Introduction to Careers in Tech
Almost everyone today has an Android or an Apple device. We spend countless hours each week on apps like Youtube, Instagram, Amazon, Banking Apps and many more websites as part of our daily routine.
Just take a second to remind yourself, that our smartphone didn’t exist 10 years ago; we couldn’t order a taxi through Uber, message our friend on WhatsApp or like our friends’ pictures on Instagram.
Technology is embedded in the foundation of our society and our everyday lives. In the last 10 years alone, millions of jobs were created by our smartphones to build the ecosystem of applications that exist today.
With 4.4 billion internet users worldwide - that’s approximately 58% of the population - it’s no surprise that tech is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, showing no signs of slowing down. Companies and startups have been looking to keep up with technological advances for some time now, but 2020 has undoubtedly accelerated the process.
This means that the demand for talented professionals with a strong knowledge of digital skills such as design, software engineering, data science, cybersecurity, data analytics and technology sales is now at an all-time high. Whether you’re looking to hone your current skills or are completely new to the tech industry, one thing is for sure: a career in tech is an investment.
When making a decision as important as picking a career, you have to be clear about what you want and - more importantly - Why you want it. What is it about the tech industry that you’re passionate about? Is it about being creative? Using analytical skills? Helping people? All of the above?
Therefore making the decision around which career path is extremely important.
In this section, we outline various career paths, what these roles entail and how much you can earn.
What Is Software Engineering?
Software engineering is the application of engineering concepts for software development. In plain English, Software Engineers build applications that users use on their mobile phones or websites. Building applications is not an easy process and there are many roles within Software Engineering that are responsible for building features that users see and features that users don’t see that process logic on the server.
What Do Software Engineers Do?
On a day-to-day basis, software engineers ensure applications run smoothly, fix bugs and build new features. Software engineers write software for a variety of technologies, from smart home devices to virtual assistants to applications on our smartphones, depending on their job.
The full scope of a software engineer’s work varies depending on the company and the size of its development team, but tasks can be as large as architecting, developing, and maintaining an entire product, or as small as simply helping to build out a single feature of an application. Often, software engineers work with other developers, clients, and stakeholders to fulfil the business goals for their products.
Whatever the role, a software engineer uses programming languages to write and maintain code to deliver on business value.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The job outlook for software engineering is strong. Experts predict more software engineers will be needed to respond to an increased demand for software. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of software engineers is projected to grow 21 percent by 2028, which is “much faster than average.”
Software engineers also earn high salaries. According to ZipRecruiter, most positions offer annual salaries between $79,000 and $115,000. And the national average salary for software engineers is almost $98,500 per year.
The exact amount you can expect to earn as a software engineer varies between companies and locations. Software engineers at companies with large engineering needs like Google or IBM command higher salaries than those who work at startups. Location is a significant factor, as well. For instance, the average software engineer in Lagos, Nigeria can expect to earn almost $50,000 per year, while the same engineer could earn over $115,000 annually in San Francisco, United State.
The amount you earn also depends on your experience. As an experienced Senior Software Engineer, you can expect to earn a salary of almost $119,000, according to ZipRecruiter. Remember, this does not include employee perks, benefits, or stock options. Be sure to take that into account when evaluating a job offer.
Essential Software Engineering Skills
Below you can find a list of skills that are common for software engineers to have.
With that said, do not get intimidated if these sound foreign to you.
That’s the easiest path and helps you learn technologies that help you build a website.
In fact, every website on the internet uses these technologies.
Many of the technologies below are complementary so you may only need to learn a single programing language in order to become a software engineer.
The mistake most beginners make is by picking a language that sounds popular or that they may have seen on a job description.
However, what they may not realize is that all of the programming languages are designed with the same concepts in mind.
These concepts are called Loops, Variables, If statements, objects and arrays.
These concepts unite all languages and once you learn one programing language, learning the others will be a matter of just learning the syntax.
This means that as a beginner, you should focus on starting to learn a language that’s easier to learn rather than the language that you think you’ll need to know for you to get a job.
Below you will find some of the software engineering skills that you’ll be required to have such as knowledge of a programming language, development processes, and other technical concepts.
- Software Testing and Debugging. After writing some code, you’ll need to test it and make sure it functions as intended. You’ll need to know how to write tests to ensure your code is functional. You’ll also need to know how to find and fix bugs in your code - a key part of any software engineering role.
- Object-Oriented Design. Object-oriented design has become increasingly popular over the last few years. It’s a method of design that involves planning a system of interacting objects to solve a software problem. You should have an awareness of how object-oriented design works and an understanding of the core concepts of this development technique: abstraction, inheritance, and encapsulation.
- Data Structures and Algorithms. You should have a solid understanding of basic algorithms. You should also understand various data storage formats and how applications process data.
- Web Services and APIs. As a software engineer, you may be building tools that interact with web-based services, tools, and databases. As a result, you’ll need to know the basics of working with web technologies and using APIs to retrieve and amend data.
Software engineers need more than just technical skills to be successful - you’ll need a set of “soft” skills as well. The top soft skills you can expect to use on the job include:
- Teamwork. You’re going to have to work as part of a team as a software engineer. You should be able to work effectively with others, be willing to support them when they are struggling, and know how to thrive in collaborative environments.
- Attention to Detail. Attention to detail is paramount for software engineers. After all, one misplaced character could prevent a program from running or operating correctly. You should be able to zoom in, pay close attention to the details, and think about the impacts of each change you implement on a project, no matter how small it may seem.
- Problem Solving. To succeed in any programming role, you must be a skilled problem solver. You should be able to break problems down into smaller components and think critically to come up with an efficient solution to that problem. Indeed, software engineering is all about solving problems through code.
Is Software Engineering Right for You?
While anyone can learn software engineering, you’ll certainly be at an advantage if you have a:
- Logical mindset
- Knack for troubleshooting and solving puzzles
- Ability to work well on a team
- Desire to continually learn
- Passion for technology
This list is far from exhaustive; there are many qualities that make a successful software engineer. Although you don’t need to possess all of these qualities, it doesn’t hurt to work on having as many as possible. As long as you’re dedicated, most of them can be learned and developed quickly.
What is UX/UI Design?
UX (User Experience) design and UI (User Interface) design are two fields related to how users experience products. UX/UI designers employ experience design, visual design, usability testing, and psychology to craft products that are easy to use and navigate. UX designers accomplish this by thinking about the potential challenges customers may face with their products and they are tasked with simplifying the user’s experience.
UI designers, on the other hand, create the overall visual design of a product. They choose the colors used for a site and make sure the font is readable for as many people as possible. They will also consider accessibility features for a product, and the overall style each element will use.
UX and UI designers often work hand-in-hand to create the entire user interface for a product. In smaller teams, these two roles can be taken on by the same person as a UX/UI designer.
What Do UX/UI Designers Do?
UX/UI designers are responsible for turning ideas into web or app designs that meet certain specifications. After they complete a design, they pass it onto the development team, who will turn the design into a functioning application.
A good example is an experience of using a shopping cart at a site like Amazon. A UX designer has to understand what is the goal of the user. Then they have to construct the screens and the least number of clicks that take the user from a product page to entering the required address/payment information and eventually buying a product.
The role of the UX/UI designer is important because they are responsible to think from the users perspective and create experiences that make users enjoy using apps.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the job outlook for UX/UI designers. That said, they predict that the number of jobs in web development — including web design — will increase by 13 percent over the next decade. This is “much faster than average,” according to the Bureau.
The average salary for a UX/UI designer, according to ZipRecruiter, is almost $90,000 per year. Some jobs for more experienced designers offer salaries of up to $154,000.
There’s no way to determine exactly what salary you can expect because many factors influence the salaries that companies offer. One of these main factors is location. The average UX/UI designer in San Francisco can earn an average of over $105,000 per year, whereas the average designer in Lagos, Nigeria can expect to earn less per year.
The amount you earn also depends on the type of designer you want to be. UX designers, for example, can expect to earn an average of almost $98,000, whereas UI designers can expect to earn an average of around $90,000 each year. Further, your salary will depend on your experience: the more experience you have, the higher your salary likely will be.
Some UX/UI designers choose to work as freelancers rather than working in an office. These engagements can pay hundreds of dollars per hour if you have a lot of experience, but most starters with only some experience charge around $50 per hour of work.
UX/UI designers ensure that sites are easy to use and navigate. They also work with other members of an organization to come up with designs that meet product specifications. For example, a UX designer may work with the customer success department to find out what problems customers are commonly reporting in order to help inform new designs.
Is UX/UI Design Right for You?
Anyone can learn design; however, having certain qualities may mean that you will find greater success and more joy in a design career. Here are a few qualities many UX/UI designers possess:
- A love or knack for visual design
- An interest in how other people think
- passion for arts and creative work
- Empathy, humility and a willingness to learn and grow
- A flair for presenting and selling
- A passion for technology
While you don’t need all these qualities to enjoy a career in design, making sure you work on as many o these characteristics will ensure an exciting career ahead.
Skills Required for UX/UI Design
The following skills are required in most design jobs. These skills include design techniques, processes, and other technologies.
- Wireframing and Prototyping
Wireframes and prototypes allow designers to communicate and test their ideas. UX/UI designers should be able to create low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes to showcase their ideas.
- User Research
UX/UI designers should be able to conduct user research to find out what customers are looking for in a particular interface. This research may be conducted through surveys, heatmap research, and other techniques.
- Implementation with Developers
UX/UI designers do not stop after a design has been completed. A UX/UI designer should be able to work with the development team to help them implement the design. During this process, the designer may walk other stakeholders through their designs, justify their decisions, and ensure the development team has all the information they need.
- Interactivity and Animation
UI designers should be able to create interactive designs which meet user needs. They should also be able to use animation to make designs more aesthetically pleasing for the user. This is important because design is becoming a competitive advantage — the better a design, the more likely a user is to look at a website.
Technical skills are not the only skills you need to succeed as a UX/UI designer. You also need to have a set of “soft” skills. These include:
- Problem Solving
One of the most important skills UX/UI designers need is the ability to break problems down into smaller components to solve them. UI designers often have to create a design from scratch, which will involve a lot of problem solving; UX designers need to be able to analyze user problems and come up with ways to solve them.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they are feeling. As a designer, you need to be able to empathize with your target customer and get to know what they need. This allows you to develop designs which meet the exact needs of users and solve any problems users may experience.
Designers need to keep up with the latest trends. As a UX/UI designer, you need to stay on top of design trends and determine how you can implement them in your designs. You may also have to adapt to new requirements if a strategic product decision is made.
What Is a Data Scientist?
Data scientists work with data to solve problems. They use statistics, algorithms, and machine learning to create insights from data sets. While some data scientists work in traditional academic settings, this data science job title takes place in a business setting.
Data scientists will use all of the information an application, website, or any other source has generated to help an organization understand its users, improve its services, or draw other conclusions.
Data scientists use statistical analysis, mathematics, and machine learning techniques to analyze sets of data and derive insights.
What Does a Data Scientist Do?
Data scientists are responsible for collecting and analyzing data that a user, the application or the system produces. What this means is if a user leaves reviews and ratings after watching a Netflix movie, a Data Scientist is able to aggregate ratings from all the users and then feed it into an algorithm that creates relevant recommendations.
In this example, a data scientist is able to use inputs from users which are reviews and make predictions what other movies that user is likely to enjoy.
Therefore, data scientists develop custom algorithms and build models to produce valuable insights from trends in this data. Data scientists use these insights problem solve.
For example, a data scientist could use information about user preferences to recommend products to users on an e-commerce site. Data scientists could also take user interaction data from an app to find ways to make the app’s UX more user friendly.
Data scientists do more than just analyzing data. They have to derive insights from datasets and present these findings to other departments.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The job outlook for data scientists is strong, as experts expect more companies to hire people to inform their business decisions with data. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in data science are expected to increase by 16 percent by 2028, which is much faster than average.
Data scientists earn high salaries. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a data scientist is over $108,971. Entry-level data scientists usually earn over $95,195, and more experienced data scientists can earn salaries of up to $185,500.
The exact salary you can expect to earn depends on the company you work for and where you live. For example, the average salary for a data scientist in San Francisco, United State is over $138,000 per year, whereas the same data scientist would earn less in Lagos, Nigeria.
Further, your salary depends on the experience you have in data science. When you’re getting started, you can expect to earn around $69,000. And as you get more experience, you’ll be able to unlock higher salaries. It’s important to note that these figures do not include stock options or other perks such as private health insurance.
Some data scientists, rather than working in an office, work as independent consultants. There are many consulting opportunities available for data scientists, especially at larger companies. These types of jobs can pay thousands for only a few hours of work, which can make this a lucrative career path.
Is Data Science Right for Me?
While data science is an attractive career field, like many STEM fields it isn’t for everyone. If the following traits apply to you, then a job as a data scientist could be a great fit:
- An analytical nature
- A love for math or statistics
- A desire to learn continually
- A knack for explaining complex things simply
- A passion for computers or technology
Required Skills for Data Science
There are several technical skills you need to become a successful data scientist. These skills include programming languages, data analysis techniques, and other technical concepts you need to know.
- Ability to Prepare Data
As a data scientist, you’ll likely encounter cluttered datasets. You’ll need to know how to prepare data for analysis in order to effectively problem solve. This involves sourcing, arranging, processing, modeling, synthesizing, and amending data into a readable format. You also have to use data mining to find the right solutions. Data scientists often have to read and interpret big data as well — large data sets which could hold deep insights into a particular problem.
- Basic Statistics
Data scientists need to have a good understanding of the fundamentals of statistics and statistical analysis. This involves knowing about distributions, probabilities, A/B statistical testing, and other statistical concepts. This allows data scientists to analyze datasets and identify relationships between data in a dataset.
- Data Wrangling/Munging
Often, data scientists receive datasets in formats they do not expect. In this case, you need to know how to process that data in a way your programs and systems can read. This includes responding to inconsistent formatting, missing values, and other problems in a dataset. You may also have to format big data sets, which are large in nature and require algorithms to sort through.
- Data Visualization
Whether you’re a junior data scientist or a senior data engineer, you must know how to visualize data. This skill is particularly important because you need to present your findings to other members of an organization who would rather see a graph than a dataset. You must be able to generate a functional visualization based on the information in a particular dataset and use tools such as d3.js and Tableau to do so.
- Programming Languages
While data scientists don’t code as much as software developers, using code to build algorithms is an important part of the job. While some companies will have specific languages they expect you to know, here are some of the most common:
- Python - Python is the go-to language for machine learning and a star of data science. While it’s far from the only language used in data science, it is common.
- R - R is nearly as popular as Python for handling and displaying data, but while Python has other uses, R is designed almost exclusively for this task.
- SQL - Structured Query Language (SQL) is less of a programming language and more of a series of commands used to handle the storage and manipulation of vast amounts of data.
- Java - While Python and R tend to be the favorites among data scientists, Java is also popular because of its age and quality libraries. Beyond this, much of the most-used data science software is written in Java.
To be a successful data scientist, you need more than just technical skills. You need to have a strong set of interpersonal (“soft”) skills. Here are a few of the soft skills you can expect to use in your job.
- Communication. As a data scientist, you must communicate with other data scientists to share your findings. You also need to work with other departments to help them solve their data problems. For example, the marketing department may ask you to analyze data from a campaign. Or the development team may ask you to figure out why people are having trouble using a certain webpage.
- Business Mindset. Data science is all about solving problems using data. Thus, you have to know how to process business problems and use that information to help you craft programs to accomplish certain goals. You should be able to approach problems as if you were an executive and present your findings in a way non-technical people will understand.
- Critical Thinking. Data scientists should be able to use critical thinking skills to evaluate data and find insights in large datasets. You have to think about how to design a solution to a complex problem and think about those problems from different angles.
What Is an Information Security Analyst?
Information security analysts are a type of cybersecurity role responsible for protecting networks and systems from data breaches. These analysts work at companies to protect data and document potential and active threats to networks.
What Does an Information Security Analyst Do?
Information security analysts are also responsible for testing systems to identify any areas of improvement for their security protocols.
Whereas a cybersecurity engineer may be involved with programming solutions, information security analysts are often involved with identifying potential problems and coordinating a response with the rest of a security team.
Ultimately, security analysts aim to protect a company’s data from unauthorized access, which includes both online and onsite infrastructure.
Security analysts also generate reports for IT administrators and other employees to evaluate whether existing policies are properly protecting an organization.
The responsibilities of an information security analyst vary among organizations, but there are a few common responsibilities you can expect:
- Monitoring security access
- Performing security audits on organization infrastructure
- Analyzing security breaches to identify the cause
- Writing and updating an organization’s disaster recovery plans
- Verifying the security of third-party software and working with them to meet security standards
Security analysts can find jobs in organizations of all sizes, but many of the better roles in the field are available in healthcare, finance, and other industries with strict data regulations.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
Information security analysts have a strong job outlook, as experts predict the demand for people who can safeguard digital infrastructure will grow.
Information security analysts can earn high salaries. According to ZipRecruiter, average salaries fall between $76,000 per year and $119,000 per year. The overall average salary for information security analysts is almost $100,000 per year.
It’s difficult to know exactly what salary you can expect because salaries vary between employers and locations.
Information security analysts in Chicago earn an average of around $102,000 per year, whereas the same analyst would earn over $117,000 in San Francisco. This difference shows how much location can influence your salary.
In addition, information security analyst salaries will depend on your experience. Senior information security analysts can earn, on average, almost $115,000 per year. Keep in mind this does not include employee perks or stock options, which may influence how much you earn each year.
Some information security analysts work as freelancers rather than operating in traditional offices. This work is typically reserved for information security analysts with extensive industry experience, however.
Required Skills for Information Security
There are a couple of essential skills you need to succeed as an information security analyst. These skills include technical processes, programming languages, and other abilities.
- Penetration Testing
Penetration testing is the process of identifying potential threats so that an organization can protect itself from attackers. To do this you need to conduct a penetration test on networks, computers, applications, and other systems to identify potential vulnerabilities which need to be fixed.
- Intrusion Prevention
As an information security analyst, you must be able to monitor network traffic to detect potential attacks and act as soon as a threat is detected to ensure systems are safe.
- Computer Forensics
Computer forensics is the process of preventing a potential attack by analyzing data and security policies. You should be able to analyze potential vulnerabilities in a system and resolve those problems. You also need to conduct forensics in the case of a breach to determine how an attacker compromised a system.
- Incident Response
You should be able to coordinate your team in the case of an attack to ensure a company’s data or systems are not compromised. This will involve responding to any potential attacks, ensuring a system is not breached, and implementing plans to respond to any incident.
- Cybersecurity Planning
Cyberattacks can happen to any company, even if they have qualified analysts who actively protect the company’s networks. Information security analysts must effectively plan for future incidents, and create workflows to ensure an organization can respond to any threat.
To be a successful information security analyst, you need to have more than just technical skills. You need to have a set of “soft” skills - interpersonal skills - to be a great information security analyst. Here are some that are especially helpful:
- Problem Solving
Cybersecurity is all about solving problems. When you identify a potential vulnerability in a system, you must come up with a solution to the problem quickly and effectively to prevent an attack. Furthermore, you should be able to think critically to solve problems.
- Attention to Detail
Prospective attackers will look for any small opening to compromise a system. As a result, you need to pay attention to every detail as an information security analyst. You should pay attention to every detail of an organization’s networks and be diligent when making changes to any policies or code.
- Research Skills
As an information security analyst, you have to be good at finding information. You need to research new vulnerabilities and figure out whether your company is vulnerable to those problems. You should also be able to conduct extensive research to inform cybersecurity policies.