I was talking to a friend recently who works for a startup accelerator. As a part of his job, he talks to a lot of college students daily. He was telling me that they ask him how to get placed and make a difference in the software industry, especially at a time where there is unlimited supply of talent, the layoffs have been massive and there is a general fear of getting replaced due to the advent of AI and so on.
He asked me to share some insights on how to get into and stay relevant in the industry. I quickly typed out a long message with three things explaining what makes someone valuable to a business or an organization regardless of today’s changing landscape. And, I thought it might be worth elaborating it in a blog post.
So, here are three things that I believe, regardless of the changing landscape, that would still get you placed/hired and keep you relevant in the software industry.
1. Software is just a means to an end
The first and foremost thing to understand as an aspiring software developer or technologist is that software is a means to an end.
It’s easy to get carried away with technology and nuances around it. And to be honest, it is really interesting when you go down that rabbit hole and I personally believe in ‘Art for art’s sake’ too. I would like to argue about writing code one way over the other or which is the best framework, etc.
While all of that is great, we should remember that software is not an end in itself. We develop software to solve business problems – real human problems, and it is just a means to that end. Only when you start seeing yourself as someone who solves business problems through technology, can you proactively add value to an organisation.
The degree to which you will be valued in an organization depends on how directly and consciously you contribute to either cut costs or generate revenue.
2. Identify your niche
A person developing software for self-driving cars at Tesla and a person working on Instagram’s backend to serve the ever-growing userbase may both be using Python to solve problems. But, apart from the title ‘Python Developer’, they are skilled at one or more things specific to a that domain. The former will have a good understanding of machine learning, computer vision, etc. while the latter will have a good understanding of the cloud, infrastructure, deployment and so on.
Identify one or two areas that are unique to you; it could be anything. E.g. cooking, computer graphics, habit formation, etc. Then try to think about how you can use technology to solve problems in that space. This way you have something unique that only you can offer.
All great technology is built somewhere at the intersection of two or more disciplines.
Understanding and working towards this lets you differentiate yourself in a market full of people presenting themselves as experts in a particular language or technology.
3. Put yourself out there
Share your learnings and knowledge on the Internet regularly. Start with the most comfortable medium. E.g. Just consider posting one tweet everyday on what you learnt, instead of trying to post an article every few days.
This is important for two reasons.
One, by sharing what you learn in writing, you force yourself to put down into words what you have in your mind. And in most cases what you think you know really well, you will realize that you only have a vague understanding of it when you try to put it into words.
Two, it acts as a proof of work to people who might be looking for what you know, have or do already.
If you look at the stats, on the internet, 1 percent create, 9 percent contribute and 90 percent consume. Contributing means commenting on what others create and being a part of the broader conversation. Creating means coming up with original content. If you start commenting, you’ll have 10 times more reach than an average human being. If you start creating, you’ll have 90 times more reach than others.
In a physical space, your mere presence is enough to make a difference and make people notice you. But online, it’s only by contributing/creating you build your presence. This will lead to opportunities you can never think of.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” –Seneca
Those are my honest thoughts on how we can set ourselves apart in the software industry and stay relevant in today’s changing landscape. Though I have put these down from the perspective of the software industry, they apply to any industry/specialization in general.
That’s it for now! 🙌
Do you find it difficult to get placed, stand out or stay relevant? Do you have something in mind that would enable us to achieve the same?
Let me know your thoughts on Twitter.
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