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Want to succeed in software? Look beyond Silicon Valley

Every industry has its pain points that require technology professionals to step forward.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
Young woman giving presentation at work on energy usage
Getty / Laurence Dutton

The tech sector may have had its share of layoffs in recent times, but that's not the case outside of Silicon Valley. Opportunities abound across many sectors, and the key to success for technology professionals is tied to the industries they serve. 

It's a matter of building a base of expertise in one's industry, and understanding its nuances. "Overall, those individuals with specialized, industry-based skills will remain in demand," says Colm Sparks-Austin, president and managing director of Capgemini Canada. "These are the skills which allow enterprises to leverage the industry functional expertise to translate the benefit of technology investment into business terms."

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Every industry has its pain points that require technology professionals to step forward. "Think, manufacturing, who are desperately attempting to upgrade and automate their IT infrastructure," says Grant Fritchey, DevOps advocate at Redgate. "Lots of mid-sized, regional organizations are going to be looking for people who can ensure their stable and continued operations. This is the true strong demand for technology. We tend to focus too much on places like Silicon Valley, forgetting that they only hire a small percentage of the IT pros needed around the world." 

For example, there are abundant opportunities for tech professionals who can guide financial services companies -- traditional and Fin Tech -- through an industry undergoing massive disruption. "Banks no longer see themselves as financial institutions, they are technology companies delivering technical solutions for their customers," says Jason Birmingham, group technology officer at Broadridge. "With the volatility of the markets and cyber threats a constant risk, companies need technology, and the innovative solutions the new and experienced talent can provide to remain secure and competitive." 

Technology talent is needed within many sectors typically not associated with Silicon Valley. For example, a growing area of opportunity for tech professionals is agriculture. "Mass layoffs at major tech firms have opened the talent pipeline for Illinois-based Deere & Co., the world's largest tractor maker -- and rivals who are eager to add tech workers to their payrolls as they expand into autonomous tractors, mining trucks, and other smart farming technology," reports Bianca Flowers in Reuters. "Newly available tech talent could inject much-needed expertise into farm equipment manufacturing, helping to transform the industry through the use of more artificial intelligence and automation."

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The skill "we are consistently asked to supply and provide is functional industry expertise," says Sparks-Austin. "This skill allows the business to understand how investments in technology directly benefits end users. This idea of industry value chain makes the industry depth and experience coupled with technology something that is becoming increasingly more important. You can be deep into technology, but if you do not understand the industry and know the business in which your client operates, you will become increasingly more irrelevant and commoditized -- not an asset for your company."  

Companies related to "energy, food, and resource security will continue to see strong demand," says Sparks-Austin. "Also, the technology and retail sectors will be those best-of-breed clients that will be able to differentiate themselves and push through what might be a slowing demand in those sectors." 

In financial services, there is "high demand for both new and experienced technical talent," says Birmingham. "Many financial institutions look to deliver the next generation of digital solutions and we need that strong technical talent that is willing to think outside the box to deliver those solutions."

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