The demand for coders will rise by 19% in the next seven years, outstripping other sectors by more than double, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But new data suggests that tech skills aren’t the only way forward.
When LinkedIn conducted an analysis of its members in 2018, it found that in the U.S. soft skills were lacking in as many as 1.4 million professionals, compared to just 472,000 professionals lacking software development skills.
If you are one of the many data and computer science majors looking to join the 1.97 million-strong software development workforce in the country, here are five things you should consider to prepare for the work world:
Identify your career niche
If you’re thinking about coding, you’re most likely considering a job in tech. The jobs tech companies are hiring for today go far beyond their department names. If you want to work in marketing, identify which part of the marketing department you want to contribute to, such as lead generation, product marketing, content, ads, and so on. The same goes for engineering. Do you want to be a full-stack engineer? Do you truly understand what it means to be a full-stack engineer?
The best way to find out your niche is to try several out during an internship before you get your first full-time job. There’s always room to pivot your career from one job to the next, but it’s easy to get pigeonholed into one type of role if you stay for too long.
Another great way to sort out your future is through a mentor. Once you find someone you admire, approach them politely (and recognize they are doing you a favor). If they are open to guiding you, ask questions about the sales process, what it’s like tweaking a product once it hits the market, what they’ve done if an app was rejected from the App Store. You want to work with someone who understands where you are, has made mistakes, and has ultimately thrived.
Understand how businesses work
Most every business requires the same processes to run smoothly. For example, there is Lead to MQL which is the marketing process from potential buyer to likely buyer, Quote to Cash, simply the process of making the sale and collecting the money, and the Development Lifecycle which is the process developers follow to bring a project to life.
Understanding these processes will make you a much more enticing hire, and watching them in real time is the best way. Your college degree is a great foundation, but it’s also not the reality of what it’s like to complete a process from start to finish.
An internship is one way to gain this insight, but you can also take full projects to completion on your own. For example, if you come into an interview and show an app you built, that’s certainly a great indicator that you have some skills. But employers will also want to see that you took that process all the way. How did you put it in the App Store, monitor performance, and make changes once the product was on the market?
Learn a hub app
Technology has changed the way we work. The average enterprise used 1,427 distinct cloud services in 2016, according to data from McAfee. With so many apps, there has been a huge rise in the need for business systems professionals.
Behemoth apps like Salesforce, Workday, and NetSuite require dedicated employees to oversee them. Whether you eventually want to get a business systems job or just work in tech, it’s a huge selling point to understand how to use these applications. You can learn how for free through Salesforce’s Trailhead learning center or Workday’s Education Services.
Analytics is your best friend
Today analytics truly is the backbone for any and every job. Google and HubSpot offer a steady stream of courses and certifications that’ll help you stand out in the crowd and help you create apps that are more useful and marketable.
Google Analytics aside, if you haven’t already done so, take a statistics class. There are free courses on Coursera from universities like Duke, the University of Michigan, and more. It’s a core skill that can help you throughout your career.
Learn aptitude versus attitude
Having the right mindset is important. The startup/tech world moves fast and with it comes many changes. If you’re uncomfortable with a fast-paced environment or changing directions from week to week, then maybe this isn’t the right field for you.
If the idea of working on something for a week, then potentially throwing it all out the window next week to try something new horrifies you, try starting at a company with at least 300+ employees. They’ll have more defined workflows and plans will change less often.
Learn more than one skill
New technologies like AI will continuously shape the world around us, and engaging with these changes does require an understanding of coding if you want to look beneath the hood.
At the same time, we still need people to give things context. From design and data analysis to copywriting, it takes a combination of skills to deliver elegant AI to a customer, not just the coding itself. From delighting customers with intuitive design to boosting in-house efficiency by tackling something as fundamental as communication, history has shown that it takes a team of skilled workers to do something truly great. While many tech brands won’t get far without a good coder, it’s the wider team that will win them the race.
Bhaskar Roy heads growth at Workato, the leading intelligent integration and automation platform. He has over 20 years of experience building innovative products and bringing them to market. He was a cofounder of Qik, a mobile video company that was acquired by Skype/Microsoft, and Playphone, a mobile gaming platform acquired by GungHo Online Entertainment. Bhaskar also led product and marketing teams at companies like PlaceWare, Microsoft, and Oracle.