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How to Thrive in the Tech Industry Without Becoming a Tech Geek

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I have been thinking of writing an inspirational article to motivate those interested in making a living in the tech industry, not necessarily turning themselves into high-tech geeks, but if so, that would be more of a dessert than anything else. This discourse is dedicated to you.

In my previous articles, I have lauded the tech industry’s potential to change the quality of our lives in one way or another but did not dive deep into how individuals can benefit from the high-tech boom that is unfolding before our very eyes.

The latest New York Stock Exchange information covered a lot about investors blithely extrapolating where the tech industry was heading. There is euphoria and excitement with the AI explosion, and high-tech investors are more than willing to receive fewer dividends today to invest heavily in new technologies, particularly AI. The future has never looked brighter.

As a specific example, META has announced that it has set aside billions of dollars to invest in furthering its global clout in AI advancement, and the investors support that gleefully. Nobody is complaining. I must humbly soliloquize. Even top high-tech moguls like Elon Musk, whose wealth has taken a colossal tumble, are unfazed by the constriction of their paper wealth status because of what the tech future signifies.

Also, read Elon Musk Vs ChatGPT: A Disclaimed Encounter, It’s a War among AI Researchers

Everybody in the high-tech industry is feeling a whiff of the glut of cash and wealth, and we seem to be left out or completely oblivious to where the seminal industry is soaring, too. This narrative aims to drop a bucket of water in the Indian Ocean. The effort may look quixotic today, but you must be strolling in the clouds of faith to appreciate its impact. I still believe in Tanzania’s entrepreneurial grit and resilience despite the odds weighing heavily against us.

I have identified two areas that stand in the way of bridging the global high-tech divide. One is our overdependence on our lousy government to bail us out. The gospel truth ought to come out: The government is bereft of ideas. Most players there are still logging the analogue way while the high-tech terrain has significantly shifted beneath their tiny feet: sadly, the digital way is still a pipe dream to them.

They are replete in paper and titular qualifications but not in the nitty-gritty of problem-solving! This is why whenever problems crop up they are doing catch-up and mostly press the reactive button to reclaim the elusive initiative. So, to do ourselves justice, we must delete them from our plans if we are ever to get our footing in the high-tech gut.

Apart from putting all the eggs in the government basket where one stone crashes all of them,, we also harbour a mentality barrier. We do not believe high tech-savvy is for us too. We perceive it as it is for them despite having the prerequisite skills to perambulate this high-tech sector brimming with realistic promises to uplift the quality of our lives from where we are stuck to where we can be tomorrow as a nation.

How Can We Break the High-Tech Ice?

Remember the Kiswahili axiomatic wisdom that says, “Mwiba uingiliapo ndiko utokeapo.” That is where we ought to start. The high-tech playground is this wild, wild web. And that is where we should dig deep to sip the juicy parts.

Most beginners make mistakes by not asking themselves the right questions, so they allow high-tech gurus on the internet to guide them. Most of these proven geeks will tell their stories and encourage you to imitate them. But the truth is you are not one of them. Your story and background do not match what you are bombarded with there.

Some will entice you with mouthwatering six-figure annual salaries if you join their boot camps, but in reality, they only sell you tutorials that can be accessed for free on the internet! The first question you need to ask yourself honestly is, what will you do once you have mastered those high-tech skills? Do you want to be an employee or an employer? The answer to that question will determine the self-teaching itinerary you must choose.

Being self-employed in the tech industry amounts to being a jack of all trades but a master of none. That means you will have to gobble a little here and there. It means parsing through most of the high-tech areas without an emotional attachment. This is because you will find you have to do everything by yourself in most of those areas. From back-end to front-end, including cybersecurity and storage, your chief preoccupations will be cybersecurity and storage.

Read Related: Cybersecurity in Tanzania: Navigating the Digital Landscape Safely

However, as an employee, you may need to pick technical areas that require specialization. You may have to decide which area you want to do, and your decision will shape your learning path. You will find they demand different languages in all those different areas of software development.

For instance, learning HTML and CSS is inescapable if you pick a backend. You will need those languages to build your frameworks and visualization in the earlier stages of your virtual products. You will need to acquire those skills as soon as possible for obvious reasons.

If you are interested in the fore-end, the language skills you will require include Python, R, and Javascript, among others that write codes. But the lines of separation between the back and fore-end are increasingly blurred. Even employers expect their staff to know all of it, so whatever you do, you must appreciate the challenges the other side will face.

At this stage, I will skip the software maintenance part to keep our narratives pretty user-friendly. My advice for beginners is to try to grasp the basics of HTML, CSS, Javascript, and Python and ignore the clutter of other languages. Mastery of these four aspects covers all stages of software development. I like all of these languages because they are easier to learn and boast free internet resources.

Where to Ferret Out for Free Tutorials on the Web

YouTube is the best place to get the high-tech feel of what software development is all about. There are also free boot camps that can expand your high-tech skills. You can visit freebootcamp.com and leetcode.com, free websites that still proffer comprehensive tutorials awarding proficiency certification.

I must alert you that external validation, such as academic and professional certification, means very little to this sector that thrives in hard work, efficiency, effectiveness and achievement. There are zero tolerance margins from ticking all these four boxes.

Employers are always hunting down problem solvers and have little consideration for past feats like academic and proficient certification. Software development certificates may give them a glimpse of your areas of interest, but not more. Most of the time, employers will pore on the high-tech projects you have done and will seek more clarification from you about them.

They will also give you a virtual project to build from the start, testing your grasp of variant and diverse tech skills and your resolve to bring it to a sumptuous finishing line within a specified time. No recruiter will be interested in anything other than software development except soft skills, which are human relationships.

Recruiters will be keen to see whether you fit their team despite the technical aspects. That is a subject for another day. So, stop gravitating towards your irrelevant skills, or you will squander a rare opportunity to impress your future bosses.

Recruiters are down to earth, knowing that they are hiring raw gems that need at least six months of intensive polishing. The learning curves are not necessarily steep at their expense, but they will also require you to stick with them for at least three years so that they may recoup their initial investment.

If you prove to be a good hire, they will keep you around with enticements such as higher pay, generous bonuses, and a flexible working schedule, such as working remotely.

How to impress your future employers may need to spruce up your LinkedIn account, trumpeting your new set of skills. You can also have a GitHub account to put your software development projects. You will be surprised that most employers seek promising hire materials to join their teams. Hiring decisions can be very costly.

This is why tech companies spend a lot of time sizing up future employees before settling down with some of them. A poor hire will be felt on the balance sheet, and few recruiters can stomach it without getting their jobs on the fireline.

The self-employment path demands patience, humility and a dedication that defies logic and commonsense. You will build and publish projects regularly without the assurance they will break the market. Most of your projects will be marked as startups. And we know the majority of startups never do well.

You may need to study the market demand and your products’ value to melt the high-tech ceiling. Stick to your visions despite discouragement and disappointment along the path. Advertise your newly acquired skills by publishing your work in GitHub and visiting sites dedicated to freelancing.

In the beginning, target references more than getting well paid. Sometimes, I volunteer to do projects for free to secure references. You will be pleasantly surprised to learn references carry much more clout than external validation that certification offers. As part of your homework, I will leave it to you to find the freelancing job ads from the web, but as a vital hint, you may learn about them from YouTube, googling or seeking advice on the GitHub site.

As a parting shot, always remove your API address from the projects you upload to Github or elsewhere lest others access it and make their own without your consent. Whoever wants to use your toil to advance their careers must seek your authorization and acknowledgement. It is the least you deserve from your sweat.

Do not be afraid of coding. Now, we have powerful tools such as CHATGPT, which write rough codes for us, saving precious time from writing them down from scratch. ChatGPT costs a weekly fee of about $2 or a lifetime fee of about $40 but also offers three free daily prompts.

This may not be your concern for now because apart from being cash short, which in itself is a boon it also does not erode your chance to learn the basics that you will need to figure out the appropriate prompts that ChatGPT can understand before puking the codes you are looking for. Even if ChatGPT comes to your aid, remember it is still a work in progress. You will still need to test the codes ChatGPT generates and edit them where the tests flounder.

That demands a touch of the basics technical know-how can offer. Hence, do not regard tech search engines such as ChatGPT as a magic wand, lest you be frustrated when they fail to vomit the codes you seek. Do not be afraid to apply to the Google search engine or seek help from GitHub, where many Samaritans are more than eager to blow away your tech blues.

Be consoled that nothing you’re facing is new and that there is someone who has faced your difficulties before. Cashing in on others’ high-tech triumphs hurts nobody.

As I have indicated earlier, the subject is wide and compendious that it would be unfair to claim this dollop here ìs by any means exhaustive. It scratched the surface, and it is up to you to unearth the precious metals underneath. What are you waiting for? Procrastinating is all that keeps you from realizing your wildest dreams. The web impatiently waits to guide you in your torturous yet exciting journey filled with hopes and excitement.

Do not let your comfort zone be your gatekeeper. I am also praying to My God that you will overcome your roadblocks and taste the joy, the thrill and the satisfaction of pursuing your dreams in the tech industry. How many months will you set before your peers can regard you as tech-savvy?

Well, six months should be the average, but are you average or a whizkid ready to claim your spot on the global scale? That, too, means investing a minimum of three to four hours every weekday without ceasing. Initially, it may be tasking and onerous, but with time, you will delightfully find your decision was worth the effort.

Never forget changing habits face behavioural resistance and rejection, so perspiration ought to kick in. And high tech can be addictive, just like opium. Please watch out for burnout signs that have pushed many to the unsavoury territory of junkies binging drugs to keep awake.. to code. It is not worth it! Your life is much more valuable than anything this world can offer or promise to offer.

Again, that is an excruciating topic reserved for another day.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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