Don’t Let the Downturn Fool You – A Career in the Tech Industry Has Upsides

Banking and Finance 2023 Magazine images
Charla Griffy-Brown, PhD

Global conflicts persist, inflation is climbing, and interest rate increases appear imminent. By many measures, we are enduring a prolonged bear market.

Still, employers keep hiring. Nine of California’s 11 industry sectors gained jobs according to the most recent employment report. Year over year, California job growth (3.6%) has outpaced the U.S. as a whole (3%) by six-tenths of a percentage, and the state has 70,000 more jobs than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

For technology workers who may be discouraged by recent news of widespread layoffs, there may be a silver lining. A ZipRecruiter survey found about 79% of workers recently hired after a tech-company layoff or termination landed their new job within three months of starting their search. The same survey found four in 10 previously laid off tech workers found jobs less than a month after they began searching.

Technology is a critical function in any organization. People who work in technology enable strategy and operations so that organizations can navigate volatility and achieve competitive advantage. They aren’t always treated as such, but technology workers are essential. Over the long-term trajectory of the technology field, the current era of layoffs and joblessness are an anomaly. The next era is sure to be loaded with opportunity and prosperity.

But a question for today is: How can a technology industry professional prepare for the future?

First, professionals should start by tapping into their mentoring network. Trusted advisors can help professionals gauge their skill set, evaluate options, and avoid pitfalls. If a technology industry professional doesn’t have a professional network that includes mentors, they should. Existing and past supervisors, professional acquaintances, classmates, and instructors make great mentors. In addition, a champion, someone who goes to bat for a professional within an organization, can also be instrumental.

Second, professionals should consider upgrading their practical, soft skills. Training programs are a great avenue for upskilling. Not only can professionals gain broader business skills, but they are also exposed to a variety of professionals from various companies and industries. In an MBA program, students can be proactive in developing their leadership abilities.

In an MBA program, IT professionals are exposed to new technologies, applications, case studies, real-world problem solving in companies, a broader network, new ways of thinking, and have the resources of a university at their disposal. As workplaces change and people are working from home, an educational approach to earning an MBA can also follow a hybrid approach. At Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, we offer this hybrid modality, providing both in person networking as well as the convenience of remote learning. Most of our classes are taught by faculty who have experience working and teaching remotely and in-person. In some programs, there are even executive mentors who work with students to help them achieve professional growth. Pepperdine Graziadio is also waiving the GMAT and GRE entrance exam requirement for professionals from the technology industry who are interested in applying to earn a graduate business degree.

Third, consider future technology sector growth areas. No company or organization can afford a major information breach, so areas like information security and cybersecurity are growing rapidly. Professionals with experience in artificial intelligence (AI) also are well positioned to take advantage of the continued growth in the technology industry. Companies like Google, which has shifted their focus to AI, will continue to expand in this area as well as bioinformatics and other emerging areas. In addition, startups arise daily pushing the boundaries of AI, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented decision-making and enterprise architecture.

Fourth, make the best, not the fastest decision. Making a career shift or completely reinventing a technology career will require a major time investment. Exploring multiple avenues, doing research on the field, and differentiating yourself are critical.

Professionals seeking to reinvent themselves should avoid career pursuits that emphasize skills that could soon be obsolete. For example, professionals interested in mobile telecommunications may want to look ahead to 5G tech skills over Wi-Fi, legacy-wired broadband, and cable modem. Similarly, for technology professionals considering an industry switch, some fields may have a better longer-term outlook than others. Conducting technology tasks for a printing company, for example, may not offer longer term growth compared to working for a company steeped in automation or emerging technologies.

I would encourage more women to consider careers in technology. Female representation in large global technology firms is roughly 33% of the overall technology workforce, according to Deloitte Global. The proportion of women in technical roles, while increasing, has lagged behind the overall proportion of women in the workforce by about 8%. According to talent automation firm Entelo, women account for only 16% of senior level tech jobs and 10% of executive positions. Together, these data demonstrate the significant gap women are facing entering and succeeding in the tech workforce. Diversity in the workforce ensures different approaches to questioning and framing that might otherwise be absent.

For experienced professionals in the technology industry or beginners seeking positive long-term outlooks, the technology industry has a track record of offering great pay and benefits. Many technology jobs in and outside “big tech” industry offer generous paid time off, commuting reimbursement, and a bevy of famous lifestyle perks. Even in this bear market, I am bullish about the technology industry.

-Charla Griffy-Brown, PhD is a Professor of Information Systems and Technology Management and Associate Dean of Part-Time and Executive Programs at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.