Should you switch to a career in digital technology?
Author: Nicola Lumb | Date published: 28/07/17
You’re sitting at your desk at 8.45am with a cup of coffee. Usually, you are able to squeeze in a couple of minutes to scan the top news stories on your Google feed. For a few months now you have been seeing top trending stories on how the digital sector is seeing a huge boost in investment and the surge in demand for digital skills in nearly every job sector. News of AI, big data and robotics are in the news almost every day. The total effect of these three advances alone is predicted to transform the world of work in the next 5 to 10 years.
So is it too late to make that career switch? Let’s take a look at a number of key factors worth considering when making a move to digital.
The demand for digital outstrips all other sectors
There are currently more than 1.5 million people are already working within the digital sector in the UK. The digital economy is growing 50% faster than the wider economy. Despite the number of people already working in digital, more than 50% of tech businesses told us that talent supply is their number one growth challenge. This is mainly due to huge changes in the landscape of traditional industries as they bring in digital technologies to make products and services more energy efficient and inexpensive. Even industries as traditional as farming are changing with the use of artificial intelligence to better control pests and diseases in greenhouses in America and Mexico. And if that’s not enough, despite the Brexit result last year, London tech companies have attracted over £1 billion of investment in emerging technologies since the referendum vote.
Navigating the minefield of digital jobs
The digital sector covers a myriad of jobs and often someone beginning their research can get lost in figuring out the various roles and industries that need digital specialists. A good starting point would be to take a look at job boards and recruitment firm websites and look at the types of jobs being advertised. This will give you a good indication of the types of skills that companies are looking for in a potential candidate. In terms of the type of industry that would need IT, this can be from anything to everything. Healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, education; the list goes on. So what matters more is the digital skill or area itself that you choose to focus on rather than the type of company you will end up working at.
Don’t know coding?
Often the main reason stopping a person making a career change is a lack of knowledge in the new field that they want to enter. However, education is no longer contained to universities alone and more and more digitally skilled professionals are learning their skills from online platforms. There are great free tools such as Codeacademy that you can use to start your education in various code languages. A 2017 survey by Stack Overflow revealed that 94% of developers in UK and Ireland consider themselves at least somewhat self-taught. Developers also claimed that good communication skills, a good track record of getting things done and other soft skills were more important than a formal degree.
The unique aspect of a career in IT is the ability to work as a contractor. If you are looking for a change from traditional employment, contracting may provide the perfect solution. Plenty of companies look to hire contractors for projects that range from a month to a year. One of the main benefits of being a contractor is increased earnings: you are paid more per hour/day, and your tax status enables you to take home more net pay than a typical employee. Contractors also have greater control over working hours and locations. Plus, between contracts you can choose to take as much or as little time off as you like.
Digital can lead to high paying project management roles
Building a career in digital also provides long term career growth. Many skilled developers go on to manage projects in various lucrative contract roles. This is where coming from another career background could be greatly beneficial as project managers’ often have various other key skills in management, marketing and business.