Joining the constantly evolving tech sector workforce can be scary, and many recent graduates are having trouble figuring out the best way to get noticed by the tech world or choose the best way to build a career in the industry. The sometimes flashy benefits of big tech companies are enticing, but getting them to notice you can be daunting. It turns out that the most valuable way to evaluate whether or not you should start your career at a particular company is not about the name brand, the company size, or even the geographic location: it's about whether or not you can disrupt their operations, the same way they're trying to disrupt an industry.
According to Dana Primo, the head of Human Resources at billion dollar online software and mobile distribution company ironSource, ambitious companies are hiring for long term growth, since to them "potential is more important than experience." ironSource attracted over 150 new young employees last year and has had a blockbuster year including new funding rounds and an over one billion dollar valuation, so the approach is working. That means if you're entering the tech sector, you need to be looking for a job where there is tons of upward mobility, but also for a job that will allow you to learn as many new skills as possible, to maximize your potential.
So do you want to be at a big or small company? Primo says you should "find a place where you can be a 'fish in an aquarium' as opposed to a fish in the sea." There's nothing wrong with working at a big company, but find the niche within the company where you can make the largest impact. Being one tiny part of a monolithic organization doesn't serve your long term career ambitions.
With tech companies flaunting cool, new-age benefits that come with working in the growing industry, the atmosphere is magnetic. ironSource took their whole staff on a vacation to Mykonos last year. Don't let that convince you though. The best way to judge whether a company is a good place to launch your career is by talking to current employees. At ironSource they stress that a company's employees are its best advocates. If they tell you that they have a real impact in their company, that should give you the green light.
The other side of the equation is how to make yourself as attractive as possible to companies in the tech sector. Following the mantra that potential is more important than experience, Primo says that she is routinely most impressed by candidates who "come to an interview with their own ideas on new directions, services or products" for the company. That's right, rather than sounding totally presumptuous, you might actually be impressing your potential employer! So many recent graduates are too afraid to offend the interviewer, when in reality they may be missing an opportunity to impress them. This also means that having internships in similar companies is not a pre-requisite. If a company is hiring for potential, and you can show that you can make a serious impact on their product or service, then who cares what kind of company you were at last summer?
There are other ways to show tech firms that you have potential. Primo notices candidates who worked part time while studying, it displays an ability to manage time and to multi-task. If you can show flexibility and evidence that you are a self-starter, that can't hurt either.
Now, the million dollar question for a lot of tech industry hopefuls: do you need a background in coding or developing to get a any job at a firm? For Primo, whether you have a formal or educational background in computer science is really not important, but having the basic skills is crucial: "If you are managing developers on a project, for example, or liaising between developers and a client, you need to be able to speak the language of both groups to ensure you're being effective." So go teach yourself a few coding languages and some computer science basics. It certainly won't make you a worse candidate.