Planning a career move in Tech

Lindsay Jopson
Oct 1, 2019 · 8 min read
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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

This all began as a Career Planning in a flash talk I did at a meetup evening after a speaker for an event I was organizing pulled out on the same day the event was organized to run.

I decided I would crowdsource the content of the slides from everyone I had around me in the office at the time. Engineers, designers, product managers, head of product were all asked a simple question.

“If you could give one piece of advice to people considering entering or considering a move in tech, what would you say?”

The results of which have been assembled in this article as well as guidelines and suggestions on how you can stand out in such a competitive industry based on my years of a hiring manager and the ‘quick-witted’ responses of my co-workers.

The longer you are in the technology industry the more you will get to know the recruiters. ‘Recruiters being evil’ is driven off the fact that I have dealt with recruiters from both ends of the spectrum, to which I will explain.

Many years ago I was at a stage where I had about 3 years of industry experience and was considering what my next move was. I had no idea of the options that were available to me and had signed up at a bunch of recruitment agencies that promised the world. I eventually went to a meeting that stood out from all the rest. I was at a crossroads of what I would call ‘Agency’ and ‘Product’. I worked at a design agency and I had a growing curiosity about what it meant to work in ‘Product’.

The recruitment agency sat me down, went over to a whiteboard and drew something that resembled the following.

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An illustration drawn from memory. With fewer arrows…

As a result of this, they told me to go away, consider what I really wanted to do and then they will place me.

There was no initial offer, no “we have a client” chat, it was all about me. As it turns out they never placed me, nor did any recruiter for that matter. However, that interaction has had a profound impact on my career and a constant reminder to ‘consider your moves’. I never did reach out an thank them, so as a small shout… thanks, Potentia.

Alternatively to this, you can have the ‘hunter’. These are the recruitment equivalent of a pop-up ad. Seemingly coming out of nowhere offering you “the perfect job”. Much like a pop-up ad, I advise precaution with this interaction.

“Your first job is not going to be your dream job” — Ryan

This is about setting the reality of the situation. This isn’t to say you will hate it, or should do something you don’t wish to do. But its about setting the expectation. A career is that of a journey, I can for sure say, what I am doing now, was not what I trained to do at university. There are some overlaps, but first I was unaware of the options in the industry and further to this, new jobs appear regularly in tech which has never existed before. In a rapidly changing industry, we must be careful to tie ourselves to ‘titles’.

Set yourself up to be poached.

In such a competitive industry like tech, it is possible to ‘apply’ for jobs without technically applying. Relationships play a huge part in your employability. The more you are involved in the industry the more relationships you will form. Some may be unconscious. Some simple avenues I would deem easy to “set yourself up with” would be the following.

Have an account. Build side projects playing with things your curious about & emerging technologies. I once learned a lot about someone who on paper were not well presented to which I looked at their Github account to find the work that got her the interview and offer.

For this, I advise somewhat caution. If your twitter is full of trolling opinions, this may not play to your employability, but if they give a window into ‘you’ then work to contribute to this. LinkedIn is becoming the ‘business social network’ so creating an account and ‘liking’ / commenting on posts that align with you is a great way to enable people to form a picture of “who you are”.

For this, I simply suggest you write about stuff. This is essentially an extension of the previous however enables a little more depth and technical opportunity to explore and dive into the content you truly care about. This forms a deeper understanding of you then a snippet spotted on twitter.

Meetup.com has a tonne of meetups likely in your area. Any opportunity to meet people interested in what you do, to form relationships and share what you care about is always good. You never know when they will drop your name at the right time. Also, people are awesome, and we should always try to form relationships where at all possible.

“Don’t invest in crypto. Don’t follow the hype. Focus on the fundamentals” — Jacky.

This is one of my favourites. While it speaks to ‘crypto’ which is a very speculative market full of hype, it also speaks well to the tech industry. Fundamentals can often outweigh utilization. Too often have I seen individuals who know React, but very little understanding of Javascript. A deeper understanding of the fundamentals can better prepare you for variation in technologies. For example, someone with a fundamental understanding of Javascript will quickly understand the appropriate use of React, Angular and Vue over someone with a complete understanding of React.

CV & Interview Advice:

“Focus on your strengths and things you enjoy” — Nic

I once stated the purpose of a CV & Interview is to provide a mechanism to quickly understand if you are capable to do the work, and not burn the place down in the process. The quicker I can figure that out the better. If I know what you enjoy, I can see if the workplace you are applying for would enable that, and go from there.

A CV is your first interaction with a company. I can speak to the ones that stand out to me and what are some ‘turn-offs’. Firstly, make it about you, and by that I mean do not make it a sales pitch. Avoid the percentage gains of profit you have had in your company as an engineer, avoid the hard sales pitch on all your skills which don’t meet the requirements that we are looking for and is blatantly obvious has been spammed out everywhere. Make it genuine. Make it about you. Make it about why you do what you do. Why you choose to continue what you do. And what you hope to get out of your next placement.

List the relevant technologies you have been exposed too while avoiding the ‘rating scale’.

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Avoid this.

This scale offers very little information, It is purely subjective and requires me to know what you deem an ‘expert’.

“Don’t turn up to an interview an hour early” — Callie

While ‘being early’ can be seen as a positive sign of intent, I feel like its a bit of a historical hangover of someone is ‘ready to go’. In most cases, there are simply no meeting rooms available nor a team prepared to greet you so while I would encourage being ‘prompt’ there is a limit.

“Be able to explain your uni project in a couple of sentences” — Ben

This is a great one. People coming out of university have a tonne of interesting things to say. I have often asked for a description and to be walked through their projects to which overcomplication and explanation leads to an incoherent mess. Consider the projects you have worked on, think about what ‘cases’ you will refer to in your interview and remember your audience wants to understand as much as possible through all of that. Who you are.

The Realisation phase.

This is a phase of your career where the ‘rose-tinted glasses’ start to fade. You start to see a company or industry for the reality in which it is, and you are presented with a whole lot of considerations to make.

“Work is like doing those shitty group projects in uni and you’re thinking to yourself ‘the real workplace won’t be like this because no real workplace would hire these people’ but turns out it’s actually worse, nothing works, almost all business intelligence is handled by python scripts on HP boxes sitting under peoples desks, half of any office deserves to be fired” — Vlad

This quote needs no further explanation. I will just leave it there to breathe.

“Find a mentor, always be open, don’t be a fanatic” — Tito

Finding someone to be open to and seek advice from can have incredible influence on your career. You may already unknowingly have one. Someone you seek advice from, someone you admire or someone who you have a great working relationship with. These people can offer incredible feedback and advice.

“You don’t know everything, but you don’t know nothing. Be curious, stay curious” — Aaron

In life and your career, especially in tech, curiosity is your secret power. The ability to continuously improve your understanding of technologies, their application in the industry and to follow the path of curiosity for you; you will always be doing the right thing. Reminding yourself that you do have something to offer, you do know things will enable you to have confidence that you can contribute to almost anywhere.

To save myself regurgitating content on exactly this topic, I will simply link to the article where I spoke specifically to this.

The question to ask yourself here is…
1. Does the job that you are currently doing satisfy you?
2. Is the job you think you want going to satisfy you?

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