On October 16th, the Center for Information Technology Innovation (CITI) and the Information System Association (ISA) successfully hosted the 13th Annual Become a Business Leader with an Edge event. The executives discussed tech trends, career advancement, and innovations occurring in the world of information technology.
Good news for Colorado job seekers in the tech industry
Hellmuth presented the current unemployment statistics for technical jobs. Addressing students’ concern of finding a job, he said that because of these low technical job unemployment rates, it’s not about finding a job. It’s about finding the right job. He also listed some statistics to put context behind a job search.
- National unemployment is at 3.90%
- National tech unemployment is at 1.80%
- Colorado’s unemployment is at 2.80%
- Colorado tech unemployment is at 1.36%
Colorado was also discussed as a hotspot for technology and job seekers. Some statistics that were mentioned include:
- Denver has the #1 ranked economy by U.S. News
- Colorado is ranked #2 in both employment and overall economic growth by Business Insider
- Colorado is ranked as the #2 in the best state to make a living by money-rates.com
- Last year, one billion dollars went to 154 companies, a record for venture investments
The message was clear. The industry is ready for new talent, but students are still faced with the challenge of standing out among a sea of applications.
How to get hired: Advice from executives
Hellmuth encouraged students to think about where they wanted to be in five years. He recommended different tactics on how to get there, including:
- Land an internship
- Create a portfolio
- Ask for projects from current employers
- Get involved in networking groups
- Pursue graduate education
Following the moderator’s presentation, Randy Guthrie, a software engineer from Microsoft, discussed the job opportunities for students majoring in the technical field.
“There is a huge demand for technical talent across the board, not just programming. Microsoft has 500 job openings for data scientists close to this campus, 1,000 job openings for IT program managers, and 2,000 job openings for cloud specialists all near Denver,” Guthrie shared.
“There is a huge demand for technical talent across the board, not just programming. Microsoft has 500 job openings for data scientists close to this campus, 1,000 job openings for IT program managers, and 2,000 job openings for cloud specialists all near Denver.” – Randy Guthrie
The panel session that followed Guthrie’s presentation brought leaders across industries to the table who also advised students. The panelists included:
- Alan Cullop, CIO, and SVP from DaVita Inc.
- James Gaulke, VP of IT, from PDC Energy
- Marina Johnson, Founder, and CEO of MOST Programming, Inc.
- Sam V. Kumar, Founder, and CEO of NewCloud Networks
- Lucia Milică, CEO & Principal Consultant for Datassure
- Randy Weldon, IT Executive
- Christian Winward, CTO of FirstBank
One topic Marina Johnson touched on was the importance of having soft skills in the world of technology. She shared that students shouldn’t feel the need to be the ‘smartest cookie’ in the room to be successful. If students lack technical skills, they could be substituted with strong soft skills and emotional intelligence.
Another panelist, Sam Kumar, talked about the importance of specializing when trying to differentiate yourself as an applicant. Specializing in something like cybersecurity could make the difference in landing an interview or the job itself.
Other executives highlighted the importance of reformatting resumes with keywords for each job students apply to. Most companies don’t have the time to read through every resume. Instead, they screen resumes by keywords to narrow it down.
Finding a mentor was another piece of advice that executives agreed was instrumental in building a career, especially for people at the start of their career. Panelists said that a good mentorship begins with someone whom you’ve established trust with and can openly talk to and learn from.
Allan Cullop also shared his story of how he progressed in his career to his current position of CIO. He advised that students should focus on doing their current job well, but not being afraid to take on additional responsibilities to showcase that they are ready for a promotion.
Trends in technology
Panelists transitioned to discussing a variety of trends about the future of technology such as data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and blockchain.
A BSBA in Information Systems student, Huda Hussain, shared her takeaway from the discussion. “These conversations emphasized that technology changes very quickly, which makes it essential for students working in technology to be able to adapt to change,” she said.
Panelists were asked how challenges with newer technologies are affecting the overall nature of the business. For example, the blockchain evolution is just around the corner, helping in a lot of ways but also creating new challenges.
Cybersecurity was the main challenge addressed by the executives. Lucia Milică mentioned that threats to security are real and always coming. She said that twenty percent of the companies out there do not have a recovery plan, and of the ones that do, about 42 percent are using outdated technology. “It is important for companies to invest in safeguarding against cybersecurity threats,” she said.
Networking opportunities for CU Denver students
Over 300 students across disciplines attended this event. At its close, CU Denver students were given the rare opportunity to approach the executives and introduce themselves. From this same networking opportunity last year, Varun Khurana, MS in Information Systems student, landed an interview with FirstBank after a productive conversation with the CIO resulted in a LinkedIn connection.
Khurana saw the value that these kinds of networking opportunities can have. That’s why he served as ISA president and helped organize this event for other students this year.
Beyond that internship opportunity, Khurana also found value as someone pursuing a career change. He’s been working closely with the Business Career Connections (BCC) team over the past year to reframe his resume from being a software developer to a data analyst. It was at events like these, where he was able to have very frank conversations with executives about the difficulty he was facing in that process and receive specific advice from executives about what his next steps should be.
“I learned so much! It was a great opportunity to be able to hear from executives of so many successful companies right here in Denver and learn what steps I could take to obtain such a position myself.” – Huda Hussain
Hussain was another one of those students who introduced herself to the executives to have one-on-one conversations with them. She shared, “I learned so much! It was a great opportunity to be able to hear from executives of so many successful companies right here in Denver and learn what steps I could take to obtain such a position myself.”