Dom Prescod came to the U.S. from his native Trinidad with dreams of working in the tech field. He’d been teaching himself how to code, but it was quickly becoming an exhausting and frustrating experience.
“The chances of getting a career through self-taught means was bleak,” he says. So he turned to General Assembly, a tech skills boot camp with locations all over the world, as a way to make a career change and learn the digital skills he needed in order to secure a brighter future.
For people like Dom, who strive to have a job that can shift with the times, learning digital skills are a big part of adapting to the future.
In fact, a 2015 study by Capital One and Burning Glass Technologies found that nearly 78 percent of middle-skill jobs in today’s workforce – which are jobs that don’t require a college degree – require digital skills.
Technology is rapidly changing the way we work and the kinds of career opportunities that are available, inspiring many to rethink their paths and invest in their future by learning new skills that will help them stay competitive in today’s job market. Pulled from conversations with some of partners and participants of Capital One’s Future Edge program, a five-year, $150 million investment to help people prepare for the changing digital economy, here are five lessons from people who have built a brighter future for themselves – and their families.
Lesson #1: Stay curious
“I like to break things apart and figure them out – as a kid I was always taking apart my computer and trying to understand how it works,” says Prescod. “I have always been fascinated by technology.”
Prescod learned the skills he needed to make a career change by becoming a fellow in the Capital One-sponsored General Assembly Opportunity Fund, a program that provides hands-on education, mentorship, and career opportunities to underrepresented groups across the globe. Letting your curiosity lead you means that the path to discovery – and a career you’re excited about – is ahead. Once Dom identified what he loved to do, he could dive deeper into how to do it – an exciting step in the journey of achieving his goals.
Now, Prescod works as a full stack engineer at a large telecommunications company, where he is tasked with transitioning his company’s operations to the cloud – essentially, “future proofing” its business.
Lesson #2: Invest in digital skills
Inspired to make the next big app? Ever dream of launching your own start up? You might want to learn to code, or attend a seminar about using social media for business. Investing in your future is all about adapting to the digital world we live in.
Ecuador native Jorge Reina knows this all too well. He’s a graduate of Coalition for Queens (C4Q), a community-based program that aims to create career opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds by teaching them how to code.
Before C4Q, Reina worked as a DJ, was an asbestos handler at Ground Zero, and sold slushies from a cart to make ends meet while he took coding classes. Today, he works at a top tech company in San Francisco doing development for their Android app.
Making a transition like that wouldn’t be possible for Reina without an investment in digital skills. Reina says that learning about data structures and algorithms is one of the most important things he gained from C4Q and something that can help set up others for a tech career. Attending bootcamps like Reina did or even taking courses online can help you get closer to where you want to be.
Lesson #3: Be an early adopter
Becoming a master of technology approaches or systems can not only give you a leg up in the interview process for a tech job, but can also create an opportunity to take a leadership role on your current team.
When Denyel Monroe was a student at Year Up, a national non-profit aimed at closing the opportunity divide, her coursework taught her about Agile methodology. Once she got into her internship at Capital One and learned that her team was migrating into this process, she dove right in. Her knowledge about the approach and her ability meant that she could step up and become a leader for her team.
“I felt really prepared because it was something I learned in Year Up,” Monroe says.
Denyel’s internship turned into a full-time position at Capital One, and she is continuing to build her tech certifications and making an impact on her teams.
Staying abreast of new technology trends and continuing to master new skills can give you an advantage and help advance your career.
Lesson #4: Think like an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs need to be creative problem solvers, thinking on the fly and reaching out to others to find solutions. Thinking like an entrepreneur also means your path to success is wholly dependent on you and what you do, whether you own your own business or not.
One program helping to teach these skills is Future Founders, which connects elementary to college age youth to successful entrepreneurs as mentors, and helps equip students with a toolkit of skills that empower them to create their own opportunities. So instead of relying on others to achieve success in their careers, they gain the confidence and insight necessary to believe in themselves.
“Taking ownership of your own career empowers you,” says Scott Issen, president and CEO of Future Founders. At Future Founders, students learn about the power of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, while meeting entrepreneurs who have already worked to turn their dreams into reality.
“Most students don’t realize entrepreneurship is a career possibility – half of our younger students have never met an entrepreneur,” Issen says. “So we put them in touch with role models and show them what is possible.”
Even if you aren’t looking to start your own business, getting into the entrepreneurial frame of mind could still be a good idea. Focusing on solving problems, brushing up on your selling skills or learning how to manage finances can take you from career uncertainty to empowerment.
Lesson #5: Be resilient
A lesson that many learn throughout their careers is to be resilient in the face of setbacks and to remain flexible in the face of challenges.
Sometimes, it’s about stepping outside of your current challenge, and putting it into perspective. When faced with difficulty, shift your focus to what drives you and keep going. For Jorge Reina, his hard work and determination to apply for C4Q and pursue a career in tech all comes back to his 9-year-old daughter.
“Every time I felt like I wasn’t able to do it, I just thought about giving my daughter a better future,” Reina says.
There’s no time like right now to start creating your own inspirational story of success. With a little hard work and some creative thinking about how to future-proof your career, a better future can begin today.
To learn more about Future Edge go to Capital One Investing For Good.