Many people have preconceptions about what a career in IT looks like, which in some cases can scare them off from applying for roles in the field. These concerns are often based upon myths and stereotypes, some of which may have been true in previous years, but modern industry developments mean that a career in IT promises to be rewarding and fulfilling, regardless of your background or previous experience. Here are five of the most common myths about working in IT, and the reality behind them:
1. Only men work in IT
It’s true that the IT industry is heavily male-dominated: according to research by Tech Nation, 49% of British workers are female, but only 19% of IT industry workers are. However, this issue has been met with increasing scrutiny in recent years, and many initiatives are taking place throughout the industry to close this gap and encourage more women to pursue a career in technology. For example, organisations such as Code First Girls offer free training to women looking to upskill or switch careers into the industry, and many tech companies have employee networks and training opportunities specifically for female workers to develop their skills and progress within their organisation. There is an increasing recognition of the need to provide support for women in the tech industry, and this mentality is set to redefine the industry over the coming years. WISE predicts that 30% of all STEM roles will be filled by women by 2030, which means that change is just on the horizon. Take a look here to see a testimony from one of our students, Rosie, in which she talks about what it’s like to be a woman working in IT.
2. If you want an IT job, you have to work for a technology company
Although the tech industry is an exciting field to work in, with most of the top ten companies to work for in the UK being based in the sector, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to the career options that you could have as an IT professional. Practically every industry has the need for employees with IT skills; from healthcare to finance, the majority of businesses rely on some kind of technological infrastructure that needs to be maintained and protected. Regardless of what your particular niche might be, you are certain to find the role for you in any sector that makes the most of your skills.
3. A job in IT means long hours in a room on your own
The image of a socially awkward worker sitting in a poorly lit office cubicle or their parents’ basement is a stereotype that many people associate with a job in tech – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of job adverts for IT roles stress a need for strong communication skills and a collaborative mindset, as you’ll often be working with colleagues and/or clients in order to complete a task or resolve a problem. Although crunch, a period of long and intense working hours, can sometimes happen when a major deadline is near, most companies actively try to avoid this to prioritise employee wellbeing and a good work-life balance. In addition, many tech roles offer a variety of benefits, such as the flexibility to work from home, so your job can easily fit around the other important things in your life.
4. You have to pick one career path and stick to it
One of the great things about working in IT is that many skills are transferable between roles, and many tech employers encourage on-the-job learning and provide their employees with the resources to develop their skills even further, such as by covering training costs. As long as you have the desire and motivation to learn, it’s easy to move around and find the perfect role for you. Verity Chinnery, a Senior Associate in Technology Risk for PWC, says that ‘anyone with an interest in [tech] can get involved […] If you’re interested in cyber security and how people are hacking companies, or interested in how to make video games, or even how your phone works, – you can embark on a career in tech and pick it up as you go.’ Even if your previous career experience is in a completely unrelated field, as long as you’re willing to learn, you have a great shot at finding your dream role in the IT industry.
5. You need a computer science degree for any job in IT
Having a computer science degree would put you at an advantage as it demonstrates essential critical thinking skills, but is by no means necessary to have a successful career in IT. Many employers will appreciate a demonstrable passion for your chosen field as much as seeing your name on a certificate. It doesn’t hurt to have a portfolio of your own projects to talk about in job interviews, as this will show your initiative and desire to learn. Furthermore, completing a qualification for an in-demand industry software or program would also help strengthen your job applications. Many commentators have expressed concerns about a growing digital skills gap in the UK, meaning that there isn’t enough talent to satisfy the demand for roles in tech. Therefore, while a degree would put you in good stead, a can-do attitude and willingness to learn could take you just as far.