There are more opportunities than ever for programmers who want to learn to code and work in emerging computer technologies. From The Internet of Things (IoT) to blockchain to virtual reality, there is no shortage of exciting fields that can provide novel work with bountiful pay and high personal fulfillment.
Most would agree that going into an emerging technology is good for one's career. However, this decision is not trivial. You will have to ask a set of questions regarding:
- your own nature
- the nature of the particular technology that intrigues you, and
- the nature of the companies competing in the field
Do you really want to work in an emerging technology?
If you want to work in an emerging technology you must be prepared to ask yourself the following questions:
Am I comfortable with uncertainty?
When you work for a startup, you work for a company with no safety net. The failure rate is high, as is the percentage of startups that completely change their business model within a year of operation.
Startups operate in a more volatile space than established companies, and the daily work itself is readily subject to change. To thrive at one you must make sure that maintaining high productivity while constantly shifting priorities is second-nature to you.
Am I capable of being a generalist?
You will wear many hats at a startup, particularly those in the early-stage. Expect to act as an informal part-time database admin, systems admin, network engineer, and in extreme cases even a salesman or a marketer. Companies at this phase of their development simply can not afford to specialize. In fact, even moderate-sized companies often do not have the luxury of hiring database admins, leaving their programmers with the responsibility of understanding DB tuning at a level beyond their depth.
In all likelihood at a startup, you will be doing the job of more than one person. This is a scenario that scares some of us, but others thrive in it. Note that a heavy load with multifaceted responsibilities is good preparation for branching off your own startup or consulting business, if that is your eventual goal.
Finding your best fit
If you find yourself saying "yes" to the questions above, your next action is to explore the different emerging technologies in depth. You must also do some self-examination to narrow down to the one that is your best fit.
Define your strengths and passions
Honestly identify the areas in which you have excelled the most and which pursuits truly animate you. You will go the furthest in your career when these two factors have as much harmony as possible.
“I am good at 'programming' and 'computers,'” you might say. Unfortunately, this is too broad and general. Think along the following lines:
- you may excel at programming but have also had a knack for small gadgets with gears and servos. If you have a mechanical inclination, you might be well-suited for the Internet of Things.
- your values and personal inclinations may also inform your career choice. You may care just as much about the future of privacy as you do about building income, and may even be willing to sacrifice some of the latter for the benefit of the former. In this case you would likely be highly driven in the blockchain field.
- you may be a "mathlete," someone who is at home in the abstract world of numbers and equations, even more so than the average techie. In this case, the growing number of opportunities in machine learning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence can satisfy your inclination towards pure mathematics.
Do you prefer growth, challenge, or a balance between the two?
It can be difficult to predict the long-term viability of a field. However, the degree to which you can maintain a career in a growing technology can be one of the factors that causes you to choose one over all others.
Consider that in the late 1960s aerospace technology was booming, leading to an influx of engineering graduates to the job market. However, over time the industry did not stay hot enough for all those that had entered in the hope of job security. Do not assume that a field will stay strong forever just because it is taking off right now.
A good strategy here is to pay less attention to Wired and other popular tech sites and more attention to research firms such as Gartner and McKinsey. These organizations put a lot of work into projecting the growth of technologies and even defining where they are in terms of hype vs. maturity.
However, you may be a person who lives for the present. You may be willing to choose challenge and fulfillment over long-term prospects (after all, we did establish that startups are not for those that put a premium on stability). You may also try to find some happy balance between these factors. Just note that radical technologies are a bit of a gamble, but you will feel a great sense of reward going through the difficulty of bringing something novel into the mainstream.
Profile the companies in the field
Once you have decided on a good fit in terms of emerging technologies, you should profile the companies in the field. They can have wide variation - unlike with more monolithic corporate culture the quirks of the leadership team visibly filter down all the way through a startup's culture. A good frame of mind is to act as if you are interviewing a potential startup employer just as intently as they will interview you.
More visibility into founders than ever
Startups currently have a massive amount of public visibility - they actively try to cultivate it. You can use the following tips to scope out startups in an emerging field:
- Crunchbase provides full profiles and practically anything that you would like to know about the current pool of major startups. This includes whole funding histories and the names of all founders.
- Once you have identified the founders, it is easy to get a feel for them through their online presence. Very few people trying to grow a startup will be secretive. What this means is that you will likely see well-curated LinkedIn blogs, links to Github profiles, and conference presentations available on YouTube that will help you understand the personalities behind the company and their technical preferences.
This should provide you with a good start in your path towards working in an emerging technology as a programmer. Of course, you could also decide to work on more mature technologies with well-established companies. In either case, we are here to help you grow as a software professional and steer you towards the options that will give the greatest career satisfaction. This includes coding bootcamps at our programming school that can help you learn to code and get a fulfilling career. Contact DaVinci Coders for more information.