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The most challenging careers in tech and how to break-in

Here are five of the most challenging careers in tech — plus, how you can start in them:

Today, tech keeps much of the world running — meaning highly skilled tech workers are both more in demand and under higher levels of pressure than ever. If you’re looking for challenging careers in tech, there is no shortage of options — but some professions will be more demanding than others. While rewarding, these occupations can be some of the hardest to break into, with high-level positions demanding serious commitment and an array of skills. 

Here are five of the most challenging careers in tech — plus, how you can start in them:

1. Network Administrators

Network admins keep business networks running efficiently and securely. Demand for network administrators is on the rise as companies invest in more complicated systems — putting more strain on business nexuses.

Like many high-demand tech positions, network administrators are often on-call 24/7 to help resolve any issues.

A strong networking background will be required. Many network administrators start by working lower-level or entry-level IT positions, handling staff or customer issues and learning more about how networks are built, organized and managed. This training provides them with the necessary knowledge to manage large systems. 

Prospective network administrators must also be able to demonstrate their ability to work long hours and remain level-headed in an emergency.

2. Software Engineers

Software engineers design and develop software on tight deadlines. Like other tech jobs, a lack of qualified software engineers means there is major pressure on those currently in the field.

If you want to break into software engineering, an experienced background in computing and software development will be your best bet. A computer science degree won’t hurt, and most employers will expect some level of higher education, but the most convincing asset will be a strong code portfolio. 

A portfolio of full-stack apps relevant to the specific software engineering position you’re aiming for can quickly demonstrate your knowledge of coding principles and software design to potential employers. Contributing to open-source coding projects can also help you build your experience and will provide you with something tangible to show to employers.

In any case, however, evident experience with designing and coding programs will be more valuable than certificates if you want to enter software engineering.

3. Database Managers

These professionals help companies build the architecture they need to store and organize vast amounts of business data.

Data is more vital than ever for business. Big data and business analytics solutions are growing at double-digit rates. At the same time, companies are handling more information than ever and need to store it in ways that make it both secure yet accessible for automated tools to analyze.

Data managers will need knowledge of both data architecture and data security best practices. Depending on the specific position, you may also be analyzing information and will require a background in statistics and data science. Like software engineers, these managers often work under tight deadlines. 

An employer may want their data managers to have experience in fast-paced environments and with delivering results on short time-scales. Providing an example of a time where you demonstrated these capabilities could help you break into database management.

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4. Cybersecurity/IT Security Specialists

Cybersecurity experts ensure that a company’s network and data storage solutions are secure.

These professionals need to have extensive knowledge and expertise in computer security and networks, as well as basic security principles, like cryptography. Like network admins, many full-time cybersecurity workers must be available around the clock to handle emergencies as they arise. Increasing demand for security specialists also means high stress on those currently in the field.

If you’re looking to succeed in cybersecurity, there are a few different routes you can take. The high demand for cybersecurity means that an unusual background won’t hurt your chances, and may even help you stand out from other applications. Experience with physical security, cryptography and sociology may help you just as much as knowledge related to cybersecurity and networks.

In any case, however, you will likely need some foundational cybersecurity and networking expertise to get started. These skills will be necessary for securing a lower-level cybersecurity position where you can cut your teeth and begin building your knowledge base.

Because security workers are so in-demand, however, you may have a lot of choices when it comes to positions once you’re qualified. Know how to vet potential workplaces and ensure your employer is a good fit for you. It’s not uncommon for cybersecurity professionals to burn out — even early on in their career — so picking a good company can be essential in ensuring your time in this sector is enjoyable.

5. CIOs/Technical Directors

Chief information officers and technical directors are top-level management staff who must have a combination of technological know-how and management skills. Often, employees in these positions will be the most senior IT staff at a given company. CIOs and directors will need to be available almost all of the time to direct their team and manage technical emergencies. They are also likely to hold some level of responsibility for any failure to meet deadlines or secure business networks and sensitive data.

The best way to enter one of these high-level positions is to cultivate a combination of technical and managerial experience. Working lower-level administrative jobs where you’re responsible for IT employees can be a great way to demonstrate both your expertise and your ability to lead teams and direct staff.

While experience will be your most valuable asset, credentials can help you out here as well. Master’s degree programs in Information Science and Information Management often provide training and education that can be valuable when learning to manage technical staff.

How to Break Into Tech’s Most Demanding Careers

Demand for tech professionals is high — and, depending on the specific position, growing every day. As a result, careers across the tech industry face challenging conditions — like tight deadlines and new threats to security — that make their careers some of the most demanding out there.

If you want to secure one of these challenging careers, you have a few different options to do so. Many demanding tech professions, like software development and database management, require the ability to work under pressure and deliver results on a short time table. 

Others will need employees who can commit to being available around the clock to handle issues and manage emergencies. Almost all of these careers will also require a strong technical background with specialized experience.

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