Careers in tech are huge right now, with skills shortages in many well paid, exciting areas.
We spoke to a couple of experts in their chosen fields, who are eager to show that careers in IT can be for everyone.
Katrina (Kat) Hudson, who is an Engineering Escalation Manager at Dell, originally thought she wanted to be a psychologist. In school she studied Business and Psychology- she was most interested in social sciences- and ended up doing a Psychology degree in Germany.
While working on a US military base in Germany, where she planned adventure trips for people, her boss walked in one day and asked if she was “any good with a computer”.
“I said I can turn them off and on,” Kat laughs. “They needed to figure out how to use a new programme that helped create trips, deal with financials and inventory and that was the start of it,” she says.
“Before I knew it I had my first job as a Software Deployment Specialist. It came really naturally. My heart was still in Psychology but I managed to blend them. After a year doing the job and winning awards for it, I wanted to be made permanent and they did. I was then Programme Manager and Administrator for that solution. Then I became the Director of an IT department. After that I did a Masters in Industrial and Organisational Psychology in Minnesota and ended up with a job in the tech support department in Dell. Ten years on, and a few promotions later, I found myself in Ireland and eventually doing my current Engineering role remotely in England,” she says.
Kat says that it was a tougher industry for women to work in when she started out, but she is glad to point out, things have changed considerably in recent years.
“I feel like it’s changed. I remember a male colleague saying I didn’t have to work as hard because I was a woman, and there were lower expectations. That was the norm back then and I spent so much time having to prove myself. It’s so different now, and is easier for women,” she says.
To share her passion for technology, Kat gives Digital Futures talks to students, encouraging them to explore careers in the technology sector.
“I didn’t realise there is an artistry and a need for communication in IT. My job is about helping to communicate really complex technical things in a simple way and organising groups of people to solve problems. It’s important to help students discover what they can do in our sector. I like to talk about the careers and the misconception that comes with them as well as the diversity in our sector and how tech impacts on all careers,” she says.
Eoin Byrne is head of Cyber Ireland, the industry representative body for the cyber security sector in Ireland.
They launched in May 2019, with a remit to represent all the organisations in the cyber security sector, in particular industry, from start-ups to SMEs to multinationals.
Cyber Ireland was set up to address the cyber security skills shortage in Ireland, including increasing the number of graduates ready for cyber roles, training up specialised technical skills and attracting more young people and adults into a career in cyber.
“There is an international shortage of cyber security skills, with some reports predicting there are over 3 million unfilled cyber roles, which is also impacting Ireland. However, if we can produce the right type of cyber talent and skills here there is an opportunity for us to attract more jobs to Ireland,” Eoin says.
He says in the last 12 months we have all become more aware of the importance of everything digital due to the impact of COVID-19, from the use of our smart phones and the internet for remote working, communicating with family and friends and home-schooling.
“There is a lack of awareness and skills around cyber security in society in general, and particularly in young people. This coupled with the dire shortage of cybersecurity professionals, is placing our citizens and our economy at risk. Ireland needs to develop young people that have the aptitude and skills to become the next generation of cyber security specialists to protect our digital world.”
There are many different career options in cyber security, and it’s not just for someone who’s interested in computers or coding, that’s a big misconception. We have mapped out 52 different types of cyber roles from ethical hackers, to law, policy, training and education and much more.
For example, Eoin works in Munster Technological University, and has a background in business with a PhD in Economics.
Cyber careers are open to people from diverse backgrounds and different career paths. Some people have switched to a cyber career later in life and have retrained from electricians, to chefs and those in the army, becoming some of the top cyber professionals and ethical hackers in the world.
Getting into this field requires having an interest or curiosity in it, as well as the aptitude and mindset. You don’t need a university degree, but it helps, Eoin says. There are 16 postgrad courses in cyber security and more than 50 courses that can lead to a career in cyber security in Ireland, so there are lots of options.
This summer they will run a cyber academy- the first national cyber training programme to encourage young people into this sector. “We will run an online cyber summer camps in June for students in 4th, 5th and 6th year. They will explore cryptography, hacking and the impact of cyber security in society as well as being given career talks. Later in the year, the national cyber security schools challenge will test student’s skills as a hacker- and this is open to all secondary school students with no technical or coding skills required,” he says.
Cyber security is an attractive career for young people with most entry level salaries starting from €25K to €45K plus, depending on skills. Not only is it one of the most well-paid, in-demand sectors around, but it also offers young people the chance to forge a career doing something that really matters.
“These are important roles in society- people working in cyber security companies but also in law enforcement and the public sector, who are protecting people, businesses and our government from cyber attacks. They are protecting Ireland’s critical national infrastructure, such as our electricity and internet from attackers. Every company will need someone trained up in cyber security to ensure their product and services are safe for their customers,” he concludes.