The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many changes to daily life, which has affected businesses, consumers and workers.
“What we’re seeing is that the pandemic has caused real shifts to what you call a new or even a virtual economy,” said Steven Maheshwary, Washington state director of economic development for information & communication technology. He identifies these changes in three vectors:
- Most businesses haven’t seen as much foot traffic due to restrictions, so they’ve been forced to rely on digital transformation strategies, including online ordering, e-commerce and cloud computing.
- Consumers are buying more online, so there are more platforms responding to consumer demand.
- Workers are relying on teleworking tools and are learning about data analysis, web design and engineering due to shifts in how consumers are buying.
“These behaviors are going to be sticking, so we expect a lot of these things to continue on into this new economy after the pandemic,” Maheshwary said.
In Washington state, for every tech applicant, there are about 10 roles in technology that are unfilled.
“That was true even before the pandemic,” Maheshwary said. “The pandemic has accelerated it because of the reliance on a lot of technology companies that are growing and continuing to hire.”
If we continue to run at that deficit, studies show we may soon have a deficit of 5 million jobs in the tech sector nationwide.
Maheshwary and other tech leaders are also focused on diversity and inclusion and how to support underrepresented entrepreneurs. This includes helping them get access to capital and get their companies and innovations into the market. It’s also important that tech companies have equitable and inclusive environments to retain employees.
Because there are many job opportunities in the sector, there are also many opportunities to gain knowledge and skills, including online courses and low-cost certification programs. There are also specific classes designed to help participants get an entry-level job in tech. A great option for working adults is WGU Washington, an online university that allows students to work at their own pace.
Maheshwary has advice for those looking to have a successful career in tech.
“Always be learning,” Maheshwary said. “Intellectual curiosity is key. A digital economy means that technologies and skillsets are involving very rapidly. That’s even more true in the tech sector.”
In addition to major tech giants in our region, many smaller tech companies in the state are currently hiring in a variety of fields.
“You don’t need to be a software engineer to work in the tech sector,” Maheshwary said. “Certainly we have a great need for software engineers in our state, but we also have a great need for sales, marketing, product management, data analysis, customer service recruiting jobs that are all still unmet in our state.”