What skills do I need for a career in tech?

How does one choose which tech career path to take? I'll let you in on a little secret. You already have some of the essential skills you need to thrive in a tech career.

It's true. When we think of a job in tech, our minds naturally gravitate towards, well, technical skills. You may be interested in web development but have never written a line of code. Cyber security might sound good, but the only hacking you've done are life hacks. However, a tech career takes more than mastering code and charting data.

Tech professionals must be expert problem solvers, natural leaders, creative thinkers, and good communicators. Imagine a data analyst who couldn't explain why their research results were relevant to a project or a front-end developer who didn't have a creative bone in their body.

The truth is, to be effective, those in the tech realm need BOTH the right technical tools and soft skills, soft skills you probably already have.

Essential skills for data analysts

Data analysts look to the past to gather insights and inform business decisions for the future. They perform data cleaning, sorting, and organizing to better understand and present findings on past trends and outcomes to stakeholders.

Technical skills

  • Data analysis: Knowing how to interpret data is foremost in any data analysis career.
  • Programming languages like SQL and Python: To manipulate data more easily.
  • Software skills: To more effectively sort through large amounts of data.
  • Grasp of tools such as Microsoft Excel, Matlab, and PowerBI: These tools will streamline your data collection and sorting and help you.

Soft skills

  • Communication: Knowing how to purvey your information effectively to stakeholders is key.
  • Curiosity: Data is a big world, and you want to know what insights it holds.
  • Collaboration: You'll be working across teams and need to communicate your ideas to technical and non-technical stakeholders.
  • Give clear presentations: Why do your findings matter, and why should the company act on them?

If you have any of the above soft skills, you could be cut out for a career in data analysis.

For more information on what it takes to be a data analyst, check out our feature.

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Essential skills for data scientists

Unlike data analysts, data scientists use machine learning and engineering tools to predict future trends. They also build and upkeep AI and predictive models for data analysts to use.

Technical skills

  • Programming languages like Python, R, and SQL: To manipulate and master the data.
  • Deep mathematical and statistical knowledge: Predictive modelling is the name, and math and stats is your game.
  • Machine learning: Machines are helping humans every day, from making your next movie pick easier to compiling medical data. You'll be working on and with this tech.
  • Data manipulation, analysis, and visualization: You'll be wrangling data and presenting it to those who need to know why your insights are meaningful and actionable.

Soft skills

  • Analytical thinking: Math, stats, data. Linear thinking is the backbone of these technical skills.
  • Communication: Technical or not, your audiences need to understand your findings.
  • Problem-solving: Unsorted data is a black hole of information—machines malfunction. You need to be ready to face these challenges with optimism.
  • Familiarity with the various data science domains: You're a naturally curious person who wants to learn more about the environments in which you'll work.
  • Collaboration and teamwork: Your team members may be data whizzes like you, or you may be interacting with HR, marketing, or finance departments who need to understand your information in a way that's relevant to them.

Python, Seaborn, and machine learning are just the beginning. If you're a communicative, curious problem-solver, data science may be the right path for you.

For more information on what it takes to be a data scientist, check out our feature.

Essential skills for web developers

Web developers usually fall into one of three categories: front-end, back-end, or full-stack developers. Many others will earn their place as software engineers, UX/UI designers, or web architects, but they all share the same building blocks.

Technical skills

  • Writing accessible and clean code with tools like Mocha, Chai, Selenium, and RSpec: The last thing anyone wants is a buggy website.
  • Deployment and hosting: You've built the best app; now it's time to get it to market problem-free.
  • UX/UI design using HTML5 and CSS3, among others: How users interact with and experience your site is critical to its success. You'll need to ensure that the site flows logically, is beautiful, and is easy to navigate.
  • Modern languages, frameworks, and libraries like JavaScript and Node.js: Whether you're building an app or website's front or back end, these coding languages will help you do so effectively.
  • Computer science: You'll need to know a bit about the theory of how computers work.
  • Software engineering: Testing code and evaluating the source code come in handy as a developer.

Soft skills

  • Pair programming and collaboration: You'll work with developers less and more experienced than you, as well as with other departments that may not have the technical know-how, so communication is critical.
  • Attention to detail: One tricky line of code can mess up an entire webpage. You'll need a sharp eye to find the culprits.
  • Adaptability, problem-solving, and open-mindedness: Bugs, aesthetic changes, and last-minute updates mean you'll be fit for the job if you can keep a calm composure throughout.
  • Creativity: This one is a given. People like pretty sites.
  • Organized: You'll be juggling multiple projects at once and need to keep a clear list of priorities.
  • Curiosity and passion: You want to know just what will make the site or app tick. Most of your work will create meaningful change for those who interact with it, so passion to last a lifetime is what's needed.

Creative and ready to have your work seen by thousands? Web development may be for you.

For more information on what it takes to be a web developer, check out our feature.

Essential skills for cyber security professionals

Cyber security professionals may be in the highest demand of all tech roles. Unfortunately, cyber crime is on the rise, and an increasing number of companies are looking to bulk up their cyber departments in response. Cyber security workers are the first and last line of digital defence, keeping websites and customer data safe.

Technical skills

  • Network security: Your number one priority: making sure nothing gets past the firewall.
  • Incident response and conducting post-attack forensics: Your number two priority: if something does, making sure it doesn't happen again.
  • Application security and secure coding using SQL injection and cross-site scripting: You'll need to ensure the app is as secure as the website.
  • Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing: Making sure there's no way for a malicious actor to get through.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools: Swiftly detect signs of unauthorized access, potential breaches, and other cyber threats.

Soft skills

  • Communication: You'll most likely need to explain why certain cyber security measures should be implemented to those who don't fully understand why.
  • Problem-solving: If the defences go down, it's up to you to figure out why.
  • Critical thinking: In times of calm and crisis, cyber security professionals must stay sharp to ensure data and other personal information is kept secure.
  • Ethical and professional integrity: You are the guardian of clients' private information. There may even be things that you can't publicly discuss about your job. You'll need a strong moral compass to guide you to do the right thing.

If any of these above soft skills speak to you, you might be cut out for a job in cyber security.

For more information on what it takes to work in cyber security, check out our feature.

Not sure which tech career is your best fit? Take our Tech Skills Quiz that aligns the capabilities you already have with the right tech career and how to get there.