Twenty years ago, the tech sector was still emerging and was assumed to be the preferred workplace of boffins. Fast forward to 2019, when more and more companies are using some form of artificial intelligence, yet the huge job losses that were feared in the industry have failed to materialise.
In fact, quite the opposite is happening, with skills shortages in many key areas.
Artificial intelligence in the form of digital employees can cover certain functions, but human intelligence is still necessary to develop these technologies further. What’s more, practically every business or organisation in the country, such as retailing, telecommunications, finance, health and energy providers, who has adopted new innovations needs IT support in order to use them effectively.
Here in New Zealand, now, the tech sector is well-advanced by world standards with high levels of connectivity, talent development, digital education and good cyber security. It looks set to become our biggest export earner with companies such as Xero and Datacom experiencing a significant growth in profits.
Helen MacDiarmid, Business Relation Manager at Absolute IT in Wellington, says: “There are so many careers in tech, from the highly technical fields to the people, process, design, analysis and management fields, so you don’t necessarily need to be an IT whizz or a robotics guru to work in tech.
“Think about your natural skills and your personality traits and look for careers pathways that will compliment these. The possibilities are endless within the tech field and where you start might not be where you eventually end up. It is really important to find something that you will love to do and enjoy learning.”
She says that this can be done either through university degrees (information management, computer science) or via polytechnics or industry training organisations, which can be more targeted ie. web design or development.
“If you are someone that loves to connect with people and you are a ‘big picture’ thinker you might do well in a tech role where you are working directly with the business to create tech solutions for business issues whether be it new products or process problems,” she says.
“If you are interested in human nature, and how technology can optimally interact with humans, a career in User Experience (UX) may be a great match or if you enjoy detail and problem solving then a career in Development, Testing or IT security may suit your natural abilities.”
BREAKING IT DOWN
It’s impossible to dig down into all possible digital and tech career paths – and new ones are emerging constantly, but these are a few that are especially in demand at present, in 2019, with the prospect of significant skill shortages in future.
Computer systems design is a very complex area of expertise, and involves integrating hardware, software and communication technologies and customising them according to an employer or a client’s needs, then keeping that system continuously updated.
The demand for talent in this field is constant and as a result, it tends to be well-paid. Median base salary $136,000.
Software development – or computer programming – is also a crucial skill,in terms of researching, designing, installing and testing new scripts, applications and operating systems. Essentially it involves identifying problems and finding solutions –writing programs, testing them, and fixing bugs as they happen.
Software tools and languages change constantly so developers must keep up to date, using online training libraries and team discussion – sharing experiences and giving feedback.
Software specialists who develop websites have to plan, produce, then pull together all the technical, visual and content aspects for the site to work. Median base salary $88,000.
Business analysts are also problem solvers, building business architecture that benefits a company and looking for new opportunities to modernise and optimise its performance and streamline its processes. People in this role also conduct feasibility studies, prepare and implement business cases, based on an in- depth knowledge of a particular industry or employer. Business analysts must be good communicators, able to translate what might be a vague description of a problem or requirement into an effective outcome. Median base salary $97,000.
Security specialists play a critical role in the new digital world, where the constant threat of illegal accessing of a company or organisation’s network and information systems is very real. In this field you will need to react to security alerts and manage breaches if they occur.
To succeed a security specialist must be a quick and analytical thinker – constantly curious and always learning because the stakes are high. As soon as one threat recedes, fast-developing technology enables hackers to try new and more effective methods of breaching security, so staying one step ahead is vital. Good communication skills are necessary in order to keep management and employees aware of expectations around security issues. Median base salary $110,000.
Cloud experts are in hot demand as more and more organisations adopt cloud services in order to benefit from its agility, cost-effectiveness and the security it offers. Essentially the ‘cloud’ is the internet, provided as a service by an outside host, meaning that the hardware and software inside a company’s network is stored elsewhere and can be accessed easily. Basically, the provider is running the server, so you don’t have to. Roles based around the Cloud include Cloud Engineer, Cloud integration Developer, a Cloud app team lead or a Cloud Architect. Median base salary $120,000.
User Experience (UX) is how any kind of software (especially smartphone apps) works, and User Interface (UI) is what it looks like, so these are two distinct specialities, although there can be crossover. In UX, you’ll be concerned with whether the digital experience meets basic user needs, before continuously evaluating and refining it, according to customer demand.
This role has elements of business planning, user research, data analysis and web design, so it’s ideal for a multi-tasker. In UI, you’re responsible for the look and feel of an app, with the intention of making it attractive to users, as well as functioning well. This too is an ongoing process necessitating constant reassessment of customer requirements in a crowded market, where consumers have a huge amount of choice. Median base salary for a UX designer/specialist is $86,500.
MacDiarmid says that technology is constantly changing, with new players coming to the market and new technologies disrupting the way we live and work, which means that skills that were in high demand five years ago can be totally outdated today.
“Constant upskilling and ensuring that you keep your skills relevant is so important if you work in tech. Taking the time to study, see what is happening in the market and completing some IT certifications or short courses will future-proof your career.
“I will advise candidates to give an IT recruiter a call and ask about the skills that are employers are asking for in your area of expertise.”