10 actionable steps you can take to break into the world of technology.
Having technical knowledge is a very useful skill, especially in today’s day and age. If you’ve read our previous articles, Tech for the Non-Technical: Why you should learn about the digital world and Code-free Careers in Tech, you know that it’s helpful to have a good understanding of technology for our everyday lives and how it can be profitable for your early career. Now you might be thinking, “wow tech is great, I’m hooked!”. But what happens next?
There are many, many ways to get involved in our ever-growing world of technology and your choice of engagement is going to depend on how involved you would like to be in the technical field. Do you want to stay up to date with the latest developments in tech? Do you want to take on a technical hobby to pass time during the pandemic season? Perhaps you are passionate about technology and would also like to reap the benefits of pursuing it in your career.
Either way, here are some actionable steps that you can take to become more involved in the technical world.
If you are looking to stay technically literate
As you have likely heard before from any older adult, our generation is very lucky to have a world of resources at our fingertips. This being said, while you can make it a habit to Google articles every day to build on your knowledge of tech, we understand that this might not be something that you’d want to take the time to do. The good news is that you can easily make information available to you without searching for it and the tools to do this are probably already in your hands: social media!
1. Follow organizations
There are organizations (like ByteSized!) who break down topics in tech to make it easier for you to understand. To keep up with these organizations, depending on the organization, you can either: 1) follow their social media accounts (popular platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), 2) subscribe to their YouTube account, 3) sign up for their newsletters, or all of the above! By following these accounts, you save yourself the work of having to search for topics on your own.
Here are some accounts that we recommend for various topics in tech:
If you are looking for tips to start your journey exploring tech…
- We have an Instagram account and you can stay tuned to our Medium account for more posts about tech. Also, feel free to send us an email or DM us about what you want to hear, and interact with our upcoming Instagram polls!
If you are interested in Artificial Intelligence…
- They have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, a YouTube channel for their online workshops, along with a newsletter you can sign up for!
2. Follow companies or individuals
Perhaps you’re interested in keeping up with a company’s work, such as Tesla. If that’s the case, you should follow their social media accounts! Though this may differ from company to company, you may find that more updates are shared through Twitter and LinkedIn as opposed to their Facebook or Instagram accounts.
This can also apply for individuals, for example, if you are fascinated by the work Elon Musk does, you should drop a follow on his social media accounts . This way you can ensure that you are getting news and updates directly from the sources that interest you the most.
3. Follow hashtags or topics
If there aren’t any accounts you are particularly interested in, you can also follow hashtags (Instagram, LinkedIn) or topics (Twitter)! This can help you get a wide range of information from different sources about a particular topic without having to rigorously ‘keep up’ with the latest news. As you can see, there are many ways you can make the social media world work for your personal technical literacy needs!
If you are looking to tack on a techy hobby
When trying to take on a technical hobby, such as game design or app development, you’d probably want to engage in more hands-on tasks in addition to keeping up with the technical field. There are a couple of ways to do this!
1. Complete personal projects
One way to get an in-depth understanding of a software/program or a coding language is to use it! In completing personal projects, you need to learn and apply skills to complete your project. For this reason, many students recommend this as a method for learning new technical skills.
Since there are many fields of technology that you may be interested in, it is hard to list ideas for projects you could complete. This can be anything from an app that you coded to an augmented reality (AR) filter for Instagram or even building your own Iron Man suit. The possibilities are endless!
To help you with these projects, don’t forget to make use of the online resources available to you, such as YouTube videos and online forums! For beginner-level projects, there are likely many people who have completed similar projects before and it can be very helpful to see how people have troubleshot problems in the past. You can even search up beginner-level projects on Google to help you get started!
Another perk of this is that you can put your projects on your resume which can make you more employable for jobs, even if they are outside of the tech sector.
2. Join technical clubs and communities
Joining technical clubs is a great way to get hands-on learning on a particular skill. If you are interested in robotics or coding, you could try to join or start a club at your school or in your community.
Girl Genius: “Bridging The Gender Gap In Stem”
- Slack community
- Also have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a magazine
- Website: girlgeniusmag.tech
Design Buddies: “An inclusive community for designers from all backgrounds to connect, share resources, and participate in virtual events.”
- Discord community
- Also have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium
- Website: designbuddies.community
Product Buds: “Product Buds (PB) is a community where budding product managers sprout, grow, and flourish.”
The 1% Engineer Society: “Empowering Young Engineers. A community for engineering student tips, career advice, jobs, opportunities, and more.”
- Discord community
- Also have Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Medium
- Website: 1percentengineer.com
3. Complete (online) learning courses
If you like having more of a course structure when it comes to learning concepts, taking courses may be the way to go. Especially during COVID days, online courses to grow your skills have been quite popular. Nowadays, there are a variety of courses that are available on various websites for you to access.
For a wide range of courses, you can check out the following websites. All of these sites offer both free and paid courses.
- Coursera: Offers some free courses. (Note: if it says 7-day free trial then it is not completely free). As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you will also be able to receive certificates from these free courses.
- Edx: Offers some free courses with paid options if you would like to receive a certificate for course completion. One popular option for learning computer science is the CS50 series by Harvard University.
- Udemy: Offers some free courses with paid options if you would like to receive a certificate for course completion.
If you are particularly interested in learning programming languages online, check out:
- Code.org: Offers high school level courses and additional resources for learning and project inspiration.
You can also do a quick search on Google to see if there are any local courses you can take in your community.
Most course developers also recognize that practising a skill is the most effective way of learning it, so in most cases you will be assigned projects to complete in the duration of the course.
4. Participate in competitions and hackathons
You might not be interested in the long-term commitment that comes with completing projects and courses, and that’s completely understandable. An alternative you might want to look into is participating in competitions or hackathons!
A hackathon is essentially an innovation-based competition merged with a conference. Unlike what the name may suggest, it does not involve hacking complex software networks (or anything of the sort). Hackathons are all about finding creative solutions to today’s problems or ways to use the latest technologies, whether that be with software (things you code), hardware (things you hold), or design (things you look at). Hackathons are also a great place to meet like-minded people (and build your social network!).
In pre-COVID days, anywhere between 50 to 800 students would gather together for 24 hours over a weekend where they would try to build the best “hack” with their teams or attend a bunch of workshops to learn new skills (or both!). Many hackathon organizers have adapted their events to fit social distancing requirements by shifting them to virtual settings. To search for upcoming hackathons near you (or online), you can check out:
- Major League Hacking (MLH), the official student hackathon league across the world, and
- Devpost, where most hackathon submissions take place and where you can find additional hackathons that are not MLH-certified
Specific to people interested in coding or programming, there are also websites where you can find online challenges to build on your programming skills. Here are some that you can check out:
5. Attend workshops and conferences
Another option if you aren’t looking for a long-term commitment is to attend workshops or conferences.
In essence, workshops are stand-alone classes where you can learn new skills and build on old ones. Conferences are events that consist of multiple workshops and speakers. Structure, length, theme, and venue of workshops and conferences can vary depending on the organizer, so there is something for everyone! Like hackathons, many workshops and conferences were in-person in pre-COVID times but now there is a trend towards virtually-run events.
A great place to look for workshops and conferences is Eventbrite. Using their search bar, you can easily find workshops and conferences you are interested in by typing in your topic of interest and the type of event you are looking for.
For example, if you wanted to find workshops related to game development, you can search for “Game Development Workshop” in the search bar and voilà, you will be given a list of workshops related to game development. It’s as easy as that.
If you are looking into pursuing a career in the technical field
1. Formal education
When looking to pursue a technical career, in addition to the points mentioned above, this is where you may also want to look into formal education and credentials. If you are looking to apply to post-secondary school programs, this may be a strong factor for your choice of program.
A popular choice of degree is engineering. You can visit the official website of Engineers Canada to find accredited engineering programs in Canada. Other popular choices for technical programs are computer science and mathematics.
There are other programs you could consider for different careers in tech. If you are more interested in the human resources side of technology, you can look into human resource management programs. If you are interested in game development, you may want to build your visual design skills in a graphics design or illustration program.
On top of all this, many people are able to get jobs outside of their field of study. There are countless examples of people who one day discovered they had a passion for a field of technology, completed a couple of projects with that passion, and were hired for jobs based on the work they have put into their projects. Again, while formal education can initially direct your career path, it is not the only way to settle into your career, as a big factor when it comes to getting a job is your experiences.
2. Network, network, network
While it isn’t a requirement to network in order to land technical jobs, having connections within your industry of interest can go a long way.
In a professional context, to network means to build connections with others. This can be done in a lot of ways — many of which we have already covered in this article. Social media, particularly LinkedIn, is a great tool for building a network online. Joining clubs, and attending hackathons, workshops, and conferences allows you to meet others with a shared interest. In addition to this, you can attend networking or “mixer” events (find them on Eventbrite!) and join mentorship programs to expand your professional network.
These were some ways that you can take your next steps in exploring the world of tech. Go ahead and try them out for yourself, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself in the process!