13 May 2016
As summer approaches, so does the end of term, and figuring out what to do with your future. Here's a guide for anyone seeking a tech career.

The Luminous guide to tech careers

Time to knuckle down 

It’s summertime, which means young people across the country are sitting their exams, and submitting their final bits of coursework. It’s also the time when thought turns to the future, and what they might do when all that hard work is out of the way.

We remember what it’s like to try to figure out what you’re going to do next, so we’d like to offer a helping hand to anyone (young or old) who’d like to start working in the tech sector. Like most career paths, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to get there. However, there are a few pointers to consider that can help you on your way to a tech career. They’ve certainly helped a few of us at some point!


Get industry experience 

As is becoming increasingly common, the tech sector is a lot easier to get into if you have relevant industry experience. That means saying ‘yes’ to internships and work experience placements – even if they’re unpaid.

An internship is a great way to proving to potential employers that you’re really keen on working for them. It shows you’ve used your initiative, and actively sought an opportunity that will make you more employable in a tech career. Even if your degree or course is a techie subject, there’s no comparison to industry experience. Especially if this is the first time you’ll be applying for a job in a professional environment.

Tech is a really wide field, so undertaking several internships or work experience placements can help you narrow down what you may want to specialise on. It’s also an excellent opportunity to network with influential, talented individuals. Impress them, and there’s every chance they’ll give you a glowing reference to help with your next career move. Really impress them, and they might even offer you a job.


Consider your social media presence 

While being active on social media is not essential for all tech careers, you will find it’s widely used by many in the sector.

It’s not just about sharing pictures of your food. Many people use social media – Twitter in particular – to share relevant news stories, and network and connect with any like-minded professionals. Bearing in mind that social media is a common tool among techies, it’s worth considering what a potential employer would see should they look you up.

If you’re not willing to eradicate the evidence of bad behaviour lingering on your Facebook page, set your profile to private just to be on the safe side.

That said, creating a social media dead-zone isn’t necessarily the right solution. Some employers will actively want to see you using Twitter, so keep it clean-ish, and share some content that shows off how interesting and intelligent you are. Retweets are fine, if you’re struggling.


Learn to code

Here’s a bit of tech 101: ‘code’ is the language that digital platforms like apps, websites, and computer programmes are written in.

There are many different types of code, each one used for different purposes. Which you learn should depend on what you want to do with it.

For example, HTML code is used to build static webpages, whereas Javascript is used for websites with more interactive features. Python is used across a variety of platforms, and is designed to be easier to read and more intuitive – many people choose to learn this one first for this reason. SQL (Structured Query Language) is a type of code designed especially to interact with databases.

Pretty much every area of tech will have its own preferred type of code, so speak to someone who works in the specific field you want to get into and they should be able to advise you. Once you’ve picked your code, head to Codecadamy, or follow the advice from LifeHacker.


Get to grips with open-source software 

Open-source software is software that can be modified and shared by anyone – the copyright holder has given permission for other people to collaborate on it.

There are several reasons why open-source software is a valuable asset to those seeking a tech career. Firstly, it’s always valuable to get hands-on, software editing experience. Then, when you get the hang of it, you can adjust and edit the software so it does exactly what you want it to.

Just as there are loads of different types of code, there are loads of different types of open-source software available. A quick search revealed open-source design software, email management, databases, file and print servers, and content management systems. Since open-source software is collaborative, there’s lots of support and training available online – perfect for beginners. Not only that, but it’s all free, too.


Never stop learning 

Tech is an industry that never stops changing, so there’s always more you can learn.

Obviously it’s hard to specialise if you’re not sure what field exactly you’d like to work in – and that’s totally OK. However, gaining just a little bit more tech knowledge under your own steam will really show employers that you’re serious about a tech career.

For starters, keep an eye out for relevant MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. These are free, online courses that provide an introduction to a topic – perfect if you’re a complete beginner. Check out the tech MOOCs on FutureLearn, covering topics like Big Data, the Internet of Things, coding, and data security.

As well as learning in the traditional sense, it’s amazing what you can pick up from experimenting with different aspects of tech. Try out different operating systems and browsers, and figure out what the key differences are between them. Download the apps that everyone is talking about, and consider what it is that makes them so popular.

Last but not least, keep an eye on what’s going on in tech news. Who’s launched a new product, what’s the latest Facebook feature, which big names are working together. Wired, TechCrunch, and Mashable are all great sources of interesting tech news.


Nice geeks finish first 

Speak to a handful of people who work in tech, and you’ll quickly realise that there are many paths into the industry. You’ll also realise that techies are a friendly bunch, and most would be more than happy to give you a few pointers on how to get ahead on your chosen career path.

Many universities and colleges usually have a careers advisor, so it’s always worth speaking to them to shed some light on the situation.

Do you want a tech career? Or are you a techie with some words of wisdom for students and graduates? We’d love to hear from you!

Tech career