IT as a career

August 16, 2019

Interview with Hi-Tech Awards finalist Breccan McLeod-Lundy, CEO Rabid Technologies

One of Seisma’s mandates is to support youth in IT and the development of technology as a career option, which is why Seisma sponsors the ‘Young Achievers Award’ at the industry Hi-Tech Awards. We selected one of the finalists, Breccan McLeod-Lundy, and asked him his views about youth in IT and the advancement of technology over time.

Traditionally, there hasn’t been a huge exposure to IT for youth. How much do you think IT has grown in the last 10 years?

I think it's grown in the sense that more and more people have a breadth of exposure from a young age. On the other hand the industry is changing faster than educators can keep up with it, leaving teachers frustrated because they're behind and students frustrated because they feel like they're learning out of date skills.

When considering study, was IT a well promoted and clearly defined option, or did you fall into the technology industry through experience as your career progressed?

I was lucky to catch the tail-end of the Commodore 64 as a first computer. It forced me to learn a little programming early on, and I kept it up as a hobby throughout my childhood years. The most useful thing I got out of the "IT" curriculum at school was better touch typing! I did take a few Computer Science papers at uni which were good for formalizing a few things but I'd already picked up most of the content over the years.

Do you have trouble hiring/retaining young talent? Do you think that New Zealand's tech training sector is capable of training an adequate number of skilled young people for now/the near future?

Retaining young talent is always going to be difficult in New Zealand given our tradition of OE's and wanderlust. To a certain degree I think businesses just have to accept that hiring young people isn't going to be super productive in the immediate term but there's no real way of avoiding it in the long term. It's as much about being somewhere that people choose to return to after their OE as it is about trying to keep them permanently in the first place.

What do you think can be done to get more young people into IT?

I was lucky in terms of starting with Basic, moving onto C++ and Java, and then ending up in Ruby, in that I got a broad understanding quite naturally alongside the development of web technologies over the last couple of decades. One of the things that I think makes it harder for young people just starting now is that it actually takes quite a bit of setup to be able to start writing simple programs, so the early rewards aren't quite as encouraging.

What key characteristics do you think you have, which has enabled you to be such a successful young achiever?

A mixture of perseverance and comfort with failure while learning from my mistakes really. My first startup attempt just after I finished Uni was a total failure, in large part because I was lacking the leadership and interpersonal skills. Working on those has probably had the biggest effect on my success now.

What are some of your hobbies outside of your work life, and is work-life balance important to you?

Outside of work I mostly read, cook, and game a little. I think balance is very important for any business that's aiming to be around for more than a few years. I've seen too many people burn themselves out by their mid twenties throwing all their energy into a startup. But that's a very personal thing and is largely about self awareness of where you're at mentally - some weeks work doesn't seem like work at all and other weeks it seems terrible. Getting the right balance often means aggressively culling tasks on the difficult weeks and picking them up in the easy ones.

There’s been some recent articles published lately about the importance of studying (uni degree) compared to work experience. What are your thoughts on that?

I think they're two completely different areas. Work experience teaches a breadth of practical skills and working with people while study a lot of formal skills and approaches to more difficult problems. For most day to day development tasks someone with more work experience will probably be better, but there's a pile of computationally complex problems that come up relatively often where someone with formal training is going to have a head start on picking the right solution. I think people should think about where they're headed and what bit of IT interests them the most. If they're really into solving tricky mathematical puzzles then Computer Science might be the route for them; whereas, if they're most excited by building shiny new mobile apps for some social purpose then there's probably a good route to dive in directly.

*This blog is sourced from acquired company Fronde.


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