Is A Career In Tech Right For You?

The tech industry has been booming for the last few decades. The industry composes of a quarter of the S&P500 (CNBC), an index based on the market capitalizations of the 500 largest companies in the US stock market.

joseph crafting cocktails at prohibition at rosewood hotel georgia
My life was about crafting cocktails before crafting digital experiences.

Is A Career In Tech Right For You?

You might be asking, who am I and why should you consume anything that I say? Despite being in my twenties, I’ve explored many different careers in the past from sports, hospitality, finance before making the transition into the tech industry. I haven’t looked back since and here’s why:

work anywhere

The Criteria

After venturing different career paths, I found that a fulfilling career needs to meet the following criteria:

  • Opportunity. The career needs an opportunity for me to grow intellectually. I needed to take on more responsibilities, create value in the marketplace in order to be compensated more and eventually start my own business.
  • Freedom. Over the years, I’ve identified that my core needs are to be both emotionally and financially free. My goal is to have the freedom to do what I want without any constraints. A career in tech can provide that. I can grow within the company, start my own business, and work location-independently as all I need is an internet connection.
  • Fun. What’s What’s the point of doing anything if it’s not fun? Even though it’s a grind, you must enjoy the process. There is no exception and that applies to all aspects of life!
guy working on his computer at night
Burning the midnight oil

The Truth

It’s easy to get caught up with images on social media of people working at a beach in Thailand while sipping on coconuts. It seems too good to be true and what goes behind the scenes are often neglected. Here is some truth about working in the tech industry:

  • The Grind. Working in the tech industry is a grind. Whether you’re at an agency, a startup or an established corporate company, a heavy workload will be expected of you. But what about the table tennis, foosball and the workout rooms onsite? They are available to set your mind off work for a while so that you can get right back to it!
  • Continuously Learning. You’ll never fully master your job. Why? It’s because technology is so rapidly changing. From the tools of the trade to the user preferences, things are ever-changing and should you stop learning, you will eventually become obsolete from the workforce. Therefore, you become a lifelong learner and improve continuously.
  • You Must Deliver. Freedom comes at a cost and it is the ability to deliver and provide results. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked overtime or all weekend to solve a problem. There’s only one way to track performance and it is your ability to produce results.

Here’s How To Get Started

I hope that the last section didn’t discourage you too much because the benefits by far outweigh the costs. Wondering where to start? Here are some tips:

  • Find Your Place In Tech. Whether you’re seeking a role as a Marketer, Designer, Developer, Content Writer or a Project Manager, there’s a place for you in tech. For example, I became a User Experience Designer because I was interested in human behaviour and how we interact with things. Take a crash course and find professionals that are already doing what you want to do on Linkedin and invite them out for a coffee chat! People are generally friendly and willing to help out. All you have to do is ask.
  • Education. Teaching yourself to enter the industry sounds very appealing as it doesn’t cost much. The truth is that being motivated to teach yourself to the point that an employer is willing to give you a try is very unlikely. I tried this myself by taking courses on Lynda.com and other resources like Free Code Camp and YouTube tutorials, but I was never confident enough to break into the industry.
  • What I resolved was to take a 3-month intensive bootcamp at RED Academy to become a designer. Was it expensive? Yes, but it was worth it because it shortened my learning curve to break into the industry faster than if I were to teach myself. Because it’s such a booming industry, training courses are offered everywhere from universities, private schools to online courses. Be fully intentional if you decide to enroll in these courses because it’s all about how you leverage these programs to enter the industry, not their ability to train you and get you the job. Take full responsibility for your own destiny and go for it!
  • Document And Publish. This ties into the last point about education: as you learn, you’ll be creating. Document and publish work even if it’s not complete! Get your work out there for the world to see. When you’re trying to break into the industry, most companies hire based on how ambitious you are and if it’s worth their time investing in you to learn and grow. At the very minimum, they will take the foundation of your technical skills into consideration when making the decision to hire you.

What Are You Waiting For?

Dale Carnegie once said “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” It’s so easy to get caught in your head and wonder the what if’s. Instead, try it and fail. Learn from it, try again, fail again, and you’ll eventually succeed.

I’ll end with a story of my journey into the industry to demonstrate the above paragraph. Two years ago, I quit my full-time job as a Financial Advisor to enroll in a 3-month tech bootcamp. The course was thousands of dollars and I was unemployed for the first six months coming out of the program. I was offered an internship position at ElementIQ and I was hesitant to accept the offer as I believed that I could do better. A year and a half later, I’m still with the company and learned tonnes in the process. In hindsight, I’m glad that I took action to create an opportunity and prove myself instead of passively waiting for it to happen to me.

I’m no guru and I didn’t have any design background (let alone the foundation in art) when I came into the industry. If someone like me can successfully break into the tech industry, you can too!

Want To Jumpstart Your Career In Tech?

Apply to ElementIQ’s Internship Program Today!

Proven Method To Learn Anything Fast

proven method to learn anything fast

The 10,000 Hour Rule to Mastery?

malcolm gladwell outliers and 10000 hour rule

We’ve all heard about the 10,000 hour rule to mastery in a field. But how long does it take to be good at something? I transitioned into the tech industry a year ago and there seems to be an endless amount of things to learn. After mapping out the skills, I went on a quest to find a systematic approach to learning anything fast. Here’s what I’ve found.

Become a Lifelong Learner

become a lifelong learner

You must first learn to embrace the learning process. Lifelong learners are more likely to enjoy the process and be fulfilled. I personally found it liberating when I learned to enjoy the process rather than the results. Doing so helped me to be action-driven and to focus on developing my skills rather than being discouraged by the amount of learning that I needed to do. Conveniently in the information age, there are tonnes of resources in the format that you wish to learn from books, videos, podcasts, mentors, seminars, to a classroom setting.

Why? Share It!

why? share it with others

Why did you decide to learn this skill? People who identify the reasons and the purpose of learning a skill are more likely to stick to the plan.

When I started at ElementIQ, I identified the company needs, my interests, and what I can offer. I aligned it to my long-term goal to become a conversion-focused UX/UI Designer and shared the learning opportunities with the team. The team was on board with the idea and they equipped me with the projects and the resources to succeed. Having a supportive team helped me to stay motivated to develop the skills as I had the opportunity to apply what I learned right away.

Deconstruct

learning curve
Adopted From Josh Kaufman’s The First 20 Hours

The best part about learning a new skill is that there’s a likelihood that someone that has already done it. Identify these people and find out how they did it and learn from them. They’ll help you shorten your learning curve by teaching you the shortcuts and the best practices. There are plenty of online resources to help me become a conversion-focused UX/UI Designer but I went to RED Academy, a tech career-focused school to get a formal education from industry experts. This investment helped me save so much time as opposed to learning on my own without any guidance.

As Tony Robbins puts it: “Many great leaders have proven that the fastest way to master any skill, strategy or goal in life is to model those who have already forged the path ahead. If you can find someone who is already getting the results that you want and take the same actions they are taking, you can get the same results.”

Practice Deliberately

the first 20 hours steps

According to Josh Kaufman’s book The First 20 Hours, to learn fast one must learn just enough to self-correct. First, research the best practices then take action. Then, instead of perfecting the technique right away, try practicing it. Find out what’s working and what needs improvements then hit the resources again.

Kaufman summarized it as “Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on practicing as much as you can as quickly as you can while maintaining ‘good enough’ form.”

 

Apply the Pareto Principles

Pareto principle in learning the English language

In learning any skill, self-proclaimed “human guinea pig” Tim Ferriss asks himself “Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?” For example, there are around 250,000 words in the English language according to linguist Paul Nation. However, 2,000 words cover 80% of the written text. This suggests that instead of trying to learn all 250,000 words and being overwhelmed, you’re more likely to gain competency if you identify and focus on learning the 2,000 words.

Sleep on It

A Harvard study suggested that dreaming may reactivate and reorganize recently learned material, which would help improve memory and boost performance. In addition, light sleep stages 1 and 2 have been shown to be important in helping the brain being plastic to learning new material. After stretching yourself to learn new materials, take a nap or get a good night sleep and your brain will consolidate what you’ve learned throughout the day.

Not only sleep will help you maintain learned information, it helps you in other areas of your life from being more alert, have more energy, experience less stress, and improve overall happiness.

What Will You Learn Next?

what will you learn next

Today’s society is unique as the internet enables us to learn anything that we want. To learn fast, devote yourself to become a lifelong learner, find the reason why you’re learning the skill, identify the 20% that is accountable for the 80% of the results and practice deliberately. You can learn anything, but you can’t learn everything. What will you learn next?

ElementIQ Internship: Joseph’s First Week

Prologue – Life Before Tech

My career path has not been so linear. I’ve ventured many industries from sports, hospitality to the financial services industry before entering the tech industry. I’m a type of person if I’m curious about something, I do it right away and find out if it’s for me or not. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said it the best: “Dwelling has zero return on investment.”

When I found out that a career in financial services wasn’t for me, I quit and enrolled in the UX Design program at RED Academy. It was an easy decision as I wanted a career that had the best interest for the people.

Gary Vaynerchuk’s input on dwelling. Warning: coarse language

The Introduction

StormBrain project at RED Academy

After finishing a client project at RED, my client Steve Kim was pleased with our work and he introduced me to Sam Araki, the founder of ElementIQ, who worked in the same co-working space as him. After I got in touch with Sam, we went for a coffee to get to know each other and talk about a potential placement at ElementIQ. After our second meeting, I was offered a 3-month internship.

At first, I had mixed feelings as ElementIQ is an inbound marketing agency and not a design agency. However, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to get a holistic understanding of the tech industry. I jumped at the opportunity to start my journey in the tech industry.

Day 1 THU – The First Day

I was greeted by the ElementIQ team when I entered SpaceKraft, a shared workplace in Burnaby. I was joined with Katie, who was also starting her first day. Soon after the introduction, Ramesh gave us a tour of the co-working space.

Ramesh then gave us a walkthrough of the company’s culture and workflow. Some of the tools and resources that we installed were Google Apps, Quip, Teamwork, Slack, along with subscriptions to numerous marketing resources.

By end of the day, I was equipped with the tools and resources for success and had a better understanding of the company’s culture:

  • Autonomy. Employees have autonomy as we work remotely twice a week.
  • Semi-structured. We have daily huddles at 9:08 AM as well as weekly team meetings. It helps us to keep accountable and track our progress.
  • Communication. We utilize various tools to help our workflow. They all serve a purpose for us to work together as a team.

Day 2 FRI – First Remote Day

It felt a little weird at first as it’s my second day and that I was to work remotely. I joined the daily huddle at 9:08 AM on Google Hangouts. Sam invited us to Zoom, an alternative to Hangouts. It turns out that Zoom is much more stable even with the video share on! Everyone went around to discuss what they’re working on the day and added the tasks on Quip. It was also an opportunity to discuss any blockers that were keeping us from finishing a task.

After the huddle, Ramesh, Katie and I stayed in the conference to plan the day. We were given the resources to learn about the company as well as inbound marketing materials. Soon after, Sam assigned me to obtain the ‘Optimization & Testing Mastery’ Certificate on Digital Marketer. As a data-driven UX/UI Designer, Sam identified that it would complement my current skill set to learn conversion rate optimization (CRO).

We had the opportunity to utilize Quip, Teamwork, Slack, Google Apps, amongst other tools to get familiar with the ElementIQ workflow. I spent much of the day learning about inbound marketing and I was fascinated to learn how it closely parallels with many user experience (UX) methods. It further reinforced my decision to take on the opportunity at ElementIQ as it gave me new perspectives.

Day 3 MON – First Client Project!

We began our morning with a daily huddle. After discussing our daily tasks and our blockers, Sam shared a Harvard Business Review article on the benefit of daily self-reflection. Sam encouraged us to adopt this and practice reflection before ending our day.

For the rest of the morning, Ramesh introduced ElementIQ’s clients to Katie and I. I was intrigued at the company’s transparency and the personal connection that we have with our clients. After lunch, Ramesh gave us a digital marketing walkthrough. We learned about the elements of digital marketing and we had the opportunity to ask any questions that we had.

After the walkthrough, Lincoln gave me my first client project- to create an email campaign for a client. I was to come up with an email campaign strategy for a promotional offer with an email newsletter and a landing page. I asked many questions to understand the context and the target audience. After coming up with the objective, key performance indicators (KPIs) and the information about our audience, we gathered additional questions to send to our client.

Day 4 TUE – Blog Optimization And Pizza Mmm…

Today, we had a blog post walkthrough with Karmen. She showed us how to access our client’s websites with WordPress and how we create blog posts for our clients. By the end of the walkthrough, we had the opportunity to revise and optimize an older blog post.

In the afternoon, Lincoln showed Katie and I the world of web hosting. I thought I had an understanding of web hosting but I learned a lot from Lincoln hearing from the agency’s perspective. Towards the end of our web hosting walkthrough, we were interrupted by the smell of pizza…

It was time for quarterly Town Hall at SpaceKraft. It was an opportunity to meet the members and the staffs at the co-working space to discuss upcoming events and any concerns that we may have. It was a pleasant experience to meet people with a various background that work together to build a community.

Day 5 WED – Design And Code?!

On my second remote day, I received feedback from Ramesh on the blog post that I revised for optimization. The comments functionality on Google Docs worked perfectly as the feedback was clear for revision. After revising the blog post, I put together the content for the email campaign and sent it to Lincoln for review. I then sketched the wireframes and started to digitize the wireframes on Sketch.

At 3:00 PM, I had a Zoom meeting with Ramesh where he shared his screen and gave me a walkthrough of a client project. The client wanted to create a web page and Ramesh asked me if I could design AND build the page WordPress myself under the guidance of Lincoln. Although I don’t have much experience with WordPress, I happily accepted the challenge as it was an opportunity to further expand myself as a designer.

Day 6 THU – Intern To Strategist

Despite being an internship, Sam has given me the title UX/UI Strategist. I am ever grateful for this and the faith that his team has shown me in my ability. I want to take this opportunity to live up to the expectation and apply design thinking to solve problems for our users and our clients.

Closing Thoughts

When I was seeking employment in tech, I noticed many titles from: UX/UI Designer, Digital Designer, Product Designer, Web Designer, Interaction Designer amongst many others. I recently read a Medium article suggesting that there’s an unnecessary fragmentation of design jobs. Designers solve problems for the users and the clients by creating seamless user experience. They do everything: research, writing, visuals, code, project management, whatever it takes. I very much resonate with this and at ElementIQ, I wear all hats in order to get the job done. I am able to do this in a supportive team culture where each member has respect and trust for one another. I am grateful to be in this position and I look forward to the upcoming challenges.