Tech Jobs: Ten aspects job applicants should understand

Much has been written about the impact of technology on jobs. The Australian government has expressed ambitious goals for a digital economy. Multiple digital strategies have been released for specific industries, such as manufacturing and agriculture. The APS, along with state and territory governments, has been building digital skills. What are some of the implications for job applicants?

The Tech Council of Australia writes in their report Australia’s Tech Jobs Opportunity – Cracking the code to Australia’s best jobs, that “the tech sector has experienced strong growth in the last decade and is now the seventh biggest employing sector in Australia. There are now 861,000 people employed in them across Australia today”. Plus, they say: “To meet the skills needs of the tech sector, we will need to bring an additional 286,000 people into the sector”.

1. Tech jobs are highly diverse

The first aspect of technology to understand is that tech sector jobs are highly diverse and are spread throughout the economy. As the Tech Council points out: Tech jobs “include roles requiring STEM or technical skills, such as data scientists and software engineers, roles with exceptional creative, problem-solving and people skills, such as user experience designers and customer success managers, and roles that combine commercial, creative and technical knowledge, such as product managers”.

“Further, there are many jobs in the tech sector that are also found in other industries, such as salespeople, lawyers, policy and government relations specialists, accountants and finance managers, project managers, HR managers, marketers and media and communications professionals.”

2. Multiple pathways into tech jobs

The second aspect to understand is that there are multiple ways to enter a tech job. The Tech Council has identified five routes:

  • “Entering the sector as a first professional job directly from university or other training
  • Moving from a non-tech job in another industry into a tech job or the tech sector
  • Returning to work after a period of not working, e.g. for family leave, to study, or because of a period of unemployment
  • Joining the Australian industry from overseas under Australia’s skilled migration program
  • Moving from one tech job to another tech job.”

At some point in your life, you will be faced with changes, either imposed or by choice, that involve upskilling, reskilling, or changing jobs. Maintaining an awareness of how technology is impacting your work and the organisation you work in, is essential to being prepared to deal with changes.

The Australian Data Strategy signposts the Australian Government’s data intent and efforts over the period to 2025. It focuses on three key themes:

  • maximising the value of data.
  • trust and protection.
  • enabling data use.

Data can mean different things to different users. The Strategy uses the term consistent with the DAT Bill definition and uses ‘data’ and ‘information’ interchangeably:

“Data is any information in a form capable of being communicated, analysed or processed (whether by an individual or by computer or other automated means).”

The document considers both public sector data, which is managed by the government, and data in the broader economy, where the Australian Government both enables data users and regulates its use and sharing to provide greater certainty in how people deal with their data. The strategy summarises the policy landscape, with links to other strategies such as digital economy and cyber security.

Data is useful when it can be communicated easily and analysed to gain insights. Data’s value stems from its use, re-use and re-purposing, particularly in large volumes. Data must be accurate, reliable, free from bias, and applied and distributed fairly.

The Strategy highlights benefits to consumers, business and service delivery, and explores data sharing across sectors, trust and protection of data, ethics, data management, building APS capability via Data Professional Stream, and international trends.

3. Many jobs work with data

Understand that many jobs include working with data is the third point to understand. For applicants, this means appreciating the potential value of that data, applying ethical principles concerning privacy, trust, and security, understanding the challenges of sharing data, and having skills to work with data in different contexts, such as legislation, project management, and international relationships.

A second strategy to look at is the Digital Economy Strategy 2030. This document explains that many roles are relevant to the digital economy, including infrastructure, services and regulation. Few jobs, if any, will be free from the use of, and/or, application of, technology to their own work or to the subject matter of their work. Both documents raise implications for job applicants.

4. Technology creates new jobs

A fourth point to understand is that new jobs are created in response to these issues, such as jobs in cyber security and the application of new technology to existing fields (e.g. drones, data analysis). Any new job needs to be understood in terms of why it has been created, how it fits into the existing structure, how it relates to strategic direction, and what progress has been made in establishing any structural changes.

5. Tech changes impact policy

A fifth point is that changes in technology mean new policies are needed or existing policies adapted, such as privacy reform, cyber security, and consumer rights. For policy roles, this may mean thinking more broadly about issues. Applicants may need to be aware of existing and new strategies, reviews, inquiries, programs, new legislation, grants and frameworks, and how they are relevant to their role. Internal applicants may be aware of these developments but may not consciously realise their significance. External applicants may need to conduct research to fully understand the context of a role.

6. Non-tech jobs change to incorporate technology

A sixth point is that existing jobs, such as HR, marketing, finance, may change to incorporate technology applications and the use of data. Applicants may need to expand their skills and knowledge, and be able to explain their relevance and value.

7. Senior managers need to understand tech issues

Seventh, more senior jobs may require an understanding of technological issues even though they may not be directly technology-related. In assessing strategic risks, including ones that may seem beyond the scope of a current role or organisation (such as country borders becoming less binding for trade), greater understanding of technological risks, including cyber security, may be needed.

8. Collaboration about technology becomes more complex

An eight point to understand is that the increased complexity of issues means inter-agency and inter-jurisdiction collaboration needs to be considered. Communication and interpersonal skills are important, including negotiation, influencing, persuading, resolving differences and winning cooperation.

9. Capability building is ongoing

Ninth, in building staff capability, managers and team leaders need to consider digital and data skills. The APSC is responsible for the APS Data Professional Stream and the APS Digital Professional Stream.

In thinking about one’s professional development, applicants need to keep an eye on how their job may be affected by technology and start building the relevant knowledge and skills. The key technologies the Digital Economy Strategy 2030 focuses on are: artificial intelligence, internet of things, data analytics, blockchain, and quantum computing.

10. Social skills critical for all tech jobs

Tenth, for technology-related roles, the ability to explain digital and data issues and their application, to people who lack their expertise, will be essential. A role requirement such as ‘Excellent communication skills and the ability to influence and manage people’ may seem to be one amongst a list of requirements, most of which may be technology-related. However, no amount of technology expertise will matter if a person is unable to meet the human demands of the role.

In summary, ten aspects of technology job applicants need to understand are:

  • Tech jobs are diverse
  • There are multiple pathways into tech jobs
  • Many jobs work with data
  • Tech creates new jobs
  • Tech changes impact policy
  • Non-tech jobs change to incorporate technology
  • Senior managers need to understand tech issues
  • Collaboration about technology becomes more complex
  • Capability building is ongoing
  • Social skills are critical for all tech jobs.
Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.