Here’s How To Hack Into The Tech Industry

Fellow African-Americans, Becoming Competition Makes You More Hireable

Andre Spivey

Andre has over 10 years of experience in Tech and Start-ups ranging from the advanced tech in the US Air Force to building his own educational software company Live 2 Learn Differently. His is a proud graduate of Morris Brown College and Cornell University.

The tech industry is growing consistently unlike many other industries throughout the world. It doesn’t grow only in demand, it grows in its’ variety of jobs and career opportunities as the technology grows.


There are many paths into the tech industry, and many stories about those who’ve entered successfully at many different levels. The tech industry by definition is fast moving, flexible and changes at any given time in order to adjust to the new desires and demands of consumers. It touches every single aspect of our lives, from food, utilities, healthcare, transportation and even our day to day minute to minute social interaction.


We’ve seen tech grow from simple calculations for the purposes of war and time measurements, to amazing things done at NASA, with minds such as Katherine Jones (Hidden Figures), all the way up to new programming languages created by people like John H. Thompson.


The computers that were once the size of an entire room, then the size of a large dog, has now been placed into our hands and easily fits into our pockets. As time passes to throw continues and new parts of that industry disrupt other industries, a prime example of this is the explosion of robotics.


Our cars, surgeons and even our local cashiers and factory workers are becoming robots. Breaches of data and information have made IT security a top priority industry with strong salaries across the globe. The competition for jobs are steep of course, as with all high demand jobs, so the question becomes who gets these new, exciting and well-paying jobs?


Currently it appears that black tech majors are being left out of this growth industry or at the very least, not entering at the same rate as others. Studies differ on this, but most have the same conclusion, the famous or popular tech companies are all located in Silicon Valley and they hire black tech employees enough.



The Problem With These Studies And Conclusions

The main problem is its narrow focus and limited view the tech world to Silicon Valley ignores the fact that the majority of tech jobs are outside of Silicon Valley and don’t involve working for Facebook or Google. Put quite simply, the companies in Silicon Valley are large in revenue, but they are not the size of Walmart when it comes to employee size.


These companies don’t have enough jobs to offer everyone, they are not in a position to solve the black unemployment challenge for black tech majors. Across the country, however, there are millions of companies, small and large seeking out Systems Admins, IT Security Techs, programmers and more. The healthcare industry is always in need of tech employees in order to improve and maintain, its infrastructure and security, the same goes for banking, insurance, and retail.


The studies on minorities in tech don’t often look at the many black tech employees that work in other industries. This brings us to one way that should always be considered when trying to break into the tech industry.


Look Outside of Silicon Valley

Job seekers should look for opportunities in industries that have been around for hundreds of years. The accounting industry has been around a long time, and many small firms are seeking tech experts to help them update their technology and processes.


The healthcare industry, due to government regulations, must seek out tech expertise to protect information from disasters, secure medical records, patient data and more. They’re also using that data to determine the best ways to take care of patients. In healthcare, you can do anything from IT Security to data science. The insurance industries, banking and many others including school districts have many openings.


Degrees Don’t Impress Tech Bosses

Many are told to major in computer science, computer and electronics engineering, information management and majors such as these as a way to break into the tech industry. I am in no way saying do not go to college, one should go to college, it is a great learning experience, but it is just that, a learning experience.


The tech industry is fast paced and often suits itself to those who’ve had true hands-on experience outside of school labs. Even when hiring in the most basic positions such as a helpdesk or desktop technician, I’m aware of the difference between working for a grade, versus, handling customers under a deadline for a company.


The knowledge itself is also important, because most degrees teach you a wide range, broad information about different aspect of computing, but don’t dig deep into the day to day of that computing. For example, in nearly all of the majors that I’ve mentioned you’ll touch on database administration (DBA), java and other languages briefly, each of these things are a job and a career within themselves, so leaving college doesn’t give you the necessary experience to jump right into work.


While going to college, take a few certification bootcamps, or better yet, simply buy the certification book for the subject you’re interested in for typically less than $100.00 and schedule to test for less than $300.00. Although this seems like a lot, it isn’t investment wise. Rather than struggling in college as an engineering major, you could get a 15-20$/hour job as a helpdesk tech, or network technicians, this gets you paid and builds your experience.


What we’re currently seeing is that black engineering majors are having trouble landing jobs, but the same does not hold true for blacks’ that hold Cisco CCNA or other types of certifications. As with all things in economics, it is prudent to study and work as many angles as possible for successful entry.


It Is On Us To Create Jobs For Our Futures

This above all is the most important of all things to consider. In tech you don’t have to wait to be hired, you have a skill that can be used to work as soon as you choose to take advantage of it. The key is to start off thinking like a consultant or contractor rather than an employee.


In the case of minorities, we’re typically the last hired and first fired, often ignored and underestimated by potential employers. Simply because a company has underestimated you doesn’t mean that you don’t have the skill. A doctor who isn’t at a hospital still has the credentials of a doctor and is a doctor, your certifications and degrees are still yours, which means you still have the skills. Use those skills to start your own business, even if you only have an A+ Cert, market yourself out for desktop and server repair, or troubleshooting for residential customers and small businesses.


If you’re a security expert, offer services, testing the security of websites and consulting on security improvements. If you’re a network expert, many companies are seeking outside contractors for build outs and expansions and if you’re a programmer, there’s always a start-up that you can offer your services to. These independent jobs help to build your resume and reputation which go a long way toward hiring. This is an increased edge which at times can close the gap created by biases.


More importantly, if your business becomes successful you can become the employer giving opportunities to minorities and women who have oft been ignored by larger companies. Creating employment for yourself using your skills is the only true employment security. In no way should the fight to gain access to jobs at companies such as Google and Facebook end. All Americans should be offered a fair and honest shot at these jobs, however, we must begin to think independently.


Thinking of employment independently will enable us to negotiate benefits and salaries from a position of power. There is a difference between “asking for a seat at the table” and saying “I just built my own table, let’s, partner.”


Photo: Swaggr

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