No matter how much the tech industry changes, there’s always a way back in.
The tech industry changes so fast that it’s almost impossible to keep up – and we’re not just talking about the sea of new technologies, techniques and standards. The way we work has changed too. There’s more flexibility, there’s more accountability and there’s a real sense of camaraderie, so if you’ve taken a break, you may not recognise the industry you step back into, but you’ll certainly like what you find.
What used to be support is now key to business success
Over the last twenty years, the role of technology has changed. What was once a support function has become a critical part of every business from here to Silicon Valley. As a result, digital has a seat at the table.
Take Sky for example – technology has always been important to their business, but now they can’t function without it. You can’t stream without it, you can’t surf without it, you can’t even get support without it. Without technology, Sky doesn’t work – which is why over a third of their staff work in the digital department and even more of their budget goes towards it.
The technology has changed, but not as much as you’d think
The introduction of continuous integration and deployment means software developers have an immediate feedback loop. You can see bugs in your code almost instantaneously, and once your code has been successfully tested, it can be deployed faster, so everyone is working off the same hymn sheet. The result? You get more done.
You don’t need to get dressed up, unless you want to
When most people think of developers, they conjure up images of hoodie-clad geeks, but if you go back a little further, everyone had to wear a suit. Nowadays, the dress code is a lot more relaxed, so you can embrace your inner fashionista or wear your comfy jeans.
“At Sky, it’s very casual. My only requirement is that you wear clothes, like actual clothes, and that they’re clean,” Renee Hunt, Director of Group Digital Platforms at Sky, told us. “Someone came in their pyjamas once, pyjamas with fluffy bunnies on – that’s taking it a bit far. But in general, people are more comfortable because they’re able to express themselves.”
You have end-to-end ownership, there’s no handing anything off
Design, development, testing – once they were departments in their own right, now they’re all in the same team, working towards the same goals. The result? End-to-end ownership and a closer, more collaborative approach.
There’s no hand-off anymore. If you build it, you own it, so there’s more accountability. You’re a lot less likely to take a shortcut if you know you’ll be the one getting out of bed in the middle of the night to fix it. But on the flip side, you can take real pride in your work because when that new app goes live or that new feature is deployed, you know you helped make it happen.
Coding was once a woman’s game and it could be again
The first modern computer coders were women, and yet today, the tech industry is dominated by men. Somewhere between the eighties and the noughties, computer sciences became an old boy’s club – and the industry is still dealing with the consequences.
Today, women only make up 18% of the workforce, but not for long. The UK government has invested £2.4 million in getting more girls into tech and they’re not the only ones committed to closing the gender gap. Businesses are getting involved too, with programmes like Sky’s Get Into Tech, a free software development course for women. Only by having a truly diverse workforce can technology companies build great products for everyone, and gender is a big part of that.
It used to be a lonely endeavour, now it’s sociable
Back in the day, coding was a lonely business. You’d spend all day staring at a screen without even speaking to another human being, and when things went wrong, you didn’t have anyone to bounce your ideas off, you just had to bash away until you figured it out.
Now, it’s a different world – software engineers work in teams, often in pairs, so it’s a much more social and dynamic career. Not only does that make the working day more interesting, but it also means you get more recognition – when you have a great idea or solve a tricky problem, everyone knows who did it.
The designs aren’t set in stone anymore, they’re flexible
Agile working has changed the way we approach projects. Previously, we assumed that we knew what the user wanted, we made a plan and we stuck to it, resolutely determined so that the decisions we made in week one would still be right when the project went live. But not anymore.
Agile acknowledges that no one has perfect vision or perfect understanding, and it gives us an opportunity to assess and adjust as needed. It begins, not with a design, but with a list of things you want to deliver and it ends when you’ve ticked them all off. This new approach nurtures a culture of continual development and improvement, empowering developers to find better solutions.
Coding has never, and will never, be a 9-to-5 job
Techies have never really conformed to the traditional workday, but now it’s easier than ever for businesses to be flexible. From where you work to when you work, there’s a freedom to the technology industry that you won’t find anywhere else. Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira – tools like these allow us to work together even if we’re not in the same room, so you can fit work around your lifestyle.
“Writing code has never been a 9-to-5 thing, the brain doesn’t work that way, problems don’t work the way,” Renee explained. “So yes, there are some core hours we prefer people to be in the office or at least available if they’re working from home, but it’s much easier today to support and encourage flexible working.”
It’s always been tough, but it’s never been this much fun
Coding is hard. This is problem-solving at its most mind-bogglingly complex. It’s a life of questions. How might I do this? How could I do that? And all with the business benefits in mind. It can take you three days to solve those problems and only three minutes to write the code – in essence, it’s damned hard work.
But now the stress of the job is counteracted by a new focus on wellbeing. In modern tech companies, your work-life balance is a real priority – not just in terms of downtime, but also inside the office. They take care of you, physically and mentally, with everything from discounted gym memberships to morning meditation. And they turn down the pressure by introducing a madcap attitude to in-office events and rewards – anyone for a Day of the Dead celebration of turned off tech?
It always moved fast, but never this fast
Technology changes really, really quickly. It’s moving faster now than ever before, and realistically, you can’t keep up with everything. But nor can anyone else, and in a business like Sky, you’re all in it together – they invest in their people, your knowledge and experience is valuable, so when it comes time to phase out a certain technology, they’ll help you retrain.
“I learned to code 30 years ago, but the things I learned about coding haven’t changed,” Renee explained. “The languages have moved on, but the underlying practices around performance, databases and data structures are the same. I wouldn’t worry about how long you’ve been out, because you know these things, they don’t change.”
The tech industry has changed, but you can still get back in the game
Working in tech is like riding a bike, so it’s easy to come back from a break. You have to accept that you’re going to be wobbly at first, but if you join the right organisation, you’ll have lots of support along the way. And just because you haven’t been working, doesn’t mean you haven’t been learning. Life experience is just as important as industry experience, so whether you’ve been raising children or travelling the world, the skills you’ve learned will pay dividends when you step back into your career.
If you want to get back into tech, why not do it with all the help and support of the biggest technology companies on the planet? On Thursday 8th August 2019, Sky will launch their new Returners Programme. It’s designed to help career breakers get back into tech and it’s totally free. This is your chance to revisit the fundamentals of software development in a fun, supportive environment, and because everyone’s in the same boat, it’s less daunting than jumping straight back into work.