IT Career Workshop

How do I get a point of entry into IT and launch my career?

“You can hack your way to an IT job in a year’s time. With a growth mindset, hard work, tenacity, and ambition. It is easy to verify your declared skills in the IT industry. You either can or you can’t.” ~Khaja Ahmed, Google

On Saturday March 11, Skillspire Training hosted an information workshop for prospective students at ExtraSlice, an Eastside Co-working space that is a place for tech startups and entrepreneurs. The workshop began with an interactive presentation by Khaja Ahmed, an experienced leader in information security space whose tenure in the computer industry spans 30 years. He has worked in startup as well as large companies including Microsoft, Amazon and Google. He was a cofounder of Cavium Networks, a fab-less semiconductor company making the most widely used cryptographic protocol accelerator chips.

Since his earliest days of working on computers, Khaja’s been helping people become computer literate citizens and helping them become successful computer professionals, and Saturday’s workshop had three key objectives for attendees

  • De-mystify the computer industry and help people understand that computers are rewarding and fun to work with.

  • Help attendees understand what the pathways are to becoming a professional in the computer software industry.

  • Help attendees identify clear next steps to becoming a computer professional.

Khaja aimed to help people realize how accessible a lucrative profession in the computer industry actually is; and what it takes to break into it as a second career with long-term potential for growth.

“There is a mythology about it requiring exceptional intelligence or ‘a nerd’ brain. Fact is, anyone who is sufficiently motivated can do this.”

He generously offered insights, encouragement, and tangible strategies for novices and beginners to become computer literate to assist breaking into a career in tech.

How to become a power user

  • Learn the Operating System of your home computer deeply
  • Learn a diversity of applications – web-based, local
  • Learn to backup, restore, configure, optimize, and rebuild your system
  • Become tech support to family and friends

How to becoming a Software Developer

  • Pick some type of programming (Web, UI, Data Analysis, Systems, etc)
  • Take some basic programming classes (to learn to write the code that scripts are made of)
  • Begin with simple scripting (to automate tasks that are manually done like backing up files)
  • Master it! (And stay curious)

The easiest space to start is tech support.

By become a power user of your own machines, knowing the key terms and components of hardware and software–coupled with hard work, tenacity, curiosity, and a growth mindset–testing into a tech support role is possible, suggests Khaja. With some intentional and accelerated training, technical skills are gained that allow a person to verify their declared skills and get hired.

The first key step is to identify if an IT career is a good fit and what area of expertise suits a person. Khaja pointed out that some of the best Computer Scientists he’d worked with did not begin their professional pursuits in CS and IT in college. Case in point, his co-founder of Cavium Networks, Dr. Phil Dickinson trained in biology; and it was his curiosity and growth mindset that served him.

The work done within the IT Industry is diverse and needs to attract good candidates for:

  • Web Development
  • Office Automation
  • Application Development
  • Systems Development

The final segment of the day, a panel discussion, gave attendees the chance to ask questions of a technology startup CEO, a Data Analytics Consultant, a Software Testing Teacher (who provided career coaching) and an industry expert.

Collective wisdom from the panel in response to attendee questions included:

  • Ask yourself, “What do you have in common with what you have done all your life??

  • Don’t look for a place you can fit in. Find a place where you can get in. (Your destiny finds you.)

  • Agility trumps anticipation. In other words, be light on your feet and capitalize on any opportunity before you.

It’s already known that the demand for skilled IT professionals will grow and the shortage of local talent will continue to be a reality as well.

Panelists also addressed the differences between what a startup needs and what big companies seem to require.

  • A technology startup requires depth and breadth to build something that doesn’t exist. Depth of knowledge can be important in the early steps to develop the product. Because startups don’t have the luxury of training people. They need results fast.
  • Meanwhile, bigger established companies are also looking for strong candidates with a good college degree or industry experience. Internships can even pay well in established companies.
  • Mid-size companies might be the place to look for they are structured enough but also offer growth opportunities for those with initiative to learn. They are established enough that they offer more discrete roles in channels.

Research employment opportunities with creativity.

Syed Hamid, CEO of Quantyzd, mentioned that jobs are not always advertised on Indeed. Rather, word of mouth and employee referral are the preferred methods for attracting talent. Or, creatively reach out to leverage the mentorship available on LinkedIn. There is no harm in asking. Some executives are generous and willing to lend a ear and make time for a monthly coffee meeting. Take full advantage of the 30+ incubators Open house events incubators. 30+ in Seattle.

Arif Samad, Sr Data Analyst and Consultant offered this practical advice to people drawn to data analytics, “If you are looking to become a data analyst, Excel is your friend. Take on learning pivot tables, graphs, data visualization. It’s a stepping stone.”

Final words of wisdom.

Get the training you want and the real world working experience “somehow”. Equally important, be clear about your self-belief and change what doesn’t serve you. Ultimately, the more skills, self-belief, and confidence you have, the more doors will open for you. Also, don’t be shy about asking for help that you need help for.

Whether it is software development, data analytics, or user experience training that interests a person, Skillspire expressly designs curriculum and courses to jumpstart an IT career–so check out the newest course offering today and email if you have questions or wish to register. Scholarships are available for those who are eligible. Skillspire was created to open doors of opportunity, foster self-belief and promote diversity and inclusion in the industry.

Feedback from one Attendee

“It really opened doors for me. Can’t thank you enough. There are lot of ways to land your feet somewhere. Personally, it helped me prioritize what must be done now… which is help ME first and help others. I’m looking for a way to balance the two.” ~ Adam, current student at Skillspire


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