There has been tremendous growth in consumer gadgets and technology in the last decade. Our phones, tablets, gaming consoles and media boxes are being designed to address the needs of all facets of our lives ranging from health, lifestyle, entertainment, fashion, business and finance. Recent years have seen the rise of smartphone and tablet users across the world that increased the accessibility of the web for casual as well as business use.
In fact, content from the web is no longer accessed by only web pages on a desktop. A Roku Box can stream movies from Netflix on your TV while you order dinner using the Seamless app on your phone. We have already seen a shift with desktop technology merging with the web. Google Drive is replacing the Microsoft Publishing suite allowing users to create documents in a browser viewable and editable on all other devices. Photos taken on the phone or camera are backed up in cloud servers or shared on Flickr or Facebook accessible outside of one’s hard drive. All of users’ interactions are being driven by cloud based content accessible by a collection of connected hardware. Interactions on these devices are changing users’ expectations of technology and a demand for good products that leverage these devices is growing as well. The merging of different tech fields, rise of popular operating systems and omnipresence of consumer technology has streamlined the design and development process resulting in a highly competitive market for producing interactive media.
As people continue to consume interactive media, it has created a greater awareness and attraction for the design and tech industry. Talent from the world over is working within this global space with the motivation to be creators, artists or hackers to create products that reach their audience directly in our newly connected universe. Freelance, side projects and social media are all avenues for a new breed of creators. The industry is no longer biased towards users with a college pedigree but instead favor candidates with strong portfolio and real experience with skills to show in practice. While the barrier for entry might seem to be higher than before, access to this industry has never been easier given all the current avenues for technology education.
A more traditional path into the world of tech is to attend a four-year university and obtain a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Engineering where coursework includes learning computational theory, programming languages and sometimes also web development and graphics programming. Such a degree focuses primarily on a fundamental knowledge of computer science. However, what might be lacking for the students who plan to pursue a career in the design and tech industry after graduation is real world experience with actual, relevant interactive projects. While these traditional programs focus heavily on computer science theory and practice, they may not be adequately preparing these students to create engaging projects that are favored in design portfolios. Non-traditional technology programs such as such as NYU’s ITP program, Parson’s Design and Technology and MIT’s Media Lab programs do provide more specific academic training for this industry.
However, over the past few years there has been an increase in more “self-taught” approaches to obtaining a tech education. Online learning programs and tools such as Codeacademy, Skillcrush, MIT/Stanford’s online courses and Coursera have gotten increasingly popular. Many offline programs have started popping up as well. They range from programs that offer to teach you Ruby on Rails or iOS development, to programs like Hungry Academy, which promises to prepare participants for software engineering roles at Living Social. Another notable offline program, Hacker School, is a free three-month program with minimal structure. At Hacker School there are no classes, tests, or certificates, just a community of programmers at various skill levels working together and independently on open source projects with the goal of becoming better programmers.
As a computer with internet access provides unlimited resources, these opportunities are now presenting themselves to communities that weren’t previously able to access them and there has been increased outreach to underrepresented minorities in tech. For the last two and upcoming batches, Hacker School has been providing need based grants to women, who have been traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields. Many programs now exist that provide outreach to a children, like Coder Dojo or CodeEd, which teaches middle school girls in underserved communities basic HTML/CSS.
Diversity of talent in our studio (development team pictured above) reflects the many paths that design and tech enthusiasts can take to become professionals. We believe that this diversity reflects our mission statement and informs our business practices. Our studio embraces a true collaborative approach and celebrates different backgrounds and cultures which ultimately is reflected in our portfolio and diversity of clients.
-Pritika Nilaratna, Shirmung Bielefeld