One of the many aspects I’ve come to admire about IMD is the warmth and engagement of its alumni network. Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the first iteration of IMD’s EmployabilityTech. More than 12 successful IT professionals, most of them IMD alumni, joined forces as individuals and representatives of top-notch companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Salesforce, Meta, Google, and Datadog, coming together to discuss the industry and its intricacies with the MBA 2023 class.
I was delighted to engage in some epic sessions and discussions on the most relevant industry trends, as well as the necessary skills, mindset and preparedness requirements for starting a successful career in Tech. Here is a compilation of some of the most important lessons and takeaways. And may I say, thank you again to all contributors of IMD EmployabilityTech 2023!
Starting with the critical soft skills
- Storytelling: The tech industry largely owes its double-digit growth to nurturing marriages of creativity in vision and selling. It’s as crucial to be able to understand the greater story arc of a software company’s value proposition as it is to tell your own story through your journey in life and your objectives.
- The lingo: There are important concepts for any aspiring tech professional to internalize and research before considering an application. Get comfortably familiar with key concepts like Annual Recurrent Revenue ( ARR), run-rate, adoption and churn, SaaS/PaaS/IaaS/etc., and understand the role they play in companies of your interest.
- Culture (company personality): Finding the right fit in Tech will depend hugely on your embodiment of company values and how you apply them in the day-to-day job and contribution. Tech firms in general may have a reputation for boasting smart, caring, laid-back company cultures, but while they’re all significantly different, culture is fundamentally embedded into every aspect of them. For example: the way decisions are made, how meetings are conducted, how products are developed, or the way people are rewarded and nurtured. You are responsible for researching this and making sure the fit is mutual.
- Passion: Tech companies gather some of the most valuable and competitive talent in the world. If you’re not truly interested, curiosity-sparked, driven, or thrilled by it, you probably won’t be set for success.
Deploy the hard skills
- Understanding the ecosystem: Tech is a highly-permeable ecosystem of partners, resellers, hyper-scalers, independent software vendors ( ISVs), System Integrators (SIs) – again, learn the lingo! – and many other stakeholders. It’s important to arm yourself with an understanding of the role-streams and where they fit in the business, e.g., customer success organizations, partner development, product management, DevOps, solution architects, professional services, etc.
- Modern skills: Forget about listing Excel or MS-Office on your CV, they are skills considered of the past. Instead, strengthen your profile with digital literacy and relevant things like generative AI, data analytics, process mining, coding, problem solving, cybersecurity, etc.
- Badges and certifications: Applying to tech jobs is a “put your money where your mouth is” process. Demonstrable skills and knowledge are key, so consider investing time in getting certified in the technology of the company you wish to pursue, such as AWS’s Cloud Practitioner. It’s also valuable to build up your base vertical knowledge as most companies expect, for example, a minimum white-boardable knowledge of cloud architecture and business model, regardless of role.
- Communication and writing: Most companies in this industry value simplicity, brevity, and clarity in the communication style for daily email, some even ask for a writing sample during the application process. Note-taking and synthesizing is also extremely important.
My top interview tips for tech
- Give practical examples of actions or decisions that demonstrate your skills (using the STAR model if possible).
- Playing into the company culture and values, fit, and alignment often overrules the presence of technical skills.
- Demonstrate how you are going to make the team better to display the reasons to hire.
- Show long-term prospects, adaptability, coachability and resilience – “it’s always day one”.
- Avoid generalization or grandiosity; stick to your experience, facts, and failures.
- Customer centricity! Customer obsession! Customer driven!
Other nuggets from the event
- F (innovation) = (organization * architecture) ≤ (culture * mechanisms)
- MLP = Minimum Lovable Product
- Reaching Cloud Velocity – Jonathan Allen
- The Pyramid Principle – Barbara Minto
- In unpredictable times, a data strategy is key – MIT Technology Review
- Building a Winning Data Strategy: An MIT SMR Executive Guide