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Tech and development roles provide stability during uncertain times

Posted May 11, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

While the job market is currently unpredictable, technology proves to be one of the few sectors that's fairly recession-proof. Learning the technical and coding skills necessary to further your career could mean major job security down the road.  (NESA by Makers/Unsplash)

This article was written for our sponsor, Momentum.

Over the past two decades, the United States has weathered through 9/11, a major recession and we're now experiencing the impacts of a global pandemic. Throughout it all, the overall job market has had its ups and downs.

While many professional disciplines have endured their fair share of disruptions, perhaps none have been quite as resilient as the tech industry.

While tech's variability gives it a leg up — almost every industry needs an IT professional in some way — the work practices of many tech companies have also made them especially prepared to tackle long-term remote work.

"Tech in general is resilient in a market like this, because tech has been so wide open to the benefits of remote working before this happened. The shift that a lot of companies have had to make was a lot less dramatic for tech companies, and that's been a healthy thing for the industry," said Katie Dunn, director of career services at Durham-based coding bootcamp Momentum. "Also, a lot of these companies deliver a product or a service that's actually helping people get through this crisis, and they're seeing huge growth unexpectedly."

It's true that in these uncertain times, tech is more important than ever. As more people have needed to pivot to the virtual world, whether it be for work, leisure time or keeping in touch with friends and family, tech has become a necessary component of daily interaction.

On the professional side, the Triangle's rich local tech scene offers a prime example of how forward-thinking companies have been uniquely primed for challenges such as these. At Durham-based startup Spreedly, the company's liberal work-from-home policy and remote practices have made the transition to full remote work almost seamless.

"The majority of our people are local, but a lot of people live somewhere else but still work for Spreedly, so we've always been remote-friendly. In the office, we come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all the other weekdays we'd be at home," said Crystal Mackey Free, a support engineer at Spreedly. "Because we're distributed, we've always been focused on inclusion. We have a lot of asynchronous communication within teams and from the top down through Slack. All of our team meetings are on Zoom. Even if a team meeting landed on Tuesday or Thursday, and there were people in a room together, that room would still be hooked up to Zoom so that remote employees could participate."

"We're uniquely positioned when it comes time for everyone to stay home, because Spreedly just kind of continued as normal," Mackey Free finished. "This is our modus operandi."

In many ways, Spreedly is a model of how to successfully operate a remote workplace. With the help of Slack, Zoom and Visual Studio Code, employees are able to share their screens and code in tandem, no matter how physically far apart they may be.

"Everything is so portable, that developers don't need giant desktop computers anymore. We're not stuck in one place. Being a developer and having the access to technology that we have now makes this all possible," Mackey Free said. "Things like Zoom or VS Code — which has the ability to do live pairing on it so that you can have two people who are a thousand miles apart working on the same file at the same time while they're talking on Zoom — can recreate that experience of pair programming without physically being there."

As Mackey Free explained, it's pretty much business as usual for Spreedly. While things like workplace birthday celebrations and lunch outings have been postponed, the team is still working to maintain as much office camaraderie as possible, using Zoom for happy hours, hangouts and team-building activities.

Additionally, the company — like a number of tech companies in the Triangle area — is still hiring. For those feeling uneasy about the current job market and facing a job search of their own, learning coding and technical skills may be useful in reentering the market.

"Even though the market looks uncertain right now, there are some pockets of opportunity, and a lot of them revolve around tech. That's a great reason to consider this career change. If this is a downtime for you, if you are between jobs or you're just looking to make a change, it's a skillset that you can continue to build on throughout your career," said Dunn. "There's so much benefit to learning coding and tech skills, because if you look at jobs, even jobs that aren't considered tech jobs, they're all using digital tools now in a way that they weren't in the past. Investing in that skillset is certainly something that pays off and offers plenty of job security."

For those making the pivot to a tech or development career, there are few places as rich in opportunity as the Raleigh-Durham area. From multinational corporations to innovative start-ups, the Triangle offers a rich tech atmosphere, and even companies that aren't tech-centric still require developers, coders and those with a technical skill set.

In fact, according to a 2017 study, there are 545 occupations that require use of digital tools — a dramatic increase from 517 in 2002. And even more striking, those 545 occupations make up 90 percent of jobs in the economy.

While learning to code can be an intimidating venture, with the help of modern technology, the experience can be surprisingly streamlined.

"There are a lot of resources out there that'll give you enough hands-on experience. The Odin Project is an open-source tutorial that you can self-direct through to see if you like it," Mackey Free said. "If you do like it, then Momentum is a great place to learn more — not just how to learn a specific programming language, but also how to be a developer."

"As for the tech industry in general, I think it's just going to keep on chugging along, because software development — although it can be a very fun group sport — is often a solitary endeavor, so that makes it kind of perfect for quarantine," she continued. "You're by yourself, you want to learn some code? Perfect. Now's the time."

This article was written for our sponsor, Momentum.

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