ARE MALAYS NOT INTERESTED IN TECH CAREERS?
Today, more and more people are looking to get into the tech industry. It seems like every day there is a new startup, artificial intelligence (AI) project, or robotics development that makes the tech world seem like an exciting place to be in. The industry is growing, which means there is an increasing need for tech pros in almost every role. This does not just apply to software developers and engineers; there are plenty of opportunities for people who want to work in IT, data analytics, or even user experience design. There are so many jobs in this industry that require skills in other fields as well, from accountants and market analysts to designers and quality assurance specialists. No matter what your area of study or experience might be, there’s a job waiting for you in tech if you’re willing to put in the effort.
IS TECH A FIT FOR YOU?
Tech jobs pay very well and it is easy to be attracted by the money. Although important, money should not be the only reason to join the tech industry. Tech is driven by innovation, and if you are excited about building solutions for problems and like to be involved hands-on, then tech-related jobs might be a fit for you. It is also a common misconception that tech jobs are only for geeks and do not require talking to people. In reality, tech roles, even software engineers, need to communicate with other stakeholders to understand requirements and execute according to those requirements. It would be disastrous if requirements are misunderstood!
The industry is known for its demanding hours, but this depends on the company and the kind of jobs that you sign up for. For example, a Site Reliability Engineer might work in shifts in order to ensure systems are always available 24/7 whereas UX Designers could leave the office on the dot as their job demands might not be as time sensitive.
KNOW WHAT KIND OF JOB YOU WANT TO DO
Tech jobs are not just software engineering. When you first start exploring careers in the tech industry, it is important to figure out what you want to do and what type of job you want. While there are certainly plenty of areas that need talented people, you do not want to spend your first few years in tech trying to figure out where your skills are best spent. If you work in a non-technical field and want to break into the tech industry, you will most likely have to start out in a non-technical job. This can be a great way to get into the industry, but you must be open to the idea of starting at the bottom.
Once you show your value to an organisation, you can start looking for opportunities to move up within the company. If you are an engineer or a coder looking to move into a non-technical role but do not know where to start, check out the job boards on any given tech company’s website. You can also search job boards for non-tech positions and see what skills are in demand.
Tech jobs other than software engineering include UX/UI Designer, Product Manager, DevOps, SecurityOps, Site Reliability Engineer, TechOps, AI/ML Engineer, Product Designer, and even Research Scientist. At least three of those fields do not require coding. So if you are a non-coder, an easier path to enter the tech industry might be through UX – if that is what you want to do. Otherwise, you will need to consider earning some qualifications in order to get there.
GET A DEGREE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE, ENGINEERING OR RELATED COURSE
While not all tech jobs require a computer science or engineering degree, it is important to understand how technology works and the skills required to build it. If you are applying for a job in product management or analytics, 33 having a technical background will not be as important, but if you want to be an engineer or a coder, it is essential. Aspiring engineers often struggle to find their way into the field because it is incredibly competitive.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, university education has been impacted massively. There are now many degree programmes you can take online, even from universities such as Harvard and Oxford! In fact, the barrier to entry is lower than if you were to apply as a young high school student. Harvard Extension School does not require a minimum grade to apply. You would need to take two or three paid courses and ensure a minimum GPA of 3.5 and then make an application to their undergraduate or postgraduate programme. Oxford, on the other hand, may be a little picky but you do not need formal qualifications either to apply for the Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in IT Systems Analysis and Design. Despite the relative ease to apply to these programmes, these are still world-class universities, and the demands of the courses are challenging. So you must persevere to complete the entire programme.
While getting a Computer Science degree can be challenging, especially as a new student, there are also other ways to get your foot in the door. There are many online courses for people who want to learn to code but cannot commit to a full degree programme. If you are an experienced engineer who wants to transition to a new field, taking online courses in a different programming language can help you show employers you have the skills they are looking for. A very popular course is the HarvardX CS50 course, which teaches the foundations of programming. The best thing about it is that it is free!
TRY CODING BOOT CAMPS AND IMMERSIVE COURSES
If you are a career switcher, it is essential that you are able to showcase your coding skills. While you can definitely do that with a Computer Science degree, there are many people who do not have that option. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get those skills demonstrated. One of the most common ways to get coding skills and showcase that you are a quick learner is to take an immersive coding course. These are usually part-time or online classes, and they can take you from no coding knowledge to coding projects in just a few months. There are plenty of places to find these courses, and they are a great way to get your coding skills up to speed if you’re new to this industry. If you do not intend to be a software engineer, there are also UX/UI bootcamps and online courses for Product Management. Essentially, massive online open courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and edX, and even YouTube, have a wide variety of courses for you to sign up and study at your pace for any kind of tech job out there. Ideally, you may want to go for courses that are designed by the Big Tech like Google.
Google offers career conversion courses that prepare you for entry-level jobs in UX, Product Management, and TechOps. At the end of these courses, you will be awarded a Google Certification and is deemed qualified to take on your new tech role at Google or anywhere else that recognises these industry professional certifications.
NETWORK AND ATTEND MEET-UPS
When you are trying to get your foot in the door in any industry, the best way to get noticed is to network. If you do not know anyone in the tech industry, you may feel like you are swimming against the current. However, networking means more than just handing out business cards at events. It means finding other people who work in the industry and forming relationships with them. Find local meetups that focus on tech and join them. You can also use sites like Meetup to look for like-minded groups that meet near you.
A great way to network is on platforms such as LinkedIn. List down the companies you are interested in and find people in those companies that serve in a role you are going for. Then connect with them, and request if they are willing to answer questions about their role so that you can better decide if the role is for you.
Another platform that is great for networking is ADPList. A global mentoring platform for people in the tech industry, you can find people in any tech role all around the world who are willing to give some advice about getting into tech. Most of all, it is free, and the mentors are eager to share.
The tech industry is booming, which means there are plenty of great jobs available. If you are interested in a career in tech, there are a few things you should do to make sure you get noticed by employers. First, you should get a degree related to computer science or engineering or related short courses. Next, you should make sure you know what kind of job you want to do and be able to demonstrate your skills through a portfolio or coding repository. Finally, you should network with people in the industry and attend meetups or online mentorship to find opportunities. The more effort you put into finding a job in tech, the more likely you are to find success. ⬛
Hazrul Azhar Jamari is a Product Manager at Lazada, as well as a founder of Product SG telegram and other local tech groups. He is currently completing his master’s degree in Digital Media Design at the University of Edinburgh. Hazrul is a member of AMP’s Digital and Technology Strategy Board Committee and a member of M3@Woodlands. He is also a mentor at ADPList and Advisory@SG.