Jobs In Tech: Find Your Future Career
Christina Ou is a Product Designer at Percolate. She's passionate about pixel perfect designs that are rooted in insights from user research and data analytics, mentoring UX designers that are making career changes, and engaging with the UX design community through panels, written thought pieces and conferences.
The Many Career Paths you can Take in Tech
I majored in marketing in college and, unsurprisingly, worked in advertising for years before transitioning into becoming a product designer in tech. I often wish I’d known about the possible careers in tech earlier. You may be interested in tech in general, but not know what kind of career options are available, so below are high level explanations of a few possible career paths in tech.
Within each of these career paths, there are so many nuances and ways you can specialize, but I’ve kept it simple for the sake of this post. If any of these sound interesting to you, there’s a wealth of detailed information online you can dig deeper into.
What Are My Options and How Do I Get There?
Software Engineer (aka developer, programmer, coder)
Software engineers use programming languages and technical problem solving to do things like build software products, develop computer games, and create customer-facing websites. Their main goal is to translate directions from humans (i.e. wireframes from a designer) into instructions a computer can understand.
✨Relevant college majors: Computer science or other STEM related degrees, such as information systems, electronics, or civil engineering
✨Continued education: Coding bootcamps, which are programs that educate students on practical, language-specific programming skills
✨Other options: Teaching yourself! This can be done through free online training sites, reading programming books, and building your portfolio that shows your coding skills.
Good skills to have: Expertise in a programming language, ability to understand the overall development process, basic concepts of IT and computer systems, and specialized skills based on what kind of Software Engineer you want to be (Frontend, Backend, Fullstack, Mobile, DevOps,QA etc.)
Product designers solve problems by using a human-centered approach to understand the needs of users, the requirements for the business and the possibilities/limitations of technology. Their main goals include using research and data analytics to empathize with users, define the problem, ideate solutions, create designs and build prototypes to test/optimize before handing off these designs to developers.
✨Relevant college majors: Human-Computer Interaction, Psychology, Design, or Anthropology
✨Continued education: User Experience bootcamps, which are programs that teach students how to design digital products that solve user problems and serve client needs
✨Other options: Transition from a related field, such as digital design or research, by learning user research methodologies/design tools and working on case studies/taking on freelance work to build your portfolio
Good skills to have: Engaging storytelling through your portfolio, understanding of tools, ability to explain your design process, and specialized skills based on what kind of designer you want to be (UX, UI, Information Architect, Researcher etc.).
Product Manager (aka PM)
Product Managers guide how a product evolves over time and lead cross-functional teams throughout the product development lifecycle. Their main goals are defining the overall strategy of a product, prioritizing what features to build, bridging the gap between different teams to release new features, and having a deep expertise of the product and audience.
✨Relevant college majors: In my experience, there isn’t one specific major that leads to becoming a PM and can range from business to software development to marketing, and beyond
✨Continued education: PM bootcamps or specialized courses, which are programs that teach students how to launch market-ready products and features
✨Other options: Get promoted into a PM role by working in a relevant field, such as business or strategy, and showcasing your problem-solving and leadership skill.
Good skills to have: Ability to identify and solve complex problems end-to-end, clearly articulate a product’s strategy, and have an understanding of the technical and design processes for successful cross-team collaboration
Data Scientist/Data Analyst
While Data Scientists and Data Analysts have different end-results and approaches, these two fields share a goal of gathering and organizing data to find insights that help companies make decisions based on data instead of on assumptions. These data roles are expected to develop systems for collecting data, find trends based on data that inform how a product could improve that ladder up to the product’s overall strategic goals based, be able to identify and/or answer questions from stakeholders on a product’s performance.
✨Relevant college majors: Data science, information technology, computer science, or statistics. If one of these more technical majors is chosen, also consider a complementary minor in an area that allows you to better understand people and business, such as psychology, marketing or political science.
✨Continued education: Data Science/Analytics boot camps, which are programs that teach students how to make critical decisions using data and mine datasets to predict patterns
✨Other options: Transition to the data field from a relevant job, such as programming, and gain additional math skills, such as statistics and probability, that will help you be successful in this field
Good skills to have: Ability to analyze large data sets, communicate findings through reports/presentations, identify patterns to inform decisions, and use their technical skills and tools (i.e. SQL, XML, Tableau) to gather and analyze data accurately