We hear it again and again, that the job market is hot for engineers. Yet while coders and computer-science majors are grinning from ear to ear, you're probably thinking, So what? What about the rest of us?
Job seekers who aren't programmers or developers sometimes make the mistake of overlooking technology companies for their next job, but even workers who don't know how to write code can take advantage of the abundance of jobs in that sector. Because while the demand for engineers grows, fueled by the growing popularity of iPads and smart phones and digital companies, so does the need for support employees to work alongside them.
"You don't have to be a math and science genius to have a really great career in IT," says Todd Thibodeaux, CEO for CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association. People who work in account management, finance, sales, and human resources, as well as user-experience and user-testing specialists, are also sought-after in the industry.
Marc Garrett, vice president of client services at Intridea, a Washington, D.C.-based company that builds Web and mobile applications, says while his company is always looking to hire developers, the biggest challenge is bringing employees on board who can sell their products and services.
"It's actually harder to find sales people than developers," Garrett says. "Sales people in the tech space, they have to know sales but they also have to know the Web." He expects sales hires to understand industry language and developments, and to "live their life on the Web"—for example, booking tickets and making purchases online rather than over the phone—but they'd don't need technical skills.
Project-manager positions are also difficult to fill at technology companies, says Alice Hill, managing director of Dice, a job-search community for technology professionals. "People who have really good organizational and project skills, being able to manage deadlines; there are a lot of opportunities for those [people] and they're really hard people to find." Hill says she's also noticed a lot of openings lately for graphic designers and writers who can create Web-friendly content.
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"You really don't learn real software development—[at least] the types of development that we do—in school," say McCroskey, an ex-developer who started the company seven months ago. "In school you get the basics of how to be a programmer, the fundamentals, and then you go out and you teach yourself several of these [programming] languages. The guys that are hungry to learn, hungry to add to their skill sets… [are the ones we want to hire]." Most of the developers his company hires have three to five years of work experience.
Not to suggest that it's easy to become a programmer. But this high-demand occupation may not be as elusive as it appears. As with most specialties these days, following industry blogs and fiddling with the latest Apple toy and trying your hand at building a product on your own time can go a long way.
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"It's really just a matter of jumping in and starting to develop something," says CompTIA's Thibodeaux. "Once you create your first program, you get the bug ... It's definitely a learning-by-doing kind of thing because it's changing so quickly all the time that you have to be in the business of doing it to really stay on top of it."
Which means people who have the smarts and drive to improve their skills may have a shot at contributing to talent-starved companies.
"People who tinker have just always done really well being able to cross into those types of tech jobs," says Dice's Hill. "If people are looking to retrain themselves or repackage their background, I think there are opportunities out there."