It won’t come as a surprise to anyone in the technology industry that there is a current shortage of talented people. The sector is the fastest growing industry in New Zealand and it has expanded 30 percent faster than the economy overall. Added to that, pandemic border restrictions have only recently been lifted to allow overseas applicants, and Kiwi’s are re-assessing what’s important to them for their careers and their families, so it has become more challenging than ever to recruit (and retain) experienced and passionate staff.
And the tech industry is set to continue to grow, with the Government committing an additional $20 million over four years towards two key initiatives in the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan (ITP). This includes supporting the growth of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) community and taking New Zealand’s Tech and Innovation Story — a marketing initiative led by industry in partnership with government, to the world.
So, what are our options? We can’t simply plant a seed and grow new technical specialists when we need them. It seems sensible that (as well as encouraging the younger generations to choose technology as their field, but perhaps that’s a topic for another time) we need to entice people to make the move from other industries, finding a way to make the change accessible.
This month we chatted to some of our team that have made the, often scary, leap from a different career trajectory, to see what made them choose the software industry.
Ian Montgomery is a Technical Support Analyst here at EndGame, working in our Support & Operations team. He wasn’t always headed for a career in technology.
“I have BA degree in English Literature, and my first job was as a copywriter. In the process I realised this company’s websites didn’t need new copy, they needed new websites! They asked if I could do that, so I learnt the basics through free online tutorials. What was meant to be a short-term contract ended up being three and a half years. I realised I liked the technology and the learning involved.” You had eight years working in retail after this, but we’ve managed to lure you back. What changed?
“I got a job in retail when I arrived in New Zealand which turned out to be long-term. I never lost my interest in technology though. When the pandemic hit, it seemed like a good time to get back into tech.”
MJ Szczesny, one of our talented developers, had a taste for tech from a younger age, but took a bit of time to circle back to it. “I studied medicine as my parents wanted me to be a doctor, but it was always computers. It started in high school - my friend introduced me to HTML and I was hooked. I studied medicine for four years, and then was brave enough to tell my parents I wanted to work in IT!” You mentioned you spent a while working as a Business Analyst in banking before you decided you’d prefer to be writing code – what prompted the change to being a developer? “A facilitator at a workshop asked us to imagine it was our funeral and people were talking about us - what would we like to hear about ourselves? You start thinking about what’s important to you, about your values, and then you prioritise them. One of those values, very high on my list, was to put a dent in the universe, and I concluded that I’m more likely to do that as a software engineer.”
Alicia Caldwell, EndGame’s Growth Manager, in her words “has had a few careers”’, from PR to teaching to government, before joining the tech industry. “I like to work at pace and learn new things, so I thought the Tech sector would be an exciting industry and I have not been disappointed! I also wanted to gain relevant skills and I know that the Tech sector is positioned for growth and those in the sector are in high demand.”
So, you’ve made the decision to explore the industry, what’s the next step?
There’s a multitude of great courses available in New Zealand. If you have the time and financial resources available to dedicate a good chunk of time to learning, check out:
If you’re working towards a career change alongside a current job or other study, try some of the e-learning platforms & resources available such as Codecademy, freeCodeCamp or Udemy. MJ commented, “I enjoyed Udemy, you can go through the videos, see how the technologies work and then utilise them. I still watch their courses now and if I see a bigger problem or opportunity - I just build a software solution and then use it myself.”
You’ll also benefit from growing your professional network. Connect with relevant people on LinkedIn, reaching out to let them know why you’d like to connect. And register to attend local networking events - MeetUp is a great place to start and CHQ holds regular events. Join the KiwiSaaS network and attend the yearly Tech Week events.
Our team is always inspired by how great Alicia is at building professional relationships and networks, and for her it’s one of the most important aspects of her role “I leaned on my networks to educate me more about the sector, give me warm introductions and recommend roles and companies that they rated. Start now. Just make one small step and talk to people you know. Meet with people in the businesses you aspire to work in.”
It's not all plain sailing though, is it?
Of course, making the move to a new industry comes with challenges. Ian admitted one of his biggest challenges was having the humility to take a step back and learn. “Being a junior in my mid 30s was a bit of a challenge to my ego! I was used to being a manager in retail and having a deep understanding of the work I was doing. I’ve had to hang up my pride and admit to myself I have a lot to learn before I get back to that senior level. I found it challenging to go from being the person with all the answers to being the one with all the questions.” So don’t be afraid to ask those hard questions, chances are you’re not the only one thinking them and people are really keen to share their knowledge.
For Alicia, the challenge was wrapping her head around the scale of the industry and getting to grips with the language and terminologies used. “The scope of software is so massive, so personally I just have to be realistic about what I can learn and what I should prioritise learning to be effective in my role.”
What’s the best thing about the tech industry?
When asked what the best thing about their decision to try the tech industry has been, learning, growth and finding a great community seem to come out on top. “When I thought about this question, I was like, hmm what is it? I started going to work with pleasure again. My work is still work, but it’s also a hobby. If you do what you love doing, then you can’t wait to wake up and go to work and write some more code and solve some more problems.” says MJ.
“Definitely the continual learning, which is what attracted me to tech in the first place. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to learn” says Ian. “Plus, the culture in a lot of modern tech companies is supportive and people centric. More so than I found working in other industries”
Alicia finds the people in this industry really interesting “So many people come to SaaS through a range of careers and are really curious, sharp people. People are also really outcome focused too and this gives a great sense of purpose and working in the same direction.”
We had to ask - why EndGame?
“You really need to find a company that’s willing to take a punt on someone who is making a career change and starting out again as a junior. But finding a tech company that’s open to people like us can be tricky” shares Ian. “EndGame looked like the right kind of place for me, reading through the website and getting the sense that they’re a values driven and product driven company. For me, being in a learning phase, that’s ideal as I get to touch a lot of different technologies. More chance of accelerated and interesting professional development.”
For Alicia, finding the right culture was at the top of the list. “I didn’t really have an eye to software in particular, but I knew I wanted to work in a tech business with a stand-out culture and team, so I did some research and talked to people in the sector and EndGame was recommended to me and I’ve not been disappointed! The leadership here is courageous, they back and believe in their people, live their values and are committed to their purpose. To me that’s everything.”
The resounding piece of advice from our team?
You haven’t missed your opportunity to explore moving into the world of tech! “I always say to people, tech is an industry that’s changing so quickly you’re never too far behind everyone else and it’s not too late”, says Ian. “Even seniors are always learning”.
The tech industry doesn’t seem to be slowing down and it needs more bright & passionate minds to solve problems. Be brave, take the leap, draw on your networks and invite someone for coffee. You never know where it will take you.
Can we help? EndGame is always willing to chat to people thinking about the tech industry. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our careers page for current opportunities https://www.end-game.com/careers