned two of crucial skills she would later have to change into a product manager: problem-solving and dealing across teams.
“I used to be accountable for coordinating events at South by Southwest with tons of of attendees and ensuring that my colleagues, the vendors and clients were all doing their jobs, that everybody was completely satisfied,” she says.
Ansley knew that to face out in her field — and compete for future opportunities with individuals who had bachelor’s degrees — she would wish to own exceptional skills and hands-on work experience.
“As an alternative of partying on the weekends, I stayed up reading business books or taking online classes in product design and organizational development,” she recalls.
In 2015, after working at BMF for 3 years, Ansley decided she wanted to realize more technical expertise and quit her job to work on the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. There, she was a document specialist, organizing and analyzing insurance documents online.
Between 2015 and 2021 she held several marketing and administrative roles at different corporations in Austin.
Moving between jobs was tougher than Ansley anticipated — each time she received a rejection email, she questioned whether or not she had made the correct call to depart school.
“It was trial after trial of feeling defeated, I had people near me tell me I might never make six figures without ending college,” Ansley recalls. “But ultimately, I didn’t let the ‘no’s discourage me, I used those comments and rejection as motivation to fuel my drive, to go after it and prove the naysayers mistaken.”
As Ansley searched for brand new opportunities, she was never shy about looking for feedback and guidance.
“I responded to almost every job rejection email I received with the identical two questions: ‘How can I higher present myself as a candidate? What gaps exist on my resume?'” Ansley explains. “Individuals are more receptive than you’re thinking that to those sorts of requests, they appreciate that you must improve.”
Ansley says this proactive approach to her skilled growth and networking helped her transition from marketing to product management.
In 2020, Ansley saw a LinkedIn post from someone she met through a mutual friend years earlier about leaving marketing to change into a product manager. “I still desired to work in tech, but didn’t know where to start out,” says Ansley. “It felt like an indication.”
The writer of the post, Kami Smith, encouraged Ansley to check prototyping, data collection, software development processes and other technical skills product managers use before applying to roles. She also offered to recommend Ansley for any openings on her team.
While some corporations prefer product managers to have a bachelor’s degree in business management, supply chain management or a related field, it’s not at all times required. What’s way more essential, says Ansley, are the technical skills, strategic pondering and experience you bring to the table.
Ansley built up her product management experience by volunteering for cross-functional projects, shadowing product managers she worked with and helping colleagues with user testing and market evaluation.
True to her word, just a couple of months after their initial conversation, Smith really useful Ansley for an open associate product manager role on her team — and in August 2021, Ansley began her first job in product management, and first job earning six figures, at the actual estate firm where she continues to work today.
Ansley was promoted to product manager at the actual estate firm in October 2023.
As a product manager, Ansley is accountable for the inner software the firm’s agents and clients use to trace listings and sales. She works with engineers and designers to develop the product, gathers user feedback and makes suggestions for improvements.
“It’s really gratifying to see exactly how your ideas are put into motion and help the business’ bottom line,” says Ansley. “I can genuinely say I like my job.”
She maintains a typical 9-to-5 schedule while working from home, sometimes logging on earlier or later depending on her workload.
Some employees on the firm are required to work within the office, but Ansley was hired remotely and given permission to earn a living from home full time. Ansley says she appreciates the pliability. “If I even have an errand I would like to run in the course of the day or work out during my lunch break, I can do this,” she adds.
Product management is a “great profession” for somebody with no bachelor’s degree to contemplate, says Ansley, since it leans on transferable skills like project management and data evaluation.
“Even for those who haven’t got the technical background, a whole lot of corporations offer on-the-job training or access to skill-building resources,” she says. “When you’re willing to learn, collaborate with others and are a patient person, you may excel on this job.”
Sometimes, Ansley thinks about going back to varsity and ending her bachelor’s degree.
“I do not think that chapter is closed,” she says. “It’s more about waiting for the correct time, and ensuring it adds something positive to my life … I’ve finally realized I do not need a diploma to achieve success, I’m already happy with how far I’ve come.”