Last week, we joined an incredible line-up at Bristol Tech Festival to host our panel event on Upskilling & Getting Started in Tech. During the one hour virtual event, Cyber Security Expert, Jane Frankland, chaired a panel with panellists Dr Nathalie Cole, chapter lead at Ladies of Cheltenham Hacking Society, Caroline Vaughan, Head of Business Development at Innovate Finance, and James Reynolds, Talent Acquisition Manager at Immersive Labs, discussing the benefits and barriers of getting into technology. The panel also shared their advice on how to break into the industry and discussed the Government’s controversial advert on retraining in Cyber Security.

If you missed the event, here are the key points raised during the discussions and our panellist’s advice for you as you look to start your career in tech.

Why tech and what are the benefits?

Tech is everything. It has infiltrated other industries and is now the evolution of every industry. As a result, we are witnessing an increase in tech jobs. Described by one of our panellists as a superpower, it has the ability to affect so much change in the world and solve new problems. From a personal perspective, getting into tech is also a significant challenge, which for Nathalie, was a huge appeal. It’s a learning curve and is constantly evolving, ensuring you’ll never be bored.

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on tech

As proven in recent months, the only constant is the fact that there’s change. Businesses of all sizes have been forced to adapt in order to survive the pandemic, relying heavily on technology to do so. In addition to creating many tech roles across various sectors, for the tech industry, Covid-19 has opened new opportunities for recruitment, as businesses are now able to hire tech talent from other regions, not just their local geographic area.

Who created your digital strategy? Your CEO, CTO or Covid? – Caroline Vaughan

How to overcome the barriers of getting into tech

For many, knowledge is the biggest barrier when breaking into tech, something which our panellists also found at the beginning of their journeys. To overcome this, it’s crucial that you build connections and learn technical skills. There are a plethora of organisations available to help, whether you’re looking for a training academy like our Software Academy or groups such as the Ladies Hacking Society, both of which will help you overcome the knowledge barrier and develop the skills needed to land your first role in tech.

In addition to the knowledge barrier, the stereotype of what it looks like to work in tech is also one of the biggest barriers for new talent. Working in the tech sector doesn’t just look like one thing and this myth needs to be debunked. There are so many different facets to making tech happen, and simply building code won’t get it to market. You need to be a communicator and you need to be able to tell a story, and in many roles, these skills are just as important as the technical ones.

Advice on breaking into the industry

The perceived lack of qualifications often deters people from joining however our panellists prove that you don’t need a qualification to break into tech. If you don’t have a tech qualification or don’t have the budget to pay for one, with free training academies like TechTalent Academy, it won’t stop you from joining.

Talking from experience, Nathalie also shared a key piece of advice – it’s ok to start in a job that’s not your dream job, gain some knowledge and then make the move.
Nathalie wanted to turn her passion for Cyber Security into her career so joined our Software Academy to make her move into tech. After completing the academy, she secured a role in Software Engineering before joining her company’s Cyber Security function. This shows how important it is to keep an open mind when applying for roles because a lot of the skills you’ll learn in other areas of tech will set you in good stead for your end goal.

Remember critical thinking, adaptability, and willingness to learn as you go will set you up for success and help you get your foot in the door.

The reaction to the UK Government’s Cyber retraining advert

Source: Krys Alex/Cyber First/ UK Government

The Government’s recent retraining advert featuring Fatima has caused a stir online. However, with research showing that the global shortfall of Cyber Security jobs estimated to hit 3.5 million by 2021, our panellists shared their opinion on the ad, considering the skills gap facing the sector.

All panellists agreed that the timing of the advert was insensitive however believe that their intention was in the right place. The advert successfully highlights a career path which is less visible and reflects the sort of people needed in the Cyber Security industry – Fatima is a woman, a woman of colour, an artist, and as a ballerina, is “tough as nails” – epitomising the people needed to bridge the skills gap and drive the industry forward.

Audience Q&A

Here are a couple of the questions our panel received from the audience at the end of the session which you may find useful as you start your journey into tech.

How would you suggest a new entrant decide on Cyber vs Software vs Data?

Follow what you’re interested in but don’t underestimate the fact that other areas are interesting and what you can learn in the other areas of tech which may be applicable to your end goal. If you don’t know what you’re interested in, just try it. Until you’ve tried it, you’ll never know.

What are the best ways to break into tech, especially as a business analyst?

Educate yourself. It’s important to understand the macro environment for which you’re trying to get your job so that you can go and be directed to the right companies, the right sub-sectors etc. Ask yourself where are the opportunities?, where’s the demand?  and then go to where the problems are and have the technical skills that marry that. Remember, there are always opportunities where there’s problems.

Feeling inspired to get into tech? We are offering self-funded courses, which are open to everyone, in Software Development, Data Science and Cyber Security. Visit the website to learn more or to book a place on one of the courses.

If you missed the event or had to leave early, watch the full recording here.