The information technology (IT) industry led the 21st century in job demand and often hovered around the top in median wages. However, COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know it in every industry, and technology has not escaped unscathed.
If your job has been eliminated, you think that it could be in the future, or you’re trying to seize the moment, a career pivot into another tech-related job or field could be a good idea. (Read: How to Corona-Proof Your Job Through Career Change.)
But how can you successfully pivot?
Where the Jobs Are – and Aren’t
Look before you leap since some jobs that used to be white-hot just a few weeks ago are suddenly declining in demand. Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies states it succinctly:
“Software developer hiring is down 22% since the start of the crisis, and we see similar trends throughout the tech world, from Network Architects (down 24%) to Systems Software Engineers (down 43%)”
He said the best way to make a career pivot in tech is to determine the new skills you’ll need for your next job. “It’s all about planning and return on investment: what the next step might be, how you get there, and how much it is going to cost in time and money.” (Read: Take Charge of Your Career: Advice from Experienced IT Pros.)
In spite of the pandemic, David Moise, president of Decide Consulting, a Houston-based IT & software recruiting firm, believes that the number of IT jobs will double in 10 years. For people already in tech, Moise said the in-demand jobs and skills will be as follows:
- Cloud Infrastructure: Specific skills – AWS, Microsoft Azure, GCp.
- Data Science: Specific skills – any NoSQL platform, statistical programming.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML): Specific skills – Python, Any open source ML library (e.g. Tensorflow, Pytorch).
- DevOps: Specific skills – Kubernetes, Jenkins, Security, any cloud.
- Agile: Specific skills - Scrum Master, Product Owner.
- Cybersecurity: Specific skills - Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), pen Testing, Red Team/ Blue Team.
“One does not need to be specific in any of the above,” Moise said. “A developer will touch DevOps, Agile and Cloud.”
Gaining New Skills
If you’ve lost your job or you’re looking for a more lucrative position, the pandemic could provide a good opportunity to invest in yourself, according to Sylvain Kalache, co-founder of Holberton School.
“There’s never been a greater variety of online training options from which to choose, and many people have the time right now to make that investment,” he says.
While there are a lot of layoffs taking place, he believes the job market will continue to be strong in certain high-demand fields.
“Even now as we enter a recession, companies like Apple and Amazon have announced their intentions to hire as many talented engineers as they can.”
However, he advises proceeding with caution. “I think it’s always good to dip your toe in the water before diving into the deep end, so explore a field and make sure it’s truly interesting to you before enrolling in a long-term and/or expensive training program.” (Read: IT Career Shift: Is College the Only Answer?)
Kalache said there are numerous free lectures and resources you can utilize to be sure that you’re really interested in a new field before you decide to enroll in a long-term training program.
Moise agrees that you should exhaust free resources. “Coursera and Udacity have multiple free courses; these aren’t the only sites, just some of the bigger ones,” he said. “Also, companies that want to promote a specific technology have free courses on it, like Google with Tensorflow.”
However, Moise also recommends paid programs, such as Coursera and Udacity’s nanodegrees, which range from $1,000 to $2,500.
“People who want to move from non-tech into technical roles should keep in mind that the longer programs (like Holberton, which takes two years) generate on average more lucrative results than do the shorter programs like coding bootcamps,” Kalache explains. For example, the school has former students, some of whom were grocery store clerks and dishwashers, earning 6-figures as engineers in such companies as LinkedIn, NASA, Tesla, Apple, and Facebook. (Read: How I Got an IT Job Without a Tech Background)
Practical Steps to Pivot
We asked Sigelman to walk us through some practical steps for pivoting from one tech position to another. For example, if you’re help desk support staff, Sigelman said that’s a classic gateway to a tech career. “In the U.S. it pays a median salary of $42,540 a year, and the job provides a baseline of skills to become a Network/Systems Administrator - which pays nearly twice as much ($75.900).” (Read: Job Role: Network Administrator.)
And the required education and experience are about the same. “What you need to get there isn’t another degree, but knowledge of system administration, Linux, VMware, and a few other skills.” Fortunately, Sigelman said online certifications and short-term boot camp courses can get you to the desired level. “The return on investment is good, because it isn’t going to cost you $30,000 to get those skills.”
He recommends the same approach to move from Network Administrator to Information Security Engineer (ISSE). “Cybersecurity is a hot growth area right now and these jobs pay even more ($96,200 on average).” (Read: Cybersecurity and You: Why Learning Now Will Pay Off Later (6 Courses to Choose.))
Sigelman said you can identify and pursue a ladder of well-defined certifications going from Security+ to CISSP. In fact, his company has a number of specific pathways and skills on Cyberseek, the cybersecurity career website it built with the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).
“If you think about your career strategically and in terms of skills, you can build a career that can withstand bumps in the road—even one as big as the pandemic.”
And here’s another tip for finding another tech job. “It is easier to break through the masses applying for tech roles by applying on sites like Angel.co instead of LinkedIn, Indeed or ZipRecruiter,” said Greg Jakacki, the founder of Codility, a tech recruiting platform.”
“Angel.co in particular only allows applicants to write cover messages of 1000 characters when applying for a job.” And that saves everyone’s time.“This really cuts down on hours lost writing well-mannered, but ultimately pointless fluff to hiring managers,” Jakacki explains. “Instead, you have the opportunity to say something along the lines of, ‘Hi X. I think I’m a great fit for this role because of my experience in X for however many years,’ - and then you’re done.” (Read: Your Next Computer Science Job Awaits: Top 5 Mock Interview Sites.)