Whether you’re an aspiring technology student, or a new graduate searching for your first tech position, finding your niche within the vast and varied technology field can be essential to a successful career. Choosing the right mentors can help.
We asked four female tech leaders about how they’ve found career success and what today’s technology students need to do to get ahead.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Ignore the stereotypes.
Despite what you might imagine, there isn’t one type of personality or mindset that’s ideally suited to a career in technology.
“Many people envision a specific type of person when they hear about a career in technology. Well, forget everything you thought you knew about IT because there are hundreds of career paths within the technology field – it’s like a build-your-own adventure book!” says Dee Dee Collette, technology program chair for Herzing University Online.
“Once you’ve started taking classes, you’ll be able to determine what you’d like to specialize in. Whether you’re a guy or a girl, an introvert or an extrovert, top of your class or an average student, there is a place for you in the tech field.”
2. Go above and beyond
Doing a little extra work on your own time can pay off in the long run.
“Information technology and computer science courses are awesome. However, they won’t cover all the skills you may need in the workplace,” offers Kim Keel, IT director for Houston Airport Systems (HAS) and technology instructor for Herzing University Online.
“For example, if you’re planning to go into software development, you might learn a considerable amount about programming languages in your classes, but you might need to learn more beyond that. It’s a good idea to look for online introductions to programming languages, some of which are even offered for free, such as Python, C#, Java and much more.”
3. Aim high
Make sure you’re positioning yourself for the roles you want – even if you’re still a few months or years ahead of graduation.
“After completing your core assignments, hit Google and find out what types of skills today’s tech companies are looking for. Particularly, research the job requirements for the tech companies you dream of working for – and aim to meet those requirements,” says Keel.
4. Focus on the big picture
Stay on top of tech trends, as you'll need to talk about them during interviews. Also, be sure to understand what is underpinning each of those trends.
“It's important to be able to discuss the micro-events as they relate to larger trends that will impact technology for the long term. For example, it’s one thing to understand and discuss the Internet of Things, but what about how that's expanding into manufacturing and how it's impacting user demand? Underneath all of that is accessibility,” says Danielle Wright, CEO of IT consulting firm The Babb Group, Inc. and adjunct technology instructor at Herzing University.
“I look for this skill when I’m interviewing potential consultants and when I’m identifying key personnel on my clients’ staff. My advice for students and new graduates is to always identify how the "tech of the day" is related to a larger, more encompassing trend. Not only will this help you in school and your job hunt, it'll give you a broader perspective on how vital your job is to the overall success of a business!”
5. Believe in yourself
Last, but not least, don’t sell yourself short.
“If you want to pursue a career in tech, go for it!” says Erika Reyes, adjunct technology professor for Herzing University Online. “I’ve learned to stand my ground, be loud, fight, and not let others get in my way or make me feel less than when pursuing my dreams.”