Programming Your Future
Looking to launch a tech career? A DCE
expert offers insights on finding the right fit.
Whether the goal is landing a job in software engineering,
data science or web design, a career in the tech sector
can be a powerful lure for those with a flair for digital arts
and sciences. The work can be exciting as well as quite
lucrative. But with so many paths and possibilities, how can
a tech-savvy candidate decide which one to pursue?
The best place to start is to simply follow your passion and
find a career you can see yourself doing day after day
and truly enjoying it, said Janet Randolph, a global human
resources leader and business advisor.
“There are lots of types of careers in technology,” said
Randolph, an advisor and instructor for the DCE's HR and
Business Administration programs. “I think choosing the
right one depends more on an individual's interests and
preferences rather than personality type. What I have
observed in my own experience is that people who excel
generally like doing tech-related things on their own time,
like solving puzzles, creating algorithms to solve problems,
maybe even creating applications as a sideline — things
that they may have liked doing since childhood.”
Randolph points to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as
an outstanding example. Although he was a psychology
major at Harvard, Zuckerberg developed a reputation as a
good programmer and did programming work on the side,
and probably for fun.
“We all know what happened there,” she added. “That's
a good model of how a lot of people might identify
that they're cut out for tech work. If you enjoy coding or
creating apps for fun and solving problems, those are
And the career possibilities are myriad. Beyond software
development and engineering, tech companies need
designers and architects, product marketers, IT systems
administrators, solutions engineers, business analysts and
Charting your path
It sounds simple enough, pursuing what you enjoy. But
what if, for example, you are a coding whiz who hasn't
had an opportunity to explore your best overall career fit?
There are proven assessment tools that can help candidates
identify their aptitudes and strengths. One of the
best is the Strong Interest Inventory Assessment, usually
administered by a career counselor or consultant.
“The Strong Inventory helps you identify general
themes which would suggest potentially satisfying work
environments, and also your specific interests,” Randolph
said. “It basically narrows the general themes into areas
related to career fields, occupations and activities an
individual would probably find rewarding.”
The Strong Inventory includes themes like Investigative,
which describes people who are thinkers and like to
analyze and interpret data, and Conventional, those who
are organizers and like to collect and manage information.
“Drilling down further, the Strong Inventory might further
identify specific career-related interests like research,
programming and information systems, science,
mathematics, computer hardware and electronics,”
She recommends another valuable resource, Gallup's
StrengthsFinder profile, available in the book Now, Discover
Your Strengths (The Free Press) by Marcus Buckingham
and Donald O. Clifton of the Gallup Organization. An
online version can be found at gallupstrengthscenter.com.
The StrengthsFinder, which helps individuals determine their
top five most powerful career-related themes out of a
possible 34, was developed from Gallup's “multi-decade,
multi-million dollar effort to identify the most prevalent
human strengths,” Randolph said.
“Examples of the dominant themes are Analytical,
Developer, Ideation, Intellection, Learner and Restorative.
What I especially like about the StrengthsFinder approach
are the insights that are offered about how to develop
your strengths once they've been identified.”
Perhaps the most valuable strength of all is adaptability,
she said. For techies who love to learn new technology,
that can lead to a wealth of job opportunities.
“I've found in my own career as an HR professional that
if a tech candidate has shown that they can learn and
adapt to new technologies quickly, and enjoy doing that, that's probably the most important tech skill set, and it's
While there are numerous areas of the country that are
tech-industry hotbeds — Silicon Valley, Seattle and
Southern California among them — an adaptable tech-savvy
professional can find rewarding work just about
“Beyond the tech industry, all companies generally have
some level of IT function or business analyst role, and there
are lots of companies all over the country that provide IT
services to companies.”
Acquiring the skills
Randolph suggests doing research to not only identify
which skills are most in demand today, but more
importantly those that will become the hottest in coming
years. This is essential, considering that Deloitte's 2017
Global Human Capital Trends report determined the
“half-life” of a current tech skill is about five years.
A key player in posting jobs and online recruiting,
LinkedIn is an outstanding resource to research which skills
employers consider the most valuable, Randolph said.
Other online resources include Forbes, Dice, Indeed and
CareerBuilder, to name a few.
According to these sources, many of the most sought-after
technical skills in 2019 are experience with artificial
intelligence (AI), mobile application development and
user interface design, cyber security, data science
and data mining.
“People with strong analytics skills and experience with
digital transformation are also in high demand,” Randolph
said. “But these in-demand skills change frequently, so it's
essential to keep up with changing trends. The tech sector
evolves very quickly, so a hot skill one day may be a
commodity the next.”
Once you've identified a skill set you want to pursue,
getting the highest quality education and training is
essential to gaining the expertise and experience needed
to succeed. Technology and computer degrees are
myriad throughout academia, but certificate programs
can offer outstanding training for a fraction of the money
and time spent on a four-year degree.
The Division of Continuing Education has a robust
technology department that offers 19 certificate and
specialized study programs in Data Science, Cyber
Security, Machine and Deep Learning, Full Stack Web
Design, Mobile Application Development, Blockchain
Technologies, Internet of Things and more, all taught by
“Definitely take classes, not only for the lesson content
but also to meet other students and find out what they're
doing, talk with workers at other companies and find out
what they're working on,” Randolph said. “If a candidate
has a credential like a data science certificate, that's a
validation of commitment to the field.”
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