It’s Time to Future-Proof Your Tech Career
The tech industry has faced a particularly challenging few years. As a tech recruiter, I’ve had my fair share of heartfelt conversations with candidates and clients who have been navigating layoffs. Many have shared their frustration finding roles amid tougher competition. And you’d be surprised by how many clients now have to do more with less, revealing some crucial lessons for future-proofing tech careers in this ever-changing landscape.
Amid booming market conditions, it’s easy to overlook inefficiencies. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But when the market shifts, these inefficiencies are laid bare, leading to the phenomenon called the “great flattening.” This refers to the mass layoffs of middle managers, who were in high demand during the pandemic boom.
Since shifting away from middle managers, the tech industry is now favouring hands-on managers, aka those who can get their hands dirty with code. This shift is unsurprising. Back in 2022, Elon told X employees that “all managers are expected to write a meaningful amount of software themselves”. Since then, Meta, Amazon, and Salesforce have followed suit. I’ve also experienced this shift first-hand. Early last year, I assisted one of my mid-sized clients in hiring a VP of engineering. Their non-negotiable requirement was that the candidate had to be willing to commit 60-70% of their time to coding.
Aside from cost savings, there are other benefits to being a hands-on manager. As you’re actively coding, you’ll gain firsthand experience of the challenges faced by your team, which strengthens your decision-making and credibility. Your involvement in day-to-day operations also keeps you in the loop with new technological advancements and prevents you from becoming bogged down by legacy systems.
In times of uncertainty, it appears that individuals who directly contribute to a company’s core product are less likely to face layoffs. While we’re often encouraged to aspire to managerial roles at a young age, please don’t rush. The move to management and leadership is not singular, so when planning your career path, make sure you’re continually developing your technical skills.
As a general rule for all my candidates aiming for leadership roles, make sure the roles you’re considering involve at least 30% active coding or hands-on collaboration with your team. In addition to this, consider the following to invest in your professional development:
- Enroll in online courses or bootcamps to gain structured knowledge and hands-on experience.
- Attend industry events to network, gain insights, and stay updated on trends.
- Contribute to open-source projects to gain practical experience and build your reputation.
- Volunteer. Share your knowledge with those trying to break through into tech or who need help. A good non-profit to volunteer for is CodeYourFuture (CYF).
“Volunteering with CYF is a great way to develop my skills and expertise in web development and teaching. By working with students from diverse backgrounds and with varying levels of experience, I got the opportunity to hone my communication, problem-solving, and leadership skills as well as learn from other volunteers and mentors, and stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies in the industry.”CodeYourFuture Volunteer
The lesson for my clients is simple: invest in top talent to achieve sustainable growth. While layoffs may be necessary to streamline operations, it’s now the perfect time to refocus and develop the management skills of top developers, ensuring they’re well-equipped to handle future challenges.
As the tech industry navigates this period of transformation, those who prioritise continuous learning will be well-positioned for success. By future-proofing your career, you can emerge stronger from challenging times and build a sustainable path forward.
Written by Emma Stilwell – Senior Consultant