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Careers webinar: How to start a career in the tech industry

Careers webinar with Chris Pearcy from AO.com and Emma Gallagher from BeyondTrust.

Published on:  07 May 2020

Our Career Services team hosted the 1st of our monthly careers webinar series on Thursday 23 April to help keep people informed about careers in the tech industry, especially during the pandemic. Joining Mike Appleby, Head of Talent Communities at Learning People, were industry experts Emma Gallagher and Chris Pearcy. 

In this exclusive webinar, the experts shared insights into starting a career in a sustainable industry. They revealed what recruitment managers really look for in potential employees, interviews and job applications, and some valuable advice to stand out. 

Who are the industry experts?

Chris Pearcy is the Talent Acquisition Manager at AO.com and has 10 years experience in the recruitment industry. His recruitment career has specialised in the tech industry, both in agencies and in-house recruitment. 

AO.com is an ecommerce retailer based in the UK. They also have branches in logistics, recycling and B2B. Learning People | Chris Pearcy from AO.com

Emma Gallagher is the Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at BeyondTrust. She has 12 years of experience in recruitment under her belt and has also specialised as a tech recruiter. Emma is currently recruiting for tech roles across the globe. “Recruiting technical people is always a challenge because these skills are so in demand.”

BeyondTrust is a cyber security company with a wide range of products that provide end-to-end software security solutions. They are currently trusted by organisations such as Paypal and eBay. Learning People | Emma Gallagher from BeyondTrust

Learning from the past

Mike shared the struggles he faced during the beginning of his career, with the financial crisis circa 2008. Similarly to the current climate, this event also caused a surge of uncertainty and core changes in the job market. Mike persevered by learning new skills to help him adapt to a new career, urging others to do the same. Reacting to Mike’s inspiring journey, Emma added “Focus on the positives, as tough of a time as it is. We will all get through it on the other side.”

Digital transformation

Mike highlighted the increased demand for tech professionals in the current climate due to organisations needing to implement new digital strategies quicker than first predicted. “It’s really interesting how the agenda for tech in organisations has grown. Speaking to someone quite high up in the NHS, they were saying that digital transformation projects that they had to do over the next 12 months – have been done in 2 weeks. Everything has been massively accelerated. They are struggling to find the tech talent they need.”

Chris shared his perspective “If you look back 30 years ago, before people had the internet and before everyone had mobile phones and computers. It’s probably now the most technically advanced stage [the world has] been in, in such a short space of time. I think [tech development] is only going to get faster and become more crucial, more important for every business.

“[AO.com have] been really fortunate that we are a retailer that is online, so when something like this happens, we have been able to adapt quite quickly. It just shows where a lot of businesses will need to be moving towards.” 

“It’s going to grow the tech industry even further” added Emma, emphasising that once customers have had a good experience with an online retailer they are likely to re-use this service and continue shopping online instead of in person. “There really is a lot of opportunity in tech.”

Companies are competing for tech talent

Mike shared the impact this digital transformation has had on the skills gap: “There are more tech vacancies out there, than there are actual people to do the jobs at the moment. So there is always a challenge to try and find the best people. We tend to find that employers are quite attracted to [Learning People] students, because often they’re upskilling and developing themselves. Companies consider them to be very motivated.”

What are employers looking for in the tech industry?

Chris outlined what would make a candidate stand out to him during the recruitment process. “For us, it’s really trying to find people who enjoy what they are doing. Someone who shows that passion to develop their craft. People who like to learn and engage with the community and share their knowledge with like minded people.

“Someone who is looking for a better way, not afraid to try stuff. It’s okay to fail as long as we are learning from it.

“When we’re interviewing people we want to see that passion coming through, why tech? What do you enjoy about it? What do you do to learn and keep up to date?”

Agreeing with Chris, Emma said “Skills can be taught, but attitude is key.” Expanding further, Emma outlines how professionals who can showcase their tech passion with what they do outside of work; such as a website, GitHub account, or blog, are going to make a great impression. “All technical companies are continuously looking for junior or entry level technical people because there is a talent shortage in the tech sector.”

Learning People | Man studying online

The importance of a standout CV and LinkedIn profile

Considering CVs, Emma explored what would make this document stand out to tech recruiters. “[The CV] is an opportunity to sell yourself… it’s those that do differentiate themselves that give themselves a better chance of me engaging with them. Please don’t have a CV that is any longer than 2 pages, that’s even when you are 10 years into your career. You have just got to summarise the most important stuff. Try to make sure you emphasise your key skills and accomplishments, that marry up with the job opportunity that you are applying for. Make sure that you read up on the job that you are applying for, make sure that you research the company.”

“Equally as important as your CV, is your LinkedIn profile. Get on LinkedIn if you are not on LinkedIn. This is where all the recruiters live and breathe. Make sure that you have a great summary of who you are, what you’re looking for and what your motivators are. Any relevant experience, any relevant accreditations or certifications. If you can get recommendations from people in your past positions or even people who have taught you if you are new in your career.”

“Once you really immerse yourself in a tech career and you become successful with a really strong technical knowledge, you are going to be in even more demand than you are right now. Even entry level passionate people who want to get into tech are in demand. Persist with it and apply yourself and you will be golden when you are further in your career.”

Networking to boost your career

Chris shared how building a network can not only help you find more job opportunities but will also help to display your passion to employers. “One thing I think that really helps, whether you’ve got 1 year’s experience or 20 years experience, is your network. Engaging with the community, going to meetups and attending talks, conferences and webinars…that’s a huge thing that we really like [people to talk about during job interviews].”

Mike echoed “If you are career changing or if you are thinking about a new career, the job boards aren’t the place to go. Leaning on a network, discovering a network or going to a meetup is where you are going to find the information you need and perhaps the employers you want to work for.”

What if you don’t have relevant experience?

“If you haven’t got the relevant employment experience, you still will have experience of some sort. Whether it is from the course you’ve been doing with Learning People or anything similar. Talk about the stuff that you are learning and what you’ve enjoyed about learning it… Your experience doesn’t have to be employment related, but ultimately get your personality and passion across.”

Emma added “What is relevant is what you have learnt from your course… The aptitude to learn when you are coming in at that entry level, is everything.”

The direct approach

Mike asked the experts how they felt about people reaching out to them directly. Chris explained “That’s one of the things I would encourage. If there is a company that you want to work for and you can’t see whether they have got a job vacancy or not, reach out to (them). Ask them questions.”

Emma echoed “It’s always important to reach out because we always respond to those people… if they are a good recruiter you will get a good response.”

The experts also added how they would also be willing to connect the people who approach them, with any companies they know to have a suitable vacancy, in the case that they don’t have one to offer in their own company.

Why should people move towards a career in tech?

When asked about a career change into the tech industry, Emma shared: “Tech is a fast growing industry and I can’t see anything hindering that rate of growth, it is just going to continue to thrive. Even with this pandemic, I think it has truly emphasised the need for technology.”

“If you keep learning you will eventually find that right opportunity and you’ll be able to really forge a career in tech.”

Chris re-emphasised the fact that your past experience should not hold you back from beginning a career in tech. “We recruited a developer, who was a P.E. teacher. We’ve had a Property Developer who then became a Software Developer.”

Quick key expert tips

Identifying your transferable skills from previous experience is really important, according to Emma. “Don’t feel like any experience you’ve had from previous jobs, even if they weren’t technical, it doesn’t mean what you learn wasn’t relevant. You might have worked for a retailer, you might have been in a customer facing job, this is all super relevant in tech. If you were able to resolve issues that can translate into the tech world.”

Chris shared some great advice for people unsure of where to start with their training. “It can be quite daunting, how many different technologies there are out there and skills that you can learn. Don’t try and learn everything, try and find a thing you enjoy because you will continue to learn things anyway. It’s not about having every skill under the sun, it’s about finding that one thing that you are passionate about.”

Mike highlighted how Learning People has the time, knowledge and resources to help people make this all important decision in tech training. “We feel massively fortunate about it, the fact that we get to have that conversation with people [during the careers consultation]. People can call us and say, I don’t know what to do yet or where to go, and we can advise them on that journey.”

To hear more about what the tech careers experts have to say watch the full webinar. You can also find out more information about a career in tech by getting in contact with one of our consultants on 0800 0141 311 or 01273 907 919. You can also request a callback.