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What Is a ‘Career in Technology’? TechXpo Has Answers

You have to be really good at math and science–English majors can't do tech jobs. You'll end up working in a room full of guys wearing hoodies. Hope you like coding–that's how you'll spend your day. There's no diversity in tech.

College seniors are applying for jobs that did not exist when they entered college four years ago. The opportunities to carve out a tech career path keep growing, and so do the myths and questions around tech careers. So what does a "career in technology" really mean? And where do liberal arts majors fit into the picture?

Students can find out starting at 2:30 p.m. today at the inaugural "TechXpo" Career Exploration Symposium, in the Alvarez College Union. Hosted by the Mathematics & Computer Science Department and the Center for Career Development, this is not your run-of-the-mill career fair. Instead, TechXpo will provide an immersive experience, including workshops, interactive breakout sessions and networking opportunities. 

TechXPo was the brainchild of leadership at Davidson and Red Ventures, the digital technology and innovative analytics company headquartered south of Charlotte.

"TechXpo brings together our talented students with leading firms in the fields of technology, analytics, engineering and math," said Jeanne-Marie Ryan, executive director of the Center for Career Development. "Students will be able to explore current career fields that require the communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills for which they are so richly prepared at Davidson. We're grateful to our partners at Red Ventures and to all our partner organizations and graduate school-programs."

TechXPo is a win for them, too, Ryan added, with an employer roundtable and community networking event to cultivate connectivity and foster collaboration.

Companies like Red Ventures are recognizing more and more the broad, transferable skills and mental agility liberal arts graduates bring to the table–recent headlines reflect that in Silicon Valley and beyond: "Liberal Arts Majors Are the Future of the Tech Industry," Harvard Business Review; "That ‘Useless' Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech's Hottest Ticket," Forbes; Don't Panic Liberal Arts Majors. The Tech World Wants You," The New York Times.

Sometimes now, it's the students who still need convincing.

Welcome to TechXpo.

A TechXPo panel featuring young alumni working in tech fields will explore myths and questions around tech careers and the liberal arts. Below, three of the panel members them share their thoughts from the front lines.

Erika Dean
Erika Dean '05

Erika Dean '05, Outbrain
Global Product Go-to-Market Strategy Lead
New York, N.Y.

One of my former bosses told me my liberal arts degree gave me a distinct advantage when she was interviewing candidates. Why? She knew I would instinctively think outside of the box and ask questions.

As a young woman of color, I know I don't fit the traditional tech stereotype. I'm not a white male coder or software engineer. There are many forms that a tech job can take. My tech talent is operations and strategy. My job is to create and execute the operational blueprint for new product launch strategies across the globe. On a daily basis, I'm liaising with the product, engineering, product marketing and business teams across multiple time zones to bring the product ideas to fruition.

I've had colleagues come to me with the ‘what' and ‘why' part of their business strategy answered. They seek my help in formulating the ‘how' and ‘when.' This is the essence of entrepreneurial spirit that drives me.

Nick Carter
Nick Carter '15

Nick Carter '15, Red Ventures
Associate Software Engineer
Charlotte, N.C.

Liberal arts students may not realize how valuable their skillset can be to a tech company. The liberal arts curriculum, especially at Davidson, encourages curiosity and teaches you to challenge traditional thoughts and assumptions. Both of these skills are of critical importance in any tech career. Technology changes so fast. If you are not curious and exploring the cutting edge, you will surely be left behind. If you are not bold enough to challenge existing processes, you will never innovate.

Diversity should be a top priority for any modern company, especially a technology company. Having more voices involved leads to more ideas, which leads to more (and better) solutions. We are still miles behind where we need to be when it comes to this issue.

I think when people hear the phrase "tech job," their minds immediately go to an image of someone wearing a hoodie, scanning through lines of code on their Macbook. Yes, software developers make up a large part of the community, but just because you don't know how to code doesn't mean you can't have a "tech job." Product managers are needed to manage workflows, timelines and execution. Marketing representatives are needed to build hype and buzz. QA personnel are needed to ensure things work correctly for end-users.

Billy Hackenson
Billy Hackenson '13

Billy Hackenson '13, Box
Chief of Staff to the Marketing Dept.
Redwood City, Calif.

My department's work of being good partners to 19 sales leaders is largely about human psychology, and seeing all sides of the story. I help craft arguments to the boss so that everyone can get what they need. What I learned in the Humanities program, what you see in literature and history, what science confirms and what you see in the behavior of politicians–human behavior doesn't change too much!

You peel back all the layers of the onion and at the end of the day humans want the same thing. People want to do good and do the right thing. They want to go home and say I contributed to the world in this way and be able to clearly define what that is.

We have a mission and purpose of democratizing work through access and collaboration. Who knows what that looks like even two years from now?

Silicon Valley and the companies around the Bay are actively engaged in the question of diversity. Students should start to feel it a little bit more. I'd be curious to know how it's coming across....

John Syme
josyme@davidson.edu
704-894-2523