By Dianne Kibbey, global head of community and social media at the element14 Community
Tech and consumer companies across the globe are embracing IoT, creating career opportunities for engineers and developers. But what do those jobs actually look like? And how can you identify a career path that’s viable for you?
Choosing a focus
The first step is to pick a direction, as IoT can span many domains and mean many
things. Networking experts handle protocols and low-power communications that enable the “things” to connect. You can focus on the sensors that enable data to fuel internet-connected products. Or broaden your view and consider a career in systems architectures, orchestrating how all of the IoT layers fit together.
Once you’ve identified your IoT career direction, target some companies that might be a good fit. If you’re a recent graduate, intern programs can be a good starting point, since many universities have close relationships with specific companies. If you are still in college, think about what relevance your final thesis might have to a potential employer. If there’s a specific company you’d love to work for, this is your earliest opportunity to focus on them in a way that could bring real value to the rest of your career.
Education vs. experience
Having relevant academic qualifications is always a major advantage when entering the IoT job market, but is an advanced degree in engineering necessary to get ahead? Maybe.
Most employers will expect candidates to have an engineering degree at some level, but a relevant qualification doesn’t automatically make it easier to get a job. Also critical is that candidates display a passion for technology; one of the best ways to demonstrate this passion is to create your own independent projects on the go. Employers are impressed by candidates who publish public projects in peer-sharing communities. This kind of engagement shows employers that you have a passion beyond the baseline job.
Which skills are in demand?
There is high demand for different competencies in the IoT market. This is a good thing. Whether you want to get into security, embedded programming, cloud networking or any other specialization, talented programmers with a strong drive toward personal development will see an abundance of opportunities.
From a hardware side, there is growing demand for RF engineering. A lot of companies working in IoT may already have mechanical and electrical engineers on board, but people with a pure focus on RF engineering are harder to come by.
A new area for data scientists has opened up for IoT recently as well. If you’re a systems architect or a specialist in machine-learning algorithms, you will be in-demand as companies need this kind of skill set to analyze their vast amounts of data.
Similarly, AI and machine learning are playing a more prominent role in IoT, and there is a significant shortage of machine-learning/data scientists. This is a good thing for those individuals.
On the software side, embedded-systems expertise is coveted. There are many software engineers out there who are familiar with Linux, but far fewer can combine that deep knowledge with actually using Linux in an embedded system and in more limited environments. Become one of those engineers!
Start your own company
Pursuing an IoT career doesn’t necessarily mean joining an established company. Many engineers are leveraging their skills by launching their own IoT start-ups. Hardware startups have been particularly successful in rapid-prototyping devices.
And there are numerous commercial modules with software, sensors and actuators built in, which can help enterprising young professionals get their businesses off the ground faster. Good luck!