Career Zoo 10
A Career Zoo 10 attendee surveys what's on offer at the event in the Convention Centre Dublin, September 2015. Photo: Connor McKenna

Career Zoo: A job candidate’s perspective

14 Sep 2015

Following a visit to Career Zoo in the Convention Centre Dublin, Laura Ennis wonders if passion is the secret to a successful career in tech.

If I was to use one word to describe Career Zoo it would be passion. Those involved in setting up and running the event are dedicated to making Career Zoo as relevant and engaging as possible.

This 12 September marked the 10th Career Zoo and among the many attractions was a focus on big data, diversity and women in tech.

The range of employers represented at the event was a clear indication of the increasingly diverse career path associated with working in STEM. Jobseekers’ experience and education was equally varied and with such a large attendance at the event came an acknowledgement of the need for graduates and individuals of all disciplines to gain knowledge and experience of technology and its pivotal role in the modern organisation.

A love of technology and passion for their subject areas and organisations was evident from all the exhibitors and panellists, and they are looking for that passion in prospective candidates.

Career opportunities in data

In the panel discussion on Finding the Right Career in 2015 there was an emphasis on acknowledging your strengths and being able to align your experiences to the competencies being sought by your prospective employer.

Jobseekers were advised to consider their skills, interests and how they hope their career will progress when beginning their job search. While employers are looking for the soft and technical skills needed for a given role, candidates like me starting their career in tech are looking for a clear career progression, and the training and development opportunities associated with the organisation they are applying for.

The Big Data – Where To Now? panel discussion explored the skills being sought by panellists working in the data analytics space in fashion, finance, insurance and academia, with attractive job applicants described as “passionate problem solvers”. These are individuals who are willing to learn and eager to gain knowledge and experience of new technologies.

Within this panel discussion, the benefits of online vs classroom learning were explored. Panellists advised candidates to gain practical experience of technologies through the creation of a portfolio, for example. This would allow them to showcase their level of expertise in a particular area and, in practice, would deepen their learning and increase their level of technical expertise.

The diversity discussion

Diversity – An Opportunity for Ireland looked at the benefits associated with having a more diverse workforce from a business, candidate and societal perspective.

From a business perspective, greater diversity will increase the likelihood of there being individuals with different experiences and opinions incorporated within a team and within the decision-making process, thereby increasing the likelihood of greater discussion and challenging of existing ideas.

For prospective candidates, greater diversity will mean an increase in the accessibility associated with particular roles and positions within an organisational hierarchy. For example, panellists spoke about the need for greater numbers of women in STEM fields, which would provide more women with the platform from which to make a greater contribution to organisations across sectors.

I am starting my career in tech and have been fortunate to have been involved in the Girls Hack Ireland programme, which encourages young women to study and work in STEM. This is achieved through involvement in hackathons where teenage girls gain hands-on experience of the internet of things, wearables, web design or other areas associated with working in STEM.

The availability of hackathons and workshops is crucial to increase awareness of opportunities in the technology sector. MinT (Mentoring in Technology) offers mentoring opportunities where mentees can avail of advice and benefit from the experiences of established tech professionals who will meet with them and guide them as they look to begin or return to a career within the technology sector.

Interactive learning environments provided by workshops such as those run by Coding Grace can also allow the jobseeker get a sense of what a role in analytics, for example, could entail. Participation in such events also offers a great networking and learning opportunity for the individual.

There is still a gender disparity within the technology sector that initiatives such as MinT and Coding Grace seek to address. Networking and the existence of a support network is crucial to increase and maintain the number of women working in tech.

Soft skills required

The vibrancy of the technology sector was evident in all the companies I spoke with, many of which are in a period of expansion and actively looking for candidates who can bring a passion for technology and a willingness to learn as well as technical expertise to a role.

All exhibitors also emphasised the need for candidates to have soft and technical skills. Representatives from Twitter highlighted the importance of the candidates’ attitude. They advised that being passionate about the company’s mission and willing to work hard and learn is crucial for success in the recruitment process.

Talking with representatives from Zalando, Icon, Sage and SAS also highlighted the diversity of roles within tech companies, from digital marketing to technical support to data analyst roles on offer within these organisations. Zalando, in particular, is focused on recruiting for data scientist and engineering positions at present.

As a recent e-commerce graduate, attending Career Zoo showed me that my career path can be as varied as my imagination. Interesting technical roles exist within organisations of all types, and the talks I attended and the individuals I spoke with reaffirmed my belief in the critical importance of continued professional development when working within the tech sector.

The evolution of Career Zoo highlights the changing dynamics within the tech sector and the exciting opportunities on offer to jobseekers.

By Laura Ennis

Laura Ennis recently completed a master’s in e-commerce in Dublin City University and is currently looking for a challenging role that will help launch her career in the tech sector. Her love of technology prompted her involvement in the Girls Hack Ireland programme where she helped promote events and raise awareness of the opportunities for young women to study or work in STEM. Ennis is interested in learning more about web development and data analytics, and is currently seeking opportunities in these areas.

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