By Ilya Arbit
There has been a strong push in recent years to increase the amount of students wishing to pursue careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. While many students have considered or are in the process of studying STEM, many wonder what steps need to be taken to stand out from the pack and get hired to work for the giants of the tech industry – Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. … or to build their own start-up company that will become the next to join that list.
To get the answers, Campus News turned to Jordan Edelson – CEO and founder of Appetizer Mobile, who himself once chose to pursue a career in the field of technology, to discuss what it takes to succeed. He has been named as one of the Forbes’ “30 under 30” entrepreneurs and his work has appeared in Apple commercials, as well as having amassed a client list including the NBA, Joe Girardi, Lady Gaga, 50 Cent and many others. Edelson suggested that the basic building blocks of necessary skills have not changed and are becoming essential to finding a job after graduation.
“There are a lot of coding classes that are starting to become mandatory. That is the language that a lot of the tech companies speak,” said Edelson, who attended UAlbany. “Almost every company nowadays needs to have an IT Department, an app or a website. It’s something that’s needed so it’s very important that it gets emphasized in the educational process.”
However, it is not just coding that is important for a successful career in the tech industry. Edelson explained that many companies nowadays are looking for candidates who stand out from the pack since there is so much competition for existing jobs in this field.
“Honestly, what we look for is someone that has an entrepreneurial mind and can think outside of just the lines of code, someone that can also work sometimes without 100% direction and who can come to us with a portfolio, even if it’s not for a client and is just personal projects,” said Edelson. “We want them to show us they can do more than just code – that they are well-rounded in that respect. Showing that kind of insight is powerful. Ultimately, they are going to create better products – products that actually matter.”
Furthermore, it’s not just the initial hire that students should think about but also their career trajectory as a whole.
“Technology is always changing and while companies do hire for now, they also hire for the future as well,” said Edelson. “Having someone that can be dynamic, be agile and show their ability to work on multiple platforms and multiple disciplines – that’s the most attractive candidate, it’s also the type of candidate that’s going to get a better salary and is likely going to survive a lot longer at a business.”
For those independent innovators with big ideas who are interested in making their own waves in the tech field without joining a large corporation, Edelson cautions them to avoid some common first-timer mistakes.
“Typically, the idea is very big, very wide – they have to narrow it to something that we call MVP (Minimum Viable Product). There is a lot of misconception as to how large companies, like Facebook for example, had started,” said Edelson. “They didn’t do it in one night and suddenly grow to where they are now. There are a lot of steps in between and a lot of work that has to be done. You have to start small, otherwise you’re going to try to tackle too big of an issue.”
Some bumps and setbacks along the way are normal, reassured Edelson. He believes that the path to success is like a non-stop roller coaster with constant ups and downs. It is the entrepreneurs who keep moving forward to overcome those challenges that end succeeding. Being prepared and persistent is the key to accomplishing the goal of triumph as a start-up.
“You have to start small to prove that your concept works and then scale it from there. You should go into the market as smart as you can with as much due diligence behind you,” said Edelson. “Just because an idea might not work right now, it does not mean that it won’t work a couple of years down the road – it’s a right time, right place kind of situation. It’s just a matter of time with a lot of these concepts.”