HENRY JAMES WASN’T much taken with Asheville, the small mountain town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. The novelist spent a week there in 1905 as a guest at Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room French Renaissance home. “It is a strange gorgeous colossus,” he wrote to Edith Wharton, “in a vast void of […]
Interested in working for a healthcare IT startup? While the potential rewards are vast, so are the challenges.
“In healthcare, many great ideas falter because of technology—or more specifically, the difficulty in integrating to legacy systems,” John Sung Kim, founder of Five9 and DoctorBase, wrote in a new TechCrunch column. “Whether you’re selling to a small doctor’s office or a large hospital, healthcare organizations of any size are juggling multiple software systems, many of which do not speak to each other.”
Although many experts blame the woes of the healthcare IT industry on a lack of integration between healthcare databases and software platforms, there’s also the issue of regulations. Every app that interacts with patient data needs to follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects health data both in movement between databases and at rest. Hospitals and other entities that handle such data must ensure that they can maintain necessary privacy and security standards.
According to Kim, startups in healthcare IT face entrenched competition from Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors, whose executives have no desire to find their business “disrupted” by some tiny company with an innovative new platform.
Whether working for a tiny startup or a massive vendor, tech pros interested in the healthcare IT field need to familiarize themselves with not only the basic building blocks of any software platform—programming languages such as C# and Python, and management methods including Agile—but also the sort of creative thinking that allows people to solve thorny problems.
That being said, much of the software employed in healthcare is complex and unique to the industry, making it hard for tech pros to get a handle on much of it until they have a number of years of experience under their belts. Health Level 7 (a framework and standards for retrieving electronic health data) and DICON (an imaging program) are just two of the platforms that workers will need to get familiar with.
But given the importance of data protection, perhaps the most important skill to learn is everything HIPAA-related. Whatever the nature of your startup, there’s nothing more important than ensuring patient data is shielded.
Many U.S. cities hope to become technology hubs, and with good reason: A dynamic mix of startups and mature tech companies not only brings a massive influx of tax dollars, but also hordes of well-educated, highly skilled tech professionals.
But which cities are succeeding at building up demand for tech pros? A new analysis by Dice reveals that, over the past year, Salt Lake City has seen an 85 percent increase in the number of postings for tech jobs in the area. Far behind at second was Cincinnati, with a 44 percent increase year-over-year, followed by Miami (41 percent), Milwaukee (24 percent), Kansas City (18 percent), and Raleigh (17 percent).
Other cities in the top ten included Detroit (16 percent), Hartford (13 percent), Seattle (12 percent), and Nashville (11 percent).
E-commerce retailers, video-game developers, and some large software-makers all boast a strong presence in the area around Salt Lake City, drawn by a combination of low taxes, local schools producing skilled workers, and infrastructure to support businesses and lifestyles. Other cities on the list, such as Raleigh and Kansas City, have similarly grown tech hubs thanks to a combination of nearby universities, advantageous tax rates, affordable housing, and communities that make people want to stay.
Many of the cities on this list also have the advantage of being relatively new in their attempts to foster tech communities; once they become mature markets, along the lines of Silicon Valley, the high-percentage growth tends to level off.
Nationwide, the economy for tech pros remains strong. In August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 507,000 people in Professional and Business Services (which includes tech and STEM positions) quit their jobs, up from 493,000 in July. (It’s also a notable increase over August 2014, when 456,000 professionals voluntarily quit.) A rise in voluntary quits suggests that tech pros feel good enough about the economy to either jump to a new position or try their hand at freelancing.
For tech pros, the numbers add up to an optimistic message heading into 2016. With more tech hubs emerging across the United States, there’s an ever-higher chance that their ideal job waits only a short distance away.
Some of the tech industry’s leading luminaries—including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg—never graduated college, and still went on to found multibillion-dollar companies. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re applying for tech positions without an undergraduate degree in hand.
Yes, many tech firms require degrees for certain positions, with no exceptions. And yes, it can often prove more difficult for someone without a degree to complete in an applicant pool against candidates who graduated from college. That being said, it’s not impossible to land your desired position off a combination of certifications, skills, and accomplishments.
The first step in landing such a position is a well-crafted résumé. If you don’t have a degree, here’s what to emphasize on it:
Certifications show you’re adept at a particular area. Listing them can help convince an otherwise-ambivalent recruiter or HR staffer that you know the technology behind the offered job.
Classes and Some College
Even if you don’t have a degree, chances are good that you’ve taken at least a handful of classes, or even worked your way through a couple years of college. Detail that academic background. If you’re attending classes with an eye toward completing your degree, put down your expected date of graduation.
Perhaps you have a lot of on-the-job experience. List as much of it as possible, with a focus on accomplishments and results. Many tech firms place a premium on applicants who have a history of completing complex tasks on a tight deadline, whether or not those people have a degree.
If you’re a software developer who actively participates in online forums and repositories such as GitHub, take a day or two before you start applying for jobs to “clean up” your various public projects. Recruiters and HR staffers often take a look at a candidate’s “outside” work in addition to their résumé; if your coding is particularly impressive, chances are good they’ll weigh that factor heavily when debating whether to set up an interview. Use your résumé to refer to your GitHub page and other online profiles.
The technology industry’s unemployment rate crept up to 3.0 percent in the third quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although that represents an increase from the second quarter, when tech unemployment stood at 2.0 percent, it’s nonetheless lower than the 5.2 percent unemployment rate for the U.S. labor market as a whole.
Many technology segments saw an accompanying rise in joblessness. Web developers, for example, saw their collective unemployment rate hit 5.10 percent, up from 3.70 percent in the same quarter last year. Computer systems analysts, programmers, network and systems administrators, software developers, and computer & information systems managers likewise experienced a slight rise in unemployment on a year-over-year basis.
But does that mean the tech economy is softening? Other indicators suggest the overall industry remains strong. Layoffs and discharges for July and August, the latest months for which the BLS had preliminary data, hit 377,000 and 378,000, respectively. That represents a decline from both the first and second quarter, when the layoff and discharge rate stood at more than 400,000 per month.
In the third quarter, voluntary quits among tech pros also remained robust, with an average of 500,000 employees per month deciding to quit their jobs. Analysts tend to interpret higher numbers of voluntary quits as a sign that employees are feeling positively enough about the economy to leave their current positions in order to pursue better opportunities.
If there’s one bleak spot in this quarter’s economic reading, it’s manufacturing, which continues to suffer from weak demand for electronic products and hardware. That’s not a new tale; with the substantial majority of tech manufacturing taking place in Asia, and most of the nation’s tech hubs centered around companies devoted to software, the number of available manufacturing jobs in the U.S. has slowly but steadily declined.
When it comes to the health of the broader tech economy, the numbers to watch are the respective unemployment rates for Web programming and other “hot” categories. For the moment, despite some upticks, those numbers remain largely positive for tech pros.
New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that more tech pros are voluntarily quitting their jobs.
In August, some 507,000 people in Professional and Business Services (which encompasses tech and STEM positions) quit their positions, up from 493,000 in July. It’s also a significant increase over August 2014, when 456,000 professionals quit.
Voluntary quits are generally a sign of a good economy, hinting that people feel confident enough about the market to jump to a new position (likely with better pay and benefits), if not strike out on their own as an independent.
For tech pros, things are particularly rosy at the moment; according to the BLS, the national unemployment rate among tech pros has hovered at under 3 percent for the past year, although not all segments have equally benefitted from that trend: Programmers, for example, saw their unemployment rate dip precipitously between the first and second quarters of this year, even as joblessness among Web developers, computer support specialists, and network and systems engineers ticked upwards during the same period.
If there’s one tech segment that hasn’t enjoyed economic buoyancy, it’s manufacturing, which has suffered from layoffs and steady declines in open positions over the past several quarters. With weakening demand for PCs and other electronics devices, many hardware manufacturers are in the doldrums; on the human side of things, innovations in factory automation have eliminated jobs.
For those involved in many aspects of consulting and software, though, the good times continue. If you’re a tech pro who intends on jumping to a new job, just remember that it does you no good to burn your bridges when leaving your former position; you never know when you might be back.
While some tech pros like the prospect of full-time employment (and the benefits that come with it), others appreciate the flexibility that comes with freelancing. The latter can even prove more lucrative than working for an employer, at least according to a recent survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union.
If you’re thinking of heading out as an independent contractor, however, there are some key things to consider. First and foremost is your skills base: No matter how good the economy at a particular moment, potential clients only want to pay for people who can actually do the work. (This is in contrast to full-time employment, where a company will sometimes give an employee the time and resources necessary to pick up a new skill.)
Even with sufficient skills, it can prove difficult to build a strong client list, especially in competitive areas such as security, programming, and analytics. Here’s how to stand out in contracting:
Build the Brand First
Building a brand is an important—and often overlooked—step toward building up a contractor business. Blogging, participating in online forums and Webinars, and even creating instructional videos on YouTube are all solid methods of building a reputation. If there’s a downside, it’s that few of these activities pay substantial amounts of money; but it’s a bullet you might have to bite in order to get your contracting name out there.
Build Out Your Network
Former co-workers and employers are an immediate and obvious choice for network connections (and possible future clients), so start there. If you haven’t done so from the outset, create a Website with a “Contact Us” form, and a regular newsletter—not only will those help you build your brand (see above), they’ll give new clients an easy way to reach out to you.
Be Patient (and Collaborate)
Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say; creating an awesome client list sometimes requires years. It also takes time to build a great relationship with new clients, especially if they’re unclear about their own project requirements; you may need to spend a lot of time helping them solidify their workflow and desired outcomes. With every new client, you have an opportunity to provide customized service that will ensure they stay with you for years.
Keep Improving Your Skills
It’s easy to neglect learning new skillsets. When you’re contracting, though, falling behind on your industry knowledge can quickly translate into lost opportunities. Carve some time out of your monthly schedule for professional development.
Web programming is a desirable skillset—and a lucrative one. Earlier this year, Dice reported that, when it comes to return on investment in education, Web developers rank among the top jobs, with the average annual salary hovering at around $77,000.
Better yet, the Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the number of Web developer jobs will continue to grow through 2022. And according to a report issued late last year by Wanted Analytics, global demand for Web developers is high.
That demand makes it harder and more expensive for companies to hire top talent. It also means that those skilled in Web development can demand a premium in salaries and perks.
“In today’s professional world, it’s important to stay on the cutting edge,” said Zach Sims, CEO of Codeacademy. “Programmers who learn many Web languages are able to stay versatile and keep a pulse on the evolving professional needs within their field.”
But which languages are essential for any Web developer to know, especially if they want to lock down a good salary?
CSS Still Matters
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style-sheet language that provides the backbone for how Websites should look and behave, and ensures proper spacing, alignment and the integrity of other key design elements.
Those without in-depth CSS knowledge will have a hard time designing a Website, since the language dictates so much in terms of look and feel. Anyone who wants to develop for the Web can’t overlook it.
PHP: The Basis of Key Platforms
PHP is a server-side scripting language that acts as the foundation for many of the world’s most popular Web platforms, including WordPress. Although periodically dogged with security issues, PHP boasts a flexibility that makes it useful in everything from standalone graphics applications to generating HTML code.
Anyone who learns PHP should do their best to become as familiar as possible with the platform’s open-source libraries, as well as how it interacts with database servers such as MySQL and PostgreSQL. If you’re interested in boning up on your PHP knowledge, check out these Dice articles about the difference between it and .NET, some programming basics, and how to answer job-interview questions related to it. From conditionals to arrays to loops, there are all kinds of things to learn about PHP, but once you know what you’re talking about and how to fix issues, you’ll be far ahead of competitors for many must-have jobs.
The interpreted programming language allows programmers to create critical workflows, apps, games, and just about everything else they can think up; it combines a series of items, including data structures, objects, and countless other elements, to help users build whatever they desire. So it’s a versatile platform, but also one with a lot of moving parts—programmers interested in learning more about it will need to explore everything from choosing the right frameworks to advanced tools such as strict mode.
HTML as the Basis of Understanding
HTML has been around forever, and it’s arguably the easiest of any Web language to learn. It remains important as the Web’s standard markup language.
Given its age, discussions on HTML and its importance are old and staid. That being said, any newbie getting into Web programming should learn the basics of HTML, understand how to create different tags, and design simple Websites for practice.
Focusing on just one of these languages is not enough to be a successful Web programmer. As Sims said: “A flexible mindset is the key to success.” The key is to not only learn thoroughly, but also put yourself in a flexible mindset that will allow you to adapt to the inevitable changes in languages and methodologies.
As seasoned Web programmers know, there’s always something to learn, and no shortage of languages worth pursuing.