Technology is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. With each passing day, we become more and more dependent on technology for healthcare, recreation, and business among other aspects of life. There are over 1.35 million tech startups as of 2020 with billions of devices creating more data every day (Source: Hosting Tribunal). Technology is not just growing fast, it is growing exponentially. In fact, the onset of covid has further accelerated this growth as more and more persons are forced to turn to technology amidst physical distancing orders. Many businesses that previously swore by their manual systems have not only had to invest in technology but are now realizing the vast benefits of buying in. Technology is absolutely the best place to field you want to look at if you are looking to start your career or pivot.
But just how do you get started in tech? There are a ton of technologies and everything is changing so fast, not to mention how many fields fall under the category of tech. We understand. All this data can be overwhelming but we’ve got you. Jamaican Developers has taken the best advice from our Jamaican community leaders to share with you.
You can begin a career in tech today even if you have never written code in your entire life. Here are the four cardinal rules you need to follow:
1. Education & Expertise: Knowledge is Power
As with any other field, your first step should be to get educated. The more knowledge and expertise you have, the better decisions you are able to make, from how to approach a project to which data structures to use. It is very important to not just be able to code or get the software up and running. You want to be able to produce robust, secure, and maintainable software solutions. Additionally, you should also ensure that you are keeping up with where the technology industry is doing, the new technologies and tools are being created, as well as, new security threats. Expanding your knowledge will also help you to learn new ways of solving old problems, best practices and Thankfully when it comes to tech, you have many options to learn depending on the area you are interested in. Here are some of the ways you can ramp up your education and expertise.
University: In Jamaica, university programs have been criticized for being outdated and some students relate that there is a large gap between the education garnered in CS degree programs and what employers are looking for. However, the general consensus of our diverse panel is that you should get your degree if you are able to. In fact, a degree is still the number one way to get into tech worldwide and most companies in Jamaica will not hire you without a degree. In fact, it doesn’t matter where you got your degree because the process of landing a job takes many factors into account, and often a degree is the first step to formality. Don’t start thinking that the degree is not important though. The degree program is designed to teach you the foundation that you need for the industry and often helps you to network and find other persons who may become business partners later in life. So get your degree, but if you can’t, there are other ways.
Mentorship: A mentor is a great way to expand your knowledge and expertise, particularly because they would have already gone through most of the issues that you are facing and are able to help you speed up the process of gaining knowledge and learning best practices in a guided way. However, mentors don’t grow on trees and so you will have to search for one. You can find mentors at tech meetups, in developer communities, or at hackathons if you present yourself right. But don’t forget, mentors are making a very generous donation of their time to you, so if you have the opportunity, you should appreciate making use of the opportunity.
Articles and Blogs: Articles and blogs help you to keep up with current trends, new technologies, and best practices. There are tons of tech such as HackerNoon, Dzone, Smashing Magazine, CSS-Tricks, and the list goes on. Find one for your area and dive in. You can also find articles on Medium, Dev.to, or LinkedIn. You can even use RSS feed apps such as Feedly or follow communities like Jamaican Developers on social media to keep up with new articles.
Online Courses and Bootcamps: Online courses also offer great introductory courses in different areas or technologies. Some sites that offer reputable courses are Udemy, Coursera, and Datacamp. However, be careful! Don’t get caught in the wave of online courses and end up watching multiple courses but not learning. You should always try to follow along on your own machine to ensure that you are grasping the content matter and supplementing your learning elsewhere. If you want to do a more hands-on introduction you can also check out online or in-person coding bootcamps.
Tutorials: Tutorials are everywhere from Medium to Youtube. You can learn to build small projects like a To-Do app to more complex things like an eCommerce site. Tutorials are a great way to ramp up your practical knowledge, especially if your main mode of learning focuses on theory. However, some people get caught in tutorial hell, just like with online courses, where they are just watching. Ensure that you are following and completing the tutorial on your own.
Social Media: Even social media is becoming an avenue for gaining knowledge and experience. Seek out developers who are rooted in your field and follow their pages. No doubt, you’ll gain some interesting and invaluable insights.
2. Experience: Get your 10,000 hours
Whether or not Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule holds up to science, one thing is for sure. Mastery cannot be achieved without consistent and deliberate practice. Consistency helps you to retain knowledge and reinforce what you learn, while deliberate nature helps your practice to be more effective. Now, how are mastery and experience connected? Experience is often a measure of competency or mastery. Your level of experience infers that you are not only committed to the field, but it can illustrate how well you adapt to new technologies or your mastery in a specific area. In fact, experience has a much higher weight than education when you are trying to land a job or gain new clients.
There are many ways in which you can gain experience. Many academic programs have practical projects and tutorial projects can provide valuable experience as well. But if you really want to ramp up your experience before you search for a job, here are some additional avenues.
Internships: Of course, internships are a great way to gain experience. Internships allow you to get practical experience with guidance. Internships will often expose you to a more structured way of approaching problems and can leave you with many insights from both the technical and business aspects of tech. Many companies provide some form of internship or apprenticeship opportunities. Some degree programs allow you to earn credits from doing an internship.
Personal Projects: We’re sure you have many interests or many problems that you face on a daily basis. We bet you didn’t know you were sitting on gold. It’s time to take advantage of your interests or turn your problems into an opportunity. Use them as inspiration to create side projects. These projects will help you to increase your mastery or trigger new learnings. It doesn’t matter how simple or how complex the project is. If you don’t start you’ll get nowhere.
Pro bono Work: Pro bono work is underrated, but just like a personal project, it is a great way to earn experience. Furthermore, you are sure that your project is going to market and your potential employer or client can see its impact in real-time. Additionally, doing pro-bono work also shows that you are committed to your craft and to learning rather than chasing money.
3. Collaboration: Two heads are better than one
A great mind once said, “Competition makes us faster. Collaboration makes us better.” This is indeed true, especially in tech. Collaboration not only helps you to network and share perspectives. It contributes to a higher quality of work or code. Collaboration can generally be achieved by working in teams. Here are some ways in which you can embrace teamwork:
Pair Programming: Pair programming involves working together with one other developer. Ideally, one person is working while the other person is looking at the code, and roles are switched at an agreed time interval (usually 15-30mins). Pair programming helps you to reduce errors in your work or even avoid rookie mistakes because your peers can point out mistakes you missed or offer a different perspective. Two heads are always better than one.
Mob Programming: Mob programming is for larger teams but takes on the same format.
Hackathons: Hackathons are the champion of teamwork, bringing developers together for years. Hackathons are a great way to collaborate. The best part is that you are not limited to the knowledge of your own team, especially if you have access to mentors who work in the industry. NCB, NextGen Creators, and IBM are some of the organizations that put on yearly hackathons. You can also keep up with hackathons on Devpost.io
4. Support: Fellowship, share and learn
When you are just getting started, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You may find yourself fighting with the same error for hours, making you feel lonely or demotivated. This is why you should join a tech community. In the earlier years of tech, if you wanted to bounce ideas or find other persons to work with, you had to either be a university computer club member or go to a hackathon. Today there are international, regional, and local communities for almost every technology that you can think of. These communities provide a forum to discuss ideas, get assistance with issues, and access experts who can help you to chart your path. You can find communities online like StackOverflow or on platforms such as Slack and Discord. Some tech communities in Jamaica are MakeBetter(for Web Developers), Kingston WordPress Group, Google Developer Group, Facebook Developer Circles, Docker Jamaica, and Jamaican Developers.
Now that we have covered the four cardinal rules, it is important to note that Jamaica’s industry is still fairly young. We have a long way to go, but it is clear that there is room for exponential growth. Covid has forced a lot of businesses to care about I.T. and operate outside of their comfort zone. Many businesses and employees will not want to go back to working in the office. Thus, the prospects for you to take advantage of the demand for tech are huge. Jamaica is a talent hub and it is up to developers to ensure that these opportunities do not go to waste. This is your time to shine!
If you are interested in Tech and want to join our community, please visit our forum at community.caribbean.dev. It will provide you with the link to our Telegram Chat.