If you’re one of the many thousands of students who, during the next few weeks, will be tossing your mortarboards into the air to celebrate graduation, you might also be wondering… what’s next?!
You’ve worked hard (possibly partied harder) for the last three-plus years and although, for some, it feels like the world is your oyster, for others the thought of entering the world of work is an intimidating unknown.
Luckily the tech industry has grown at an exponential rate over the past decade and jobs are well-paid and plentiful – even if, as many assume is essential, you don’t have a degree in computer science.
So for the future coders and content makers, the project managers and entrepreneurs, here’s some of the best advice from six people that not only know their stuff when it comes to skills and careers in tech – but they want you on their team too.
Tech agencies can offer a breadth of experience across different businesses and projects so are a great option if you’re seeking variety with the additional support of experienced professionals around you.
Of course, agencies can differ hugely – we work with and invest in early-stage startups and regularly work on ‘tech for good’ projects, whereas other agencies may have more corporate clients with longer-term projects that can span years, allowing you to deep-dive into technical problem-solving.
Think about what type of company you want to work for
Beccy Kedward, our COO, is key to both hiring and growing our team. She says: “Someone who has energy and is passionate about what they do is someone who’s often great to work with for both our Simpleweb team and our clients.
“Being nervous can sometimes squash how passion comes across in an interview. Try not to be nervous, we are just regular humans at the end of the day and we just want to get to know you better.
“That said, when applying for jobs, don’t just think about the tech. Think about what type of company you want to work for. For example, how big would you like that company to be? What are the company’s values or cultural statements?
“If what’s important to you aligns with a company, then working there, doing a great job and progressing personally will be a lot easier.”
Working for tech startups can be fast-paced and exciting, giving you an opportunity to learn quickly, find work that lines up closely with your interests and values and take part in levels of decision-making you might not be able to access in larger more corporate businesses. However, if you’re seeking predictability, high-levels of security and structure in your first tech job, the startup life might not be for you.
The technical skills are less important
Gareth Williams is the founder of YellowDog. Despite starting out as a modest one-man band, Gareth’s ambition was to harness the spare processing power on people’s everyday computers to give companies access to limitless compute power.
Yellowdog is now an award-winning company with a growing team and Gareth has this (somewhat surprising) advice for graduates wanting to get their first job in a tech startup.
He says: “The technical skills are less important. What is more important is demonstrable evidence of competency around collaboration, problem solving, customer focus and the ability to work under pressure.
“I would also advise to not join an early-stage startup! You’ll learn more and have a more rounded experience (which will put you in a better place later in your career) if you join a quality corporate with a structured graduate training programme. Look for those that appear in the ‘Best Place to Work’ lists.”
Of course, if you don’t want to work for a company, there’s always the option to set one up yourself.
Kim Brookes runs the Launch Space Centre for Graduate Entrepreneurship, a programme designed to accelerate the most innovative high-tech graduate businesses.
It’s not just about what you know, but who you are
She says: “The skills you’ll need to create your own job include creativity in finding an innovative angle, resilience in getting over hurdles, an open mind to flaws in your business model, a positive attitude, good communication skills, and leadership as you build your team.
“Personal skills are really important – it’s not just about what you know, but who you are.”
The code school
Anyone with a strong desire to kick-start a career as a developer need not fear if they’ve never done it before. With free online resources and intense bootcamp courses available from Bristol to Bali, there’s always the option to ditch the Law degree and learn to code instead.
Pete New is the co-founder of DevelopMe, Bristol’s first coding-bootcamp school which gets tech newbies to the level of a junior developer in just 12 weeks and then lines them up for interviews with tech companies looking to recruit.
I’d recommend getting involved in [your] local tech community
He tells us: “A genuine interest and enthusiasm for technology and the industry will get you surprisingly far. On top of that, real-world practical skills are usually required. Even if these are purely gained from university or personal projects and learning resources, employers will usually want to see proof of some tangible skills.
“If you’re looking to become a web or software developer then find out what languages, frameworks and tools are being used by the industry and spend some time specifically learning those and using them on personal projects.
“I’d also recommend getting involved in the local tech community. There are tech events and meetups every night of the week, you’ll learn a lot about the industry and you never know who you might meet. If you’re lucky enough to be in Bristol, the community is incredibly friendly, supportive and welcoming. We encourage our students to attend as many events as they can and regularly hear stories of our students and graduates getting jobs directly from meeting people at meetups, hack nights and conferences. Check out the full list of tech meetups in Bristol.
“Other than that, just be inquisitive, keep learning, create things and don’t be afraid to approach businesses you want to work for directly.”
Getting a recruitment agency involved isn’t for everyone. But the right advisor can help you to figure out where you want to go in your career and, particularly if you’re shy or lacking in confidence, can get your name and CV out there to a good number of tech companies seeking graduates.
Mia Impey specialises in diversity and inclusion at tech recruitment firm Adlib. When it comes to recruiting for developer roles, she and her colleague George Cumberlidge know their stuff.
An open mind and willingness to learn new technologies is essential
“The biggest piece of advice we would give is to be flexible… on salary, technologies, location and product. Of course, you can be particular to a degree subject but getting into the industry is the hardest part. Once you are in it’s a lot easier to know what interests you most and paint an idea of what you would like to aim for. There’s so much to technology stacks and innovating digital products that don’t get taught in universities, the modern style of building technology products are continually developing.
“Our next bit of advice would be to show your commitment and passion – build your own website, create a profile on Github and build your repositories to show your ability when applying for jobs, show that you give back to the community on things like Stack Overflow, follow market trends and building your digital presence on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn etc.”
Big thanks to Becs, Gareth, Kim, Pete, Mia and George for taking the time to provide us with this top-notch advice, give them a follow on Twitter: @BekkiK, @YellowDog, @uwelaunchspace, @develop_me_uk, @MiaImpeyAdlib, @Adlibtechteam
If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.