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Tech founders and execs offer their best advice for the next generation of techies

- October 3, 2021 11 MIN READ
Noelle Kim
Airtasker CMO Noelle Kim
Today, October 3, is National Techies Day.

Coming just two days after International Coffee Day and on a Sunday sounds about right, because you can imagine most techies are already on their 4th coffee of the day and working at what they love on a Sunday.
The global day is designed to celebrate techies or tech-savvy people, but also sets out to encourage young people to consider careers in technology and promote jobs in tech.

With that in mind, we asked a bunch of Australian tech founders two questions to mark National Techies Day: for their advice to the next generation of techies, and what they love most about the job.

Here’s what they said:

Jill Berry,

Co-founder and CEO, Adatree

Jill Berry

AdaTree co-founder Jill Berry

My advice to the next generation is I’d recommend to shadow people and have internships during university. Having work experience really shapes what you’re exposed to and lots of roles or jobs that you didn’t know existed. I had five internships in university, and it had me end up in a totally different place. I thought I’d like one career and turned out I didn’t like it at all, and found my real calling as a product developer in tech.

I encourage more students to follow a career in this industry as tech transcends all industries, so having capabilities to deliver technology opens doors to most companies that they can work at. It also is cross-border – I know so many people who have moved across the world with their technology careers with those being in demand worldwide.

The best part of the job is having the freedom to dream big and execute on them. I work with brilliant people and wonderful customers, so setting my own boundaries for my company and pioneering new technology that enables better consumer outcomes powers my passions to build and bring tech to market.

The future of technology is also very exciting.

I think that the companies that really thrive will be focused on innovation, sustainable culture and tackling complex technology and social issues. The idea of legacy technology with vendor lock-in should be gone, and there will be nimble tech companies that challenge major incumbents.

Alex West

CEO, Swoop

Alex West

Swoop CEO Alex West

With technology moving extremely quickly, try and always stay relevant, so you have to keep learning. Just because you’re a student now, don’t think that once you finish university or other studies, it stops.

My career has gone from starting in computer engineering because computer games were fun as a teenager, and then realising that computer engineering has nothing to do with computer games. From there, I moved and got a job in construction at Telstra then worked my way up. I then found people I enjoyed working with, and even now, I’m constantly learning every day.”

At some point in my career in my early thirties, I realised that I got more enjoyment from watching other people learn things and achieve things than I did than achieving them myself. Now, as a tech leader and CEO, it allows me to watch other people and their careers grow. There’s several thousands of people that have worked for me over the last 20 years or so and some of them in very successful positions. I’m proud of the fact that I got to at least be part of the journey.

Things have changed significantly over the last 20 years. When I was coming into telco industry, it was dominated by two to three major players, and there’s now been a lot of other entries. Things have changed where there are many different successful operators in the industry – there are more opportunities and people, which is exciting.

Tim Fung

Co-Founder and CEO, Airtasker 

Airtasker

Airtasker CEO TIm Fung

For the next generation, I’m going to borrow and paraphrase some advice from Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba) related to getting started in tech:

  • When you are 20-30 years old, follow a good boss and join a good company to learn how to do things properly

  • When you are 30-40 years old, if you want to do something yourself, just do it

  • When you’re 40 to 50 years old, do things you are good at

  • When you are 50 to 60 years old, spend time developing the next generation

The best thing about working in tech is it’s an opportunity to change the way things work and have a positive impact on the community whilst building something of value. It’s also awesome to get to work side-by-side with some of the brightest minds in the world.

Aaron Beashel

Co-founder, Simul Docs

Aaron Beashel

My advice to the next generation of tech employees is to seek out employment from a tier 1 technology company (Think Canva, SafetyCulture, Campaign Monitor, Qwilr, Culture Amp, Deputy, etc.) early in your career.

These places are full of very smart, very experienced people who have seen the movie before and you’ll learn so much from simply being involved in these companies, seeing how they work and being around the people in them.

Then once you’ve spent a few years learning the ropes and have time at a tier 1 company on your resume, you’ll be in a highly employable position where you’ll have your pick of which companies to work for and be able to ask for a very lucrative salary.

I would say the best part of working in tech is the people you get to work with. By comparison to other industries, tech is a high-performance industry and the majority of people who work for tech companies are ambitious, intelligent people who are great at their jobs and want to grow and excel. This is a result of many factors about the industry, but the fact that tech companies are generally well funded and/or highly profitable is certainly a big one.

Most tech companies also offer very enjoyable working environments. The competition for talent is strong and many companies have a heavy focus on providing great cultures, nice offices and numerous benefits (including chef catered meals, free drinks, etc).

Finally, if you work for a tech company with multiple offices around the world you will likely have the opportunity to travel or move overseas with your company, which can be an exciting adventure that allows you to see new places, extend your network and have amazing experiences.

Noelle Kim

CMO, Airtasker 

Noelle Kim

Airtasker CMO Noelle Kim

My advice for the next generation is get in as early as possible doing whatever job you can.

Industry experience is key and the longer you spend developing your functional expertise elsewhere, the less employable you are for the tech job you want. That is not to say there isn’t talent in other industries.

I have had incredible team members who came in as seniors without any tech experience but there are less people who are willing to give you a go.

The best thing about working in tech is you get to solve and tackle some of the world’s most challenging problems. That gets me up every morning. You can draw on everything you have ever learned and apply it to a novel challenge as there is no playbook.

But the better bit: You get to work with incredibly smart people who have a can-do mindset and are optimistic about the future.

Chris Ridd

Tech investor

Chris Ridd

Chris Ridd

Giving advice to the next generation of techies makes me feel a bit old but here goes.

My #1 piece of advice would be to pursue opportunities that offer purpose and not just more dollars. In a market that is starved for top talent I am seeing developers (in particular) leaving great companies in pursuit of bigger paychecks.

The age old saying of “the grass is always greener” should be considered here.

That’s not to say of course that you should not seek out bigger and better gigs, but in doing so you should also ensure that the next move offers purpose and fulfils you over and above just the remuneration. Ticking that box will go a long way to achieving success and happiness.

My other piece of advice is to invest in yourself, in your learning and development, and in your network. One of the fallouts from this post-Covid world is a disconnected workplace environment.

The days of structured hands-on-training in the office and personal mentorships are under threat as the office environment is transformed. A lot of learning will become self-directed. Social connections that occur through random professional interactions in and outside of the office will be less frequent.

Technology can only do so much in filling that gap. Ensuring that you maintain professional development as well as human connections outside of Slack, Teams and Zoom will be important in your development.

The best thing about working in tech is the constant change. The speed in which things can happen.

For me, being part of tech startups like Xero where we went from 6 staff to 320 in 5 years was an absolute blast. There are endless opportunities and new global tech brands are just waiting to be discovered. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Travis Gandy

Chief Operating Officer,  Compass Education

Travis Gandy

Compass COO Travis Gandy

Startups are an amazing place to grow your career – the opportunities you get and the things you experience you would never get to see or do in an established organisation.

The most important advice I have is to say yes to everything, even if it’s not in your original career plan, you can end up in amazing places, doing interesting things. I was an accountant before my time at Compass, I have run managed services teams, sales, support, and mergers and acquisitions.

The next thing is to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the industry, that doesn’t mean you need to jump on the newest tech as soon as it comes out, or know exactly how it works, but sometimes the existing tool you have isn’t the best way to solve the problem.

And finally, get your hands dirty – some of the best experiences I’ve had in my career have been helping our clients or our team with something that was very much “not my job” – but what I have learned about walking in someone else’s shoes has been invaluable.

The people I work with are amazing and have to be the best thing about working in tech. They’re intelligent and continuously push the boundaries on what’s possible.

Tech at its very core is constantly changing, that’s what makes it exciting. The challenges we are dealing with today are completely different to 3 years ago.

Tech has so much flexibility when it comes to career options and it’s experience that translates into a global industry.

Steve Baxter

Founder and CEO Mandoe Media 

Steve Baxter, Mandoe Media

Mandoe Media founder Steve Baxter

My advice for the next generation is that if you are aiming to lead a startup one day then practice your pitching skills.

Many excellent ideas will go by the wayside if you can’t raise the capital to invest in them. Practice pitching, use your friends or family as an audience, get coaching, it’s a great life skill even if you never end up using it in a corporate setting.

On the best thing about working in tech is that it’s one of the only industries where if you get something right, you can replicate it at scale very quickly and have an oversized impact on people right around the world.

It’s powerful and it’s insane to be on that ride.

Rob Gashi

Chief Growth Officer, Adventus.io 

Rob Gashi

Adventus.io’s Rob Gashi

My advice is that understanding purpose is so important – make sure you’re clear on what you’re building, why you’re doing it and who it’s for.

A big part of this is ensuring you don’t jump at new tech before you understand what works and what doesn’t with what you are trying to achieve.

On the best thing about working in tech is constantly evolving and as a result, it’s the best place to learn but you have to get comfortable with change.

It’s very flexible as a sector – you can choose to work on your own or in a team, you have the ability to follow developing interests and can work across an array of verticals – from education to finance and beyond.

Brett Herkt

Co-Founder and CEO, BoardPro

Boardpro, Brett Herkt

Boardpro co-founder Brett Herkt

Technology is rich with opportunity. Back in 2011, Marc Andreessen coined the phrase “software is eating the world”.

Today four of the five most valuable companies in the world are tech companies. It’s just a superb opportunity to be on the cutting edge of creativity and growth.

A great way to find excellent places to work is to follow what the major tech investors are investing in.

You can get started with Bessemer’s annual state of the cloud.

The best part of the job is the opportunity for learning and applying the latest technologies while working in dynamic high-growth companies.

So many high-growth, early stage companies are fighting a shortage of talent across multiple disciplines from developers to UX specialist to product managers which means there’s unlimited opportunity to grow and develop a career with real opportunity and wealth too.

Lee Hardham

Founder and CEO at Brauz

Lee Hardman

Brauz founder Lee Hardman

I’m excited for our next generation of tech entrepreneurs and the future of technology in general.

The current generation of techies, or my generation, have seen and experienced so much change since we started out.

From technological advances to immense cultural shifts and even tackling climate change and the social disconnect from the pandemic, there is a lot that the next generation can take away from our learnings.

For one, always dream big. If you have a dream for a better world, don’t ever think you’re too small to make that dream a reality. The second is to test first, build second. As you develop the future, stay in touch with the present. Talk to your market and build the future together.

And lastly, but most importantly, is persistence. There will be many barriers that will bring you down, stay persistent, go back to step two – test and find a way.

For me and the team at Brauz, the best part of being involved in the tech industry has been creating the future and seeing the successful impact that our technology has had on the market today.

Technology is exciting, it’s a team effort but it’s also challenging.

Personally, I love seeing our vision come to life but I love it, even more, when I see the looks of achievement across our team and customers. That’s the best part of sharing in the creation of success.

It’s the sense of pride after building something together that’s never been done before.

 

Alex Kok

Engineering Director, SiteMinder

Alex Kok

SiteMinder Engineering Director Alex Kok

There has never been a more dynamic time to be a techie, and on National Techies Day I’m thrilled to be part of a growing team of innovators at SiteMinder that’s constantly pushing the boundaries, as the industries we serve evolve and mature in their digital needs.

For me, this reflects the best part of being in the tech industry – being constantly challenged to expand my skills and my team’s capabilities, and being agile as we test new innovations and ideas.

But a workplace like this isn’t common. In fact, for those starting out in the tech industry, this trifecta of education, exposure and experience is what I would encourage you to test potential employers on before jumping on board.

Question them on their approach to both formal and on-the-job training, buddy programs, how their tech teams are exposed to processes and projects in other departments, and how your career will be stretched by the tasks at hand so that your resume is constantly lengthening.

Andrew Wells

Engineering Director of Site Reliability and DevOps, Render

Andrew Wells

Render’s Andrew Wells

It’s easy for a developer to just focus on software, apps, and the cloud, as they are really interesting and cool.

But, it is important that you learn and understand the interplay between how hardware works with the code you write.

This will make you better at both development and troubleshooting your work.As for the best thing about the role, it’s the networking.

You end up meeting people from different industries, counties, and cultures and connecting via your shared experience and passion for technology.

Alex Frolov

Co-founder and CEO, HypeAuditor

Alex Frolov

HypeAuditor co-founder Alex Frolov

When the global pandemic brought the world to its knees, we’ve seen an unprecedented reliance on technology, an acceleration in digital transformation as well as a boom in the tech-powered entrepreneurship economy.

The potential of technology and its rapid evolution is endless and now more than ever is a prime time for the next generation of techies to set up camp into the tech sector.

My advice for the new techies is to find a mentor who has years of experience in the industry, to help guide, advise and navigate the tech sector and help identify the area you’d like to specialise in. Australia continues to face an IT skills and talent shortage and adopting a career in tech is a sure fire way to futureproof a livelihood against any disruption.

Technology has the power to be the driving force to change the world for the better. After having worked in the technology sector for more than 12 years, I decided to set up a company that I can be proud of and that can change the face of an entire industry. HypeAuditor is not just a set of tools for effective Influencer Marketing (IM), but the embodiment of the desire to elevate and move the entire industry forward, to make IM more transparent, fair and effective and help brands develop fraud-free IM campaigns.

It is also an industry that keeps you on your toes, as it is constantly evolving and you are learning everyday, which is great.

 

Martin Nuber

CTO, Kanopi

Martin Nuber

Martin Nuber, CTO, Kanopi

I think I’m giving the same advice that was offered to my generation, which is, don’t limit yourself. Focus on skills or areas that you are interested in and passionate about. Continue to use your imagination to test what is possible.

As for the best part of my job, it’s getting to work with smart people, solving hard problems, and pushing the world forwards. Tech is a sector with flexibility and variety so you can work on the things that you are really passionate about.