I talked to some students at University of Ulster last week about life in the IT industry. To be honest it got me thinking about whether or not this was a good industry to work in or not… here’s a summary of what I said:
Working in the ICT sector is a great career choice for a few reasons:
- Its exciting and gives you the ability to be right at the cutting edge of changing how people’s behaviour, and subsequently their lives can change.
- There are real employment prospects and that’s unlikely to change soon.
- There are literally no limits to what you can achieve. If you want to create a global phenomenon from your dorm room you can… you don’t even need to be that charismatic!
- Your skills are transferable to any country and any technology. This is useful because the technology you may end up making a living from probably doesn’t exist yet.
For me, the future of the web is ‘probably’:
- Mobile – we’ve just passed the point where there are more mobile phones than people on the planet. All that kit needs content and technology to keep it fun.
- Social – facebook and twitter are not fads but there is plenty of room for the ‘next big thing’. Social networking phenomena have shown time and again that the can scale globally in next to no time so this continues to be an exciting space to be in.
- 3D – admittedly I know very little about this but it stands to sense, just from acquisitions and investment in the technology that this will be big… presumably after the bandwidth issues get sorted out.
- Open – the days of proprietary software are ‘probably’ over. All the big global brands focus more on eyeballs and revenue rather than protecting their IP so as a career move, open source looks like a good horse to back.
So if you are a graduate or someone who expects to get a job in IT in the next few years, how do you go about it?:
- Be seen – get a blog and consider this a better alternative to your CV. Promote your work on there and on industry forums and sites so that people will get to know you or be able to find out about your work and you with a quick search.
- Be clean – just remember what goes on tour ends up on facebook and employers look at it. While someone like me won’t care and may even use it as a reason for entertainment at interview, other employers could take a dim view of you running around in your underpants on the internet!
- Be open – you will not end up as a digital animator straight out of school. Take a job that will lead to a better one and work hard as hell to get the next better role.
- Be free – don’t rule out that dream job just because you have to do it for free for a couple of months.
- Be flexible – your first, second or third jobs may not be close to where you want to live. You’ve entered a truly global economy… use it.
Bottom line for me is that ICT, whatever its form, is a great place to work. Where else can you get the opportunity to develop products that be sold internationally minutes after you’ve built them or where your company can grow astronomically and you can grow with it if you’ve got the strength to keep up?
If you’ve got a start-up these days there’s a better than average chance that you’ll need to hire a software developers and more than likely, a small army of them. Hiring great software developers can really make your business scale, can be an inspiration to work with and let crazy entrepreneurial ideas become realities that generate revenue. Hiring bad developers is probably the biggest mistake you can make and will, quite literally, cost you a fortune. Here are some features that I look out for in software developers (in no particular order):
- Discipline and focus – developers need to be able to stay calm and get through their workload in the midst of a bit of start-up chaos and a hectic atmosphere. My advice is to get yourself developers that are more interested in writing code than in participating in the start-up ‘debate’.
- Understanding of the business and what its trying to achieve is absolutely key. If you’ve got developers who understand where the business is going and where they fit into how you’re going to get there keep them
- Great developers can think like a user and design products that people will actually be able to use. Thought through to its logical conclusion, this will massively help sales (people buy shiny stuff), reduce customer support (if people can work it out they won’t need to call you except to buy more stuff) and create ‘customer delight’… which is what all start-ups are after
- Great communicators – developers have a reputation for being ‘brilliant but weird’. In my experience this is a good description of bad developers. Great developers have the ability to talk to your sales team, your support team, your customers (radical I know) in a way that is constructive, professional and effective
- They’ve got to be a team player – this one is sort of essential for everyone you employ but developers sometimes get away with being mavericks. Hiring developers that can’t work in the team is pretty much always a mistake. We’re all in this together after all
- Attention to detail is an absolutely fundamental trait and you need to figure out a way of finding this trait at hiring time. I’ll write another blog about this later but as a general rule, get them to fix some code, or write some code and find the mistakes
- Developers should be geeky… but in a controllable way! Excessive geeks are distracting, confusing, ineffective and a bit too weird for my liking. Good geeks love the technology, are curious as hell but know where all of this fits
- Mark who runs the software team at Learning Pool looks for a bit of a competitive edge in his team. This one can be a bit hard to control but in general, he’s right (about most things!) and having a team that are keen to show that they’ve done something better, more efficiently or nicer than its been done before is a great thing. Just stop it before they start punching each other to decide who’s hardest!
- Developers need to be reliable, as in, they need to come in every day and stay until the job is finished or the release is live as well as being low maintenance. The days of 30 page specification documents, flowcharts and test scripts are over. Great developers are tuned into what the customer needs and can produce
- Developers need to love problems. Most people hate problems but developers need to be the contradiction. The lions share of a developer’s time is spent fixing stuff and they don’t get to go to the back of the book to see the model answer (which is what I did when I was ‘learning’ Java!). Great developers also get job satisfaction about fixing something that’s broken or doing something that can’t be done.