How to Get a Job in Tech

By: Mr. Wade

As economies increasingly rely on big data, web, and mobile technologies, companies are looking to hire employees with tech skills. They need people who have at least a basic understanding of web technologies and possess some skills.

If you are a job seeker in today’s economy, what skills are necessary to get a job in a tech related field? Do you have to go to college, get a degree in computer science, and then apply? Will a degree in management and information systems get you a good job? As you meet people in the industry, you’ll soon realize that’s it’s not about what you know or what a fancy degree says you know – it’s about what you can do.

Skills Matter Most

Every employer will want to see what you’ve done; your “portfolio” will give them a clear picture of what you might be able to do for them. A solid portfolio of your work proves you are capable of doing the job you’re applying for – it proves you have the skills.

While it’s difficult to build a portfolio, it’s not impossible. You’ll need to zero in on a specific thing. For example, if you’re good with Wordpress, you’ll need to build a bunch of elegant, professional Wordpress sites that showcase what you can do with the platform that goes beyond what the average person can do. They don’t have to be for a client – just build them on your own.

If you’re good with Blender, make start making tutorial videos on YouTube - how to create specific scenes. Teaching a certain subject automatically creates the impression in other peoples’ minds that you know what you’re doing and that you’re a “professional”.

I teach coding and web technology classes locally. Whether I’m an expert coder or not, people will think that I am just because I teach. (Nobody is an expert at coding/knows everything about coding).

What Skills do I Need?

Today’s employers want knowledge of relational databases (sql), some scripting abilities with common languages like JavaScript or PHP, and you’ll need to know some html and css. Some knowledge of online advertising is also preferred.

These are the core technologies of the internet, and as companies shift more focus to ecommerce and online marketing, they’ll need employees with basic skills. By knowing how to code, even at a modest skill level, you are telling an employer that you are trainable and that you can figure things out on your own.

Focus on Niche Skills

Try Googling how many programming languages there are, and you’ll quickly be overwhelmed. It’s so many that I don’t even know the answer, and maybe Google doesn’t know either (if that’s possible). But you only need to become proficient in one starting out. All coding languages are the same; the syntax is just different. It’s all Boolean logic, if then statements, and loops – thinking operations.

To get a job, become good at a niche language and framework such as Ruby on Rails, PHP and Laravel, or Python and Django. If you know one, employers will automatically know that you are a capable person and that you can quickly learn another if need be.

It’s better to be really good at one, niche thing that to be mediocre at a hodgepodge of several, related things. Employers respect people who are professionals in a specific field, and those are the people they want to hire.

Use Online Resources

Make use of the plethora of online teaching tools to get started. Code Academy is a great place to start. The w3c is a great resource for anything web related. You don’t have to attend college – you just need a tenacious drive to learn and the stubbornness to not give up.

Build Something

I’ve found that there is a huge gap between doing a tutorial online and being able to conceptualize and build something on your own. It’s a whole different ball game when you don’t have step-by-step instructions, and you’re trying to do new things for which there are no examples. You’ll have to push through a certain amount of frustration before you start to make headway – that’s just how it is. If it were easy, everyone would have a high paying tech job.

A Word on Relational Databases

Perhaps the most important skill, in my humble opinion, is knowing how to design relational databases – the data storage system almost all widely used web frameworks are built around. Learn how to create normalized databases using PostgresSQL or MySQL and understanding Standard Query Language (SQL) is the most important thing you’ll learn. Writing the syntax for specific languages is secondary to this.

All the well known entrepreneurs – Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Travis Kalanic (Uber) know the value of databases. That’s the core technology that allowed them to create the first versions of their products and be successful.