Cody Szeto is director of the IT&T, engineering, supply chain and procurement divisions at Kelly Services Hong Kong.
Kick-start a career in app development by freelancing first
I’m a trained software developer, with five years experience at a firm that provides analytics solutions to help companies sift through their big data. Although I’m happy at my firm, I’d really like to get into developing apps with embedded analytics, as I think mobile is the future for most businesses. Question is: do I risk leaving my company now, and potentially struggle to find work, or stay until my company diversifies into mobile products? How do I best switch screens?
Good developers are those who are sensitive to customer behaviour, have a knack for creativity, and are able to come up with ideas that address market needs. Your experience in analytics software development may help you to differentiate yourself from the crowd. However, I encourage you to enter the field on a project-to-project basis. This will give you time to confirm your passion, build your portfolio, and explore your strengths in this niche area.
The app development industry is exciting and at present fast-growing. But the market is also very competitive because entry barriers are low and you would be competing with people all over the world. Before you jump ship at your company, you need to ask yourself how passionate you are about app development. Would you continue working with apps if another trend hits? Do you have the skills to stand out in a sea of app developers?
If you’re committed to pursuing a career in app development, quitting your present job may not be the best way to shift roles. You can acquire the necessary software skills while staying in your present role. There are a plethora of courses in app development available online and offline that you can take after hours. If you already have the skills, all you need to do is to build your portfolio around them. This can be done part time too.
Fortunately, work opportunities are everywhere, as long as you have the insight needed to exploit market trends. You may want to start freelancing before making a more permanent career move. There are an increasing number of companies, especially those specialising in app development, whose production is mainly supported by part-time or freelance developers around the world. Many of my clients have adopted this mode of operation, and I can see it growing. There are various online forums and social media groups aimed at networking in this area.
You may also want to consider building an app for an NGO, as they often lack the resources or budget to develop apps for their needs.
Either of these modes of freelancing can be a good entry point into the field. Once you’ve bulked up your portfolio, you will have a better chance of getting hired full time.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Freelance your way into a new field.