Humble brag alert! We’ve been running some pretty amazing events recently (if we do say so ourselves). In time for London Tech Week, we teamed up with our mates at O2 Think Big (they fund young people to start social action projects) to bring you lot Think Big Digital Week, five whole days of careers events to get you excited and informed about jobs in the digital industry. On Future Friday we took a peek forward into the future, to try and figure out what tech jobs will actually look like in a few years time.
We had a play with some cutting edge tech including a drone, a floating speaker, and a kettle you control with your phone, had a workshop with the geniuses behind SAM Labs, and even created a time capsule to collect our future tech predictions.
With tech evolving and advancing at a ridiculously fast rate everyday, we wanted to find out how young people hoping to land careers in the tech industry could prepare, know what to expect and not get left behind before they’ve even started. So we grilled experts Oana Jinga, a Product Marketing Manager from Google, and Brian Joyce, a Senior Innovation Developer, and Jeremy Sherwin, a Customer Experience Dragon and Creative Director from The Lab at O2.
What’s so great about working in developing tech and future trends?
“I think it’s just being in the spotlight and part of big news that gets me going every day,” Oana told us. “It’s really inspiring that you can be part of something that’s bigger than yourself and can actually impact millions of lives, and be one of the first people that know about it and can influence the way something is built. I just think it’s super exciting!”
“I quite enjoy solving problems and doing that in an unusual way,” Brian told us. “Problems are being solved now that we never really knew were problems. There are all these new kind of issues that we thought were solved that we’re only just scratching the surface of, it’s fascinating.”
How can aspiring techies prepare for careers in a constantly changing industry?
1. Be sociable
“Back when I was learning to code, it was quite common for coders to sit in a room and not be that sociable,” Brian told us. “I would say that in the coding sphere that’s the thing that has probably changed the most. Even if you’re doing something that’s highly technical you have to be approachable. You have to be able to hold conversations with your colleagues, to empathise with them, and really try and understand the problem.
When you’re building or designing something for someone else, clarity is key, explained Brian. “As a coder the next thing you have to do is turn that conversation and that idea into hard facts. As soon as you can put someone’s conversation or that idea into a working protocol, the happier you’re all gonna be.”
“The soft skills as a coder are important,” emphasised Brian. “The technical skills are really important, writing excellent code is of paramount importance, but you have to have both sides of the coin these days.”
2. Be curious
“What I see as essential is being very, very curious,” said Oana. “Constantly be curious about technology and what’s coming up. Have a look at Mashable to see what’s out there and what people are working on, so you know what’s happening in the industry.”
“Also be curious about what people want. Try and find a real problem that you can solve with technology, rather than locking yourself in a room to create something and finding out there’s 100 of the same thing already out there. Just constantly be curious about specialties and what’s happening around you,” she said.
3. Learn the basics
“Try and get skills from very different areas,” recommended Oana. “Being able to bring skills together from different areas is really helpful. If you don’t have the time to go in depth into one specialist area, then try a little bit of everything.”
“These days there are so many online courses that are free,” said Brian. “It depends what you want to do. If you want to create an app, you can just do that on drag and drop these days, you don’t have to code.”
“Coding doesn’t take Applied Maths or a BSc in Engineering or anything, it just takes a little bit of persistence. Start with a language that you enjoy and that has a community with great people around it to support you.”
Give it “two weeks and you’ll have the basics,” he suggested.
4. Fail a lot (and get feedback)
“Don’t be afraid of failure, because if you’re not failing, you’re doing something wrong,” said Brian. “If you’ve got something that is correct all the time, you’re not being ambitious enough with it.”
“It’s actually what could have gone better that’s more important” than what went well, Jeremy told us. No matter how much you love it, “your first idea is not your best idea.”
“Get feedback on what you do,” suggested Oana. “Don’t be afraid to investigate and ask people ‘why do you think it’s bad?’ or ‘what would you do different?’ And just improve like that.”
5. Be adaptable
Oana revealed that Google’s interview process goes pretty in-depth because they’re trying to test how adaptable you can be as an employee. She told us they want someone who is flexible and “just easily able to move around and adapt to different situations.”
“If you’re constantly open to learning and trying new techniques, that’s a really good way of learning because your education never stops,” said Jeremy. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone past a week without trying to learn something new, because if you do, time moves so fast that you’re left behind.”
6. Go out there and wow people!
“When people come to us at O2 with stuff that they’ve built or made, it shows intent, it shows that they’re really interested,” said Bryan on applying for jobs at O2. “If you’re going for a creative, digital job you might not be the best digital designer in the world, but it shows that you’re willing to step up to the plate and get involved.”
“Get your hands dirty,” Oana agreed. “Apply for anything that you can get your hands on, internships, work experience, whatever you can. Just try and get there as early as possible because you’re gonna learn so much.”
Hmmm, I wonder where you could apply for things like that. Oh yeah! Right here. We’ve got apprenticeships with O2, graduate technology roles with Capgemini and software development work experience with Sky and up for grabs right now, so take Oana’s advice and start applying pronto!
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