1. Industry Overview
In the 21st century, the tech industry is an integral part of all businesses and has ties with almost every sector that you can think of, as well as many aspects of modern society. Since the turn of the century, the industry’s growth has been spectacular as locations such as London, New York and Los Angeles have become hubs for the technology sector. What’s more, the trend for tech shows no sign of letting up.
Due to the far-reaching nature of the industry, tech-savvy personnel are in high demand.
Proficiency in a variety of computer programs opens up your career path immeasurably.
Company types: What do they do? Who do they do it for? And why do they do it
Technology has a role to play within every modern business, thus is hard to pigeonhole in terms of specific company types. However there are key areas of technology - some traditional, some emerging - that are the building blocks of the industry.
Technology consulting – Those within the field of technology consulting focus on advising organizations on how best to use information technology (IT) in achieving their business objectives. In addition to providing advice, IT consultancies often estimate, manage, implement, deploy, and administer IT systems on behalf of their client organizations - a practice known as "outsourcing".
Fintech – This term describes an emerging financial services sector of the 21st Century. Originally, the term referred to technology applied to the back-end of established consumer and trade financial institutions. More recently, the term has expanded to include any technological innovation in the financial sector, including advances in financial literacy and education, retail banking, investment and even crypto-currencies like Bitcoin.
Start-ups – Although not strictly technology based, the term start-up has become synonymous with the tech industry. The label became internationally widespread during the dot-com bubble when a great number of start-up companies were founded. Because of this history, startups are often assumed to be solely technology-based companies.
Coding - Coding is what makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites. Your browser, your OS, the apps on your phone, Facebook – they’re all made with code, by a coder.
Software development – Software developers design, test, maintain and improve applications and operating system software. Software developers can work in-house or freelance.
Mechanical engineers - Mechanical engineers use research, design, building and testing skills to produce safe and quality machine-driven products.
Civil engineers - Responsible for designing infrastructure such as highways, tunnels, rail systems, airports, water supply and sewage systems, civil engineers may work for state or local governments as well as in the private sector.
Computer programmer - Computer programmers are the linguists of technology. With knowledge of C++, Java and hundreds of other programs, they create software to run our computers.
2. The Job Market
Market outlook: Who's hiring?
The demand for tech from all manner of industries shows no sign of letting up, meaning that there is plenty of employment opportunity for graduates with the necessary technology skills. Such demand means that there is set to be 18% growth in tech employment by 2022.
Whilst job prospects look promising, there will also be fierce competition for the best roles as a new generation of student approaches graduation. Generation Y have grown up using computers and are equipped with skills far superior to their predecessors. Standing out from the crowd is harder than ever.
Roles, career paths, earnings and work-life balance: What can I do?
Particular roles will vary greatly between specific technology fields but tasks may include:
- Programming, installing and configuring operating systems and applications
- Monitoring and maintaining computer systems and networks
- Supporting the roll-out of new applications
- Working with designers and other creative specialists to understand a design concept and advise on how it can be implemented technically within constraints
- Sorting out operational logic and business rules necessary for the feature to be reproduced correctly according to the designer's specification
- Writing efficient computer code or script to make various features work, ensuring that sound, graphics, animations and timings work as intended and make good use of processing and data storage capacity
- Creating and linking databases to the user interface so that information can be retrieved, stored and processed interactively via the application
- Writing HTML or similar input and using authoring packages where appropriate to create content and effects
- Running tests of the application to identify bugs that need to be dealt with
- Solving problems by rewriting the code or adding new code that works around the problem
- Providing technical support to an application once it is running and making further adaptations, patches or rewrites to the code
- Researching and keeping abreast of emerging technologies in order to be able to deliver the most up-to-date solutions, including learning new programming languages or technologies.
Salaries can range from $50 - $100K+ depending on position, experience and specific company. The US National Average industry salary is $60k.
Work/life balance: 2/5
Predominantly a project-based industry, work/life balance can vary greatly and may depend on how thorough your team completes and logs work. Watch out for those torturous software bugs.
Academic, hard and soft skills: What do I need?
You will need to display:
- Technical ability, including strong science, math and IT skills
- A proficiency in relevant computer programs
- A practical and logical approach to problem-solving
- Interpersonal, presentation and communication skills
- Self-motivation and the ability to motivate others
- A flexible and adaptable approach to work
- The ability to work well under pressure and take on new challenges
- The determination to overcome problems
- Organization and time management skills
- Project management skills and the ability to work to tight project deadlines
3. Industry Knowledge: Things you should know
Terminology: What terms, phrases and concepts should I know?
Data mining - Going through large amounts of data to find new, useful information
Growth hacking - Creatively using technology, analytics, strategy in combination with product development to increase a company’s growth
Optimization - Developing a website to convert visitors to customers
Color value – A way to define colors. Example: hexadecimal color code (#000000), color name (black), RGB code (0, 0, 0)
PPI - Also known as “density”. How many pixels per inch on a device. Displays with higher PPI give sharper images and text.
Sitemap - Outline, or map, of the pages needed for a website
UI - User interface. How a website is laid out and how users interact with it
Wireframe - Simple sketch of the key information that goes on each web page
Front end - Part of a website that can be seen by users and includes HTML and CSS
HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) - A standardized system for tagging text files to achieve font, color, graphic, and hyperlink effects on World Wide Web pages.
Meta elements - Elements that give the browser more information about the whole web page. Example: title, link, meta
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) - Most often used to set the visual style of web pages and user interfaces written in HTML
API - Application Programming Interface. How computers and web applications share information with each other
Back end - Part of a website or web service that makes it work and includes applications, web servers, and databases
DEVOPS - Way of working to help development, operations, and quality teams understand each other and collaborate better
Framework - Collection of programs and components used in software development
Example: Ruby on Rails, Bootstrap, AngularJS, Joomla
Object-orientated programming (OOP) - Programming that allows the creation of objects that have specific and unique attributes and abilities. Example of OOP language: Ruby, PHP, Python
Software - Program or set of instructions that tells a computer, phone, or tablet what to do and includes applications and system software like operating systems, drivers, and utilities
Version control - System to keep track of changes to code and files and allows going back to earlier versions.
Hot topics: What topical happenings should I be able to discuss?
Expansion of the Device Mesh: The device mesh will move beyond the traditional desktop computer and mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) to encompass the full range of endpoints with which humans might interact. As the device mesh evolves, connection models will expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices to emerge. There is bound to be significant development in wearable tech, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
Information of everything: Everything surrounding us in the digital mesh is producing, using and communicating with virtually immeasurable amounts of information. Organizations must learn how to identify what information provides strategic value, how to access data from different sources, and explore how algorithms leverage this information to fuel new business designs.
Autonomous agents: Advanced machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations, including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors, that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. This feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user will speak to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.
4. Resume & Interview Preparation: Things you should do
Resume content: How can I make my skills, experiences and interests count?
Joining tech based societies is an excellent way of showing that you are passionate about your chosen industry. Think computer science, coding and programming clubs; anything that shows you have an appetite for all things tech.
Examples of your technology skills are also appealing for potential employers. Have you designed a website or app? If you have evidence of a successful tech project make sure you show it off.
Sharing content and engaging in relevant debate on social media is not only a good way to keep up to date with industry happenings but also another avenue to publicly show that you are seriously passionate about the tech industry.
Interview preparation: What interview questions do I need to master?
- Can you tell me about a recent project or process that you made better, faster, smarter or more efficient?
- You’ve just been assigned to a project involving a new technology. How would you get started?
- What technology-related blogs, podcasts, tweets or websites do you follow? Do you share any information yourself online?
- How do you keep your technology skills current?
- What are your favorite and least favorite technology products, and why?
- What are two or three major trends affecting the tech industry and how do you see them affecting the profession?
- What are your career aspirations and what skills would you like to learn and develop?
Must read blogs and websites:
Tech Crunch - By the minute updates on the world of tech.
Gizmodo - More rolling tech news, but with an added emphasis on gadgets and designs.
The Engineer - Information on every aspect of the engineering industry – from tips and advice to discussions on the newest innovations on the scene.
Tech Cream - Q&As, case studies and career advice for techies.
Wired - Because you can never get enough tech news. Perfect for broadening your industry knowledge and procrastinating.
The Social Network (2010) - A genuinely intriguing watch that gives you an insight into the birth of a global tech phenomenon, this Oscar-winning flick about the rise of Facebook is a necessary watch for anyone who loves social media.
Welcome to Macintosh (2008) - Apple diehards should check out this documentary about the creation of the Mac computer and its subsequent hardcore following.
Downloaded (2013) - Downloaded is a documentary that reveals the events that led up to the Napster revolution. Starting from just a dorm room project to becoming the most popular and controversial music sharing service, the documentary shows how Napster became something bigger than its founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker could've imagined, and how it seemed there would be no stop to the putting out the spark it started that caused the era of music piracy.