THE BLOG

How to Nail a Job in Technology

24/04/2014 12:10 BST | Updated 23/06/2014 10:59 BST

When people think about publishing, they tend to think about content, and assume that the technology challenges in publishing are about transferring the printed page to screen. For many consumer publishing businesses such as newspapers, magazines and trade books this is mostly true, but in science and education publishing the challenges are much greater as we are increasingly in the software business.

As well as creating and selling high quality educational content in books, eBooks and online, we sell online tools and services that help teachers and students be more effective. This includes helping them administer large classes, curate their own courses, setting and marking homework, identifying and correcting misconceptions. In science and academic research publishing, the traditional journal is already mostly read online, and our big challenge is much more than managing web sites, it is about inventing and building the software services that surround the research article that help scientists work more efficiently. For example, helping them manage the interconnections between papers, researchers and institutions, find and explore data sets, and stay up to date without being swamped with information. The competitive landscape is about the software as much as the content, so that technology, which used to be a back office function is now front and centre of our strategy.

A lot of these services are new and have to be invented. At Macmillan Science and Education we are continually experimenting with ideas to help our customers and then growing and nurturing those ideas to bring them to life in a commercial environment. The key to having world class technology is not software or hardware, it's people: their skills and creativity and their determination to succeed. That's why we're always looking to find great people in technology to help drive growth and innovation. So if you are looking for a job in technology, this is a great place to be.

Where do you start? The first thing to realise is that technology covers a diverse range of jobs. People often think first about software developers, but building good software also requires project management, business analysis and product design. And you don't need to be a developer to do one of these roles. Most importantly, I'd say find a role that you enjoy rather than the one you think will pay best or seems coolest. For example if you like organising people into a team, putting a plan together and managing them to achieve a goal then you are probably going to be a good project manager. If you enjoy it, you will be good at it and success will follow.

Academic qualifications are less important than in many other fields. As an employer I am more interested in your skills, experience and the way you approach problems, than if you have a university degree. So be prepared to talk about projects or products that you have worked on in the past. For software development roles, some employers will ask you to do a test, so don't try to bluff your abilities in a software development language or technology that you don't really know.

Most technology firms will now be using Agile development methods. It would be good to find out about these methods and become familiar with the terminology. Building software products has become a much more formal process than it was 10 years ago, and so an understanding of this process and the tools that typically support it are really useful.

The stereotype of monosyllabic antisocial geeks is false. Almost all employers will need you to work in a development team and be able to communicate with non-technical colleagues. So be prepared to talk about and demonstrate your team working and communications abilities.

Without exception good technology staff are creative people. All aspects of building software require problem solving, exploring multiple approaches and often finding brilliant and unexpected solutions. If you can show creativity while also demonstrating skills and experience you will be in a strong position.