March 10, 2024

Coming Up in Tech and Design in 2023 Amidst Layoffs, Economic Instability, Reprioritizations, and AI Advancements

Coming Up in Tech and Design in 2023 Amidst Layoffs, Economic Instability, Reprioritizations, and AI Advancements

Are you [interested in tech or design or are you currently trying to start your career in tech or design] and are you feeling nervous by everything happening in tech right now? You’re not alone and it’s completely understandable.

Especially when you’re on the outside looking in or on the edge, so to speak, tech as a whole can seem very chaotic right now. And, it’s true, the tech industry is facing a number of challenges and the tech industry is in a pivotal moment of great change. From mass layoffs to the economic instability to companies quickly reprioritizing their goals and areas of focus to all of the saturation in the market with so many looking for work to all of the latest advancements in AI and how they’re poised to impact tech and design roles, there IS a lot going on. It makes all the sense in the world why all of these happenings are causing uncertainty for many of those looking to enter the field.

The rest of this post will help you navigate these turbulent times in tech, but before we get there - I must admit, starting a career in tech or design has never been easy. As a leader in the design space having managed multiple design teams and as an educator in the tech and design space having taught and mentored many tech and design beginners, I’m very familiar with the tech and design come up journey. Not only have I navigated my own journey, but I’ve also seen and supported countless people navigate their own come up journeys. A lot of the advice I will outline below has always applied. I’ve also seen many make the same mistakes throughout the years. I still see many making the same mistakes as they try to enter the field today. So even with all of the turbulence, with so many still making the same mistakes, there’s definitely an opportunity to stand out and make it happen.

For quite a while now, tech has been known for stability, high paying jobs, perks, and other pluses that other fields haven’t had. While layoffs and economic instability is incredibly difficult and something we hope people never have to go through, it’s important to note that tech is not immune from challenges and changes. It’s important to know that one may have to navigate challenges and changes in tech as well. Stability, high salaries, and perks may come and go, but we must be aware that we may have to navigate our journey’s when the going gets rough. What makes the time we’re in particularly unique and extra challenging is that everything is happening at the same time. Again, we’re in a pivotal moment of great change. It may not be the last time we see all of this turbulence, but I hope it doesn’t push you away too much. You can still make it happen.

So, how can you navigate these turbulent times? It is still 100% possible to enter the tech field. It is possible by avoiding common mistakes that can hold you back. I will break each of these down below along with some guidance on how you can position yourself for the best results.

Study the Larger Tech & Design Universe

First, study the larger universe of your chosen discipline (whether tech or design) and find your specific focus within it. I’ve seen so many take a bootcamp or similar kind of training program simply because they want to work in tech. Without much research, planning, or context, I’ve seen many be very quick to decide on being either a Software Engineer or a UX Designer and then they’re off to the races. It’s great to be excited and motivated, but use that same excitement and motivation to zoom out and do research - study the larger universe of tech and design. Look into all of the different disciplines in tech and design. Get to know all of the different roles and specialities. No, you won’t know exactly what you’ll end up doing at the beginning especially when you’re not in the field yet, but understanding that there’s more to tech and design than just two roles will help you understand all the ways you can get into the field.

Similarly, many people focus solely on the specific skills they learn via a bootcamp or training program, but it's important to understand the bigger picture and the different roles and opportunities available within your chosen field. Instead of a programming language, ask yourself what you want to build with whatever programming language you end up learning. Instead of a specific design tool like Figma, ask yourself what you want to build with whatever design tool you end up learning. What do you want to build? Why do you want to build it? What do you want to do in tech or design? By thinking about what you’d like to do in the space and then by having a better understanding of the different roles you can pursue, you will put yourself in a better position to see better results because you will widen your opportunities and increase your number of entry points. You will also be able to then create a more intentional and thoughtful career plan instead of defaulting to the main two roles you’ve been marketed.

Embrace & Trust the Process

Second, take - your - time. Another mistake I see people make time and again is rushing the process. Look, I get it. Bootcamps tell you it can be done in a matter of months. YouTube has countless videos of success stories of those who did it in a matter of months, sometimes two! and there are an infinite amount of resources that may make you feel like it can be done in no time. But the truth is that it is not that easy. Plus, everyone is coming into this with different backgrounds, experiences, and skills. It’s impossible to say that it will take everyone 3 months, or the same amount of time, whatever that amount of time may be. Everyone’s journey and, therefore, timeline is and will be different. The tech and design fields are also highly competitive. Rushing the process is NOT in your best interest. It's incredibly important to take the necessary time you need to learn the material, develop your technical skills, understand the field, practice your skills, work on projects, build your portfolio, develop your soft skills, interview prep, network, and intentionally and thoughtfully find the right opportunities. Simply put, starting a career in tech or design takes a lot of time and hard work. It's important to be patient and persistent. Just because it is taking you longer than it did others you know does not mean it won’t happen for you. It means it is meant to happen for you differently. Do not rush and stay consistent.

Expand Your Skills After the Bootcamp

Third, building on top of the last point, continue to build upon and expand your skills after completing your bootcamp or training program. I’ve seen it happen so many times times: folks start looking for jobs the day after the bootcamp is over only to be disappointed after not having found a job over a longer period of time than the duration of the bootcamp. Let me be clear, it’s not your fault. You’re being constantly marketed that this is how it happens and that it can happen that quickly. That’s why I’m here. It’s not impossible, but it is incredibly difficult to get hired days or weeks after your program ends. Yes, some have done it, but it won’t happen for everyone that way. The completion of a bootcamp or training program is not the end of the learning process, but in reality, it's just the beginning. A 3, 6, or even 9 month program teaches you the basics - the foundation. You should then build on top of that foundation. Whether by attending workshops or working on personal projects or expanding your skillset, do not stop when the program ends. Make a plan once your program ends on how you will continue to learn and grow.

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Work on More Projects

Fourth, similarly, it's important to practice your skills by working on more projects. I’ve seen many only pursue a career with the one project they worked on during their program. The hard truth is that you were learning while working on that project, not really practicing the skills . Really put the skills you learned to practice by working on another project - or a third or a fourth. This could mean freelancing, participating in hackathons, or working on personal projects. By practicing your skills on projects outside of your program, you'll put yourself in a better position to stand out when applying for jobs.

Intentionally & Thoughtfully Select Your Projects

Fifth, be intentional and thoughtful about what projects you work on. Another common mistake is not personalizing and tailoring your projects to match your career goals. It's important to be intentional about the projects you work on and how they align with your career goals. This could mean choosing projects that showcase specific skills that you want to get hired for, choosing projects that have to do with the specific medium/platform you want to get hired to work on (i.e. web, iOS, Android, etc.), working on projects alongside others especially if you’re applying to work on a team, as well as so many other consideration points. For example, you’d be surprised how many times I’ve received job applications from people who don’t have projects relevant to the job their applying to. In the past year alone, I’ve been hiring twice for a Product Designer specializing in native mobile app design, and many applications have no examples of native mobile app design work. Again, be intentional and thgouthabout about what projects you work on. Personalize and tailor your projects to match your career goals - it just makes sense.

Immerse Yourself in the Space

Next, make sure to immerse yourself in the space. Because it’s possible to navigate the come up journey entirely virtually, it can be easy to keep to ourselves in our corner of the world. With that said, it can be a mistake to not immerse yourself in your specific domain or discipline beyond the bootcamp. As mentioned before, the bootcamp or training program is just the starting point - push beyond not only the hard work of the bootcamp but also the network. This could mean attending conferences and events, networking via LinkedIn, or following industry leaders on social media. By immersing yourself in the field, you'll stay up-to-date on the latest in the field and be better prepared for new opportunities.

Put Yourself Out There

Lastly, don’t forget to put yourself out there. I’ve seen it happen many times - so many put so much great work but it doesn’t get seen. You work so hard on your portfolio only for it to go unnoticed. How can you get more eyes on your work, more eyes on what you have to offer, and more opportunities coming your way? Think of yourself less like an applicant or a technologist/designer. Think of yourself more like a brand or a business. Think of the story behind your brand, behind YOU. Think of your journey, your previous experience, your previous skills, your unique traits and qualities, your unique perspective, your passions, your new hard skills, your soft skills, your work, and more. Think of it all! Now think of all of the different ways you can tell your story. This could mean creating a portfolio of your work, building a personal brand on social media, creating content via videos or blog posts, or networking with professionals in your industry. Stand out in this crowded space by marketing yourself. No one is going to wake up and decide to go to your portfolio - you need to lead them there. How will you lead people to you?

That was a lot, I know. I hope this post didn’t have the opposite effect and end up overwhelming you more. I hope you see how many reasons there are for you to stay focused on the mission. Patience, determination, resilience, intention, perspective, ambition, and purpose are all crucial in finding success in tech and design.

In 2021, I said that they key to becoming getting into tech or design was being intention. In 2022, I said the key was embracing the process. Now, in 2023, the key to getting into tech or design is finding your purpose. Especially in a time of such instability, it's important to identify your unique purpose and use that to find your specific entry point into the industry, not just any random one - or not just one of two.

Finding your purpose in the tech and design industry means understanding what drives you and what you're passionate about. It's about understanding what you want to accomplish, and how your skills and interests align with the industry. By identifying your purpose, you'll be able to focus on the opportunities that align with your goals and make you truly excited about your career.

It's also important to remember that while the tech and design industry is highly competitive, it's also highly varied. There are a wide range of roles and opportunities available, and it's important to find the one that aligns with your purpose. It's important to remember that you don't have to have a specific role or job title in mind, but rather, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how you want to make a difference.

So, as you navigate the job market and pursue your career in tech and design, keep in mind that it's not going to be easy. But with the right mindset and approach, you can find success. I KNOW you will. Stay patient, stay determined, and most importantly, stay true to your purpose. Remember that getting into this field takes time and hard work, but by avoiding common mistakes, focusing on your purpose, and being intentional about your career goals, you'll be able to find your place in the tech and design industry.

Please reach out to me at any point for personalized advice or mentorship. You can follow me on Instagram @michaelmakesco and you can find time on my calendar to meet with me via my Calendly link. And join the Rita Lab community on Discord for even more support.

Written By

Michael A

Tech & Design Leader & Educator, Rita Lab Founder & Instructor

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