The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 22.8 percent increase in software development jobs through 2022, which is more than twice the projected rise in overall employment. So college students interested in technical careers are in a good place. But one thing: They should bear in mind their success will involve more than a technical education.
Executives at tech companies like Mozilla, Reddit and Tumblr tell the Washington Post that it’s important to learn soft skills, too, even though you won’t find many—if any—courses to teach them. They’re talking about things like problem solving, communication and the ability to work with others.
“Coding, editing video, design—it really is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation. “What’s below the tip of the iceberg is participation, critical thinking and being able to collaborate. You really need to be a well-rounded, Renaissance, Internet-era kind of person.” As the Post points out, coding can be learned online, while abilities like being able to connect with people can’t.
That puts the onus on students to make sure they develop the whole package. To be sure, just being on campus helps: You can take advantage of volunteer opportunities to gain experience, student groups to find like-minded collaborators on apps or other projects, and alumni networks to get connections and mentors. Employers, the Post says, are looking at your self-discipline as much as they are your academic work: “It’s the discipline to spend years on an area of study—and producing work that demonstrates the result of that effort—that persuades employers to take a chance on hiring someone in their 20s.”
As for which school you attend, that may not matter as much as what you do while you’re there. “We don’t really care what school you go to,” said Ellen Pao, Reddit’s senior vice president of strategic partnerships. “We’re interested in people who really love what they do.”
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