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IT 'geeks' are chic and in demand

Thursday, 21 February 2013 - 7:52pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
In a world of digital natives, Andrew Marszal explains how to stand out when job-hunting.

Many of us have accepted that those awkward teenagers who once rushed home from school to play computer games in dimly-lit bedrooms can now command six-figure salaries.

Today's younger generations now deem working in IT cool, a perception helped by a swathe of technology start-ups turning into multi-million pound businesses, such as Google and Facebook.

But what the Facebook film The Social Network did not prepare us for is that even the most glamorous industries in the world are competing for their tech-savvy services. From Silicon Roundabout software houses to haute couture retailers, young people with IT skills are in high demand.

"There's definitely a skills shortage in the tech space," says James Hudson, head of recruitment for Net-A-Porter, the online clothing retailer.

"Having those skills will definitely help here as we're an online fashion business, but even in traditional retail we're seeing brick-and-mortar retailers moving online."

He adds, "We're living in a world of digital natives. In whatever industry, people will be looking for exposure and affinity with digital. For instance, within five to 10 years you'll be expected to be able to do whatever you're currently doing remotely."

So the obvious question a job-hunter - or indeed a teenager planning ahead - might ask is how to go about acquiring these in-demand abilities.

Evidently a computer science degree is one route. But with only 20,000 admitted on to university courses in the subject last year, and more than 110,000 IT vacancies in the UK at the moment, a number expected to double by 2015, this clearly cannot satisfy demand.

Besides, employers say an academic understanding of technology is less important than being au fait with the latest gadgets. Six in 10 students leave university unable to find a graduate job, partly because they lack experience.

Sarah Watson, Net-A-Porter's group mobile manager, says, "It's more about having an interest and being keen to learn. Especially with something like mobile, it's so new and changing so quickly that not a lot of people have the right experience anyway."

A computer science degree is helpful, but it is also possible to learn HTML in an afternoon, she claims. This year, Net-A-Porter is taking on 10 university-leavers to work in IT. Applicants must have science backgrounds, but beyond that are not expected to have any specific knowledge of software or coding languages, they simply need to show "an interest" in the field.

Hudson says, "If you have any dream job or sector, you need to be adding to your academic education either through an internship, a society or an interest group."

Watson, who did a degree in biology and a stint in marketing before joining Net-A-Porter as an SEO specialist, agrees that enthusiasm is everything.

"If you're the sort of person who gets excited about tech launches and has the latest iPhone or iPad, don't be afraid to apply just because you don't have the experience they're asking for.

"It's very much about showing you have that spark and willingness to learn."




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