A Layman’s Guide To Digital Land

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@kennethphooiKenneth

Digital Consultant at Accenture Digital

Four years ago, I stepped off the plane having just returned from my undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne. And just like the flight, my aspirations were sky-high. Having attained a first-class honour in Accounting and Finance, it felt as if no company was out of reach.

Fast forward six months employed in the unemployment line, I started getting desperate.
The job market for any finance graduate was brutal, and even tougher hailing from a non-Singaporean university.
The rejections were countless. At one point, I swear I could recite the dreaded “We regret to inform you” response off the top of my head.
After 6 months of bumming around, I decided that I had enough.
It was time to venture out of Finance and into the Land of Digital.

Great Things Start From The Bedroom

No. It’s not what you think.
I spent most of my days in my room watching programming tutorials online to acquire a beginner’s equivalent of what you may call, Digital Literacy. And occasionally attending free workshops that tech companies host to try and make sense of what I was learning online.
These workshops/meetups are the best places to hear from industry experts on what technologies were relevant and in-demand. Not to mention, they are also filled with undercover recruiters on a prowl for tech talent.
My top 3 online learning sources are:
  • Youtube
  • Udemy
  • Stack Overflow
I’m not going to lie, the learning curve for coding was steep. Very steep.
But looking back, it was no doubt the best investment I made in my early 20s, in terms of what it was preparing me for the next 40 years of my life.

A Fresh Perspective

The misconception that many of us have is that companies are only looking for candidates with a degree in computer science.
In fact, many companies are eager to hire candidates from other fields to put into tech roles.
This is because having past experiences from other areas gives the candidate an advantage in terms of fresh perspectives that they can bring to the team.
When I first applied for my current company, I was trying to land myself a position as a Management Consultant. The job sounded cool and the salary was mouth-watering on GlassDoor. But due to the competitiveness of the industry, I wasn’t surprised when the “We regret to inform you” email came weeks later.

When One Door Closes

What I was surprised by, however, was that about a month later, I received a call from the HR department, asking if I was interested in another position that they were looking to fill.
The role was for a Digital Business Integration Analyst.
Probably you: What in the world is Digital Business Integration?
Don’t worry. Those were my exact thoughts too.
Basically, they were looking for an Application Programming Interface (API) developer who could code in a framework called “Node.JS”.
“An API is like a middleman, relaying information from one application to another. Think of APIs as a translator for two apps that both speak in different languages.”
Turns out, in the copy of the resume I had sent them, I listed a “Skills” segment where I included some of the technology frameworks which I had picked up in courses, such as Angular, Node.JS and Javascript.
So I leapt at the opportunity for an interview.

Honesty, Still The Best Policy

Be frank with your would-be employers.
On my first round of interview, the first thing I told them was “Look, if you’re looking for someone who is technically skilled, then I’m probably not the right person for the job. But if you’re looking for someone who is passionate about tech and is hungry to learn, then I promise I won’t let you down”.
As it turned out, they liked the honesty.
According to Indeed, the world’s largest search engine for job listings,
“When the pool of job seekers isn’t aligned with employer needs, businesses may be forced to lower requirements for skills or experience”
When employers don’t have the luxury of hiring candidates with the necessary skills, their alternative is to hire someone willing to learn.
In the closing round of the interview, I was asked by the hiring manager:
Manager: “Given that you don’t have the appropriate academic preparation, tell me why I should hire you”.
And he was right. Given my degree in finance, there was no technical answer I could concoct in my mind to adequately give him a response.
So I reached into my bag and pulled out a 300-page thick book called “Learning JavaScript” by Ethan Brown.
Me: “The JD stated that the role would have a lot to do with Javascript. And since the first interview about a month back, I’ve been carrying this around, reading it whenever I have pockets of free time”
And that was all he needed to hear.

The Journey So Far

I’ve been at Accenture for a little over 2 years now, and the journey so far has been nothing short of amazing.
I have been blessed with the fortune of meeting wonderful team members who are ever so willing to help.
However stupid my questions may be, or even when they have their own deadlines to meet, I’ve never been rejected from a helping hand.
This happened one time:
Me: “Hey Andrew, any idea why my code isn’t working?”
let promoCode = ["SAVE10", "FUN20", "OFFER30"]

for (let i in promocode) {
# Do Something
}
Andrew: “Oh, you camel-cased the variable name on line 1, but on line 2, you’re referring to another variable which does not exist”
Me: *Face Palm*
Word of advice:
Always Google before asking for help.
We live in a time where information is just a few keyboard clicks away. You don’t want to look like a fool when your colleague does a search on Google and the solution just happens to be the first on the list.
I’ve come to realise that people in tech are a lot more helpful and less competitive compared to other industries.
It might be something to do with the open-source mindset and collaborativeness that the tech world embodies.
Nonetheless, venturing into the Digital World has been a journey I have “no ragrets” on.
It has been an enthralling and fulfilling journey that I would definitely recommend as a career to those considering making the jump.
Remember. It all starts in the bedroom.

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