I wrote this post in January of 2020, but it's still very relevant today. I hope more people will consider looking into tech jobs outside of the tech industry, as there are a lot of overlooked opportunities out there.
This is one of those things that I never gave a second thought to. Growing up in New Mexico, there were more tech jobs in government than in any other industry. White Sands Missile Range, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, not to mention state, county, and city jobs. My dad plus many of my friends' parents worked in tech for the feds. While there are more and more tech companies moving in, government is still a major player in the area and probably always will be.
But that was just my experience. In many areas the tech industry itself is much more prominent, and of course those jobs are the ones that get all the press. You rarely see articles about working as a software developer at the IRS, or something like that. It's always Google or Amazon, a start-up, etc. To many people, being a software developer is synonymous with working in the tech industry.
So when Jenny Chan, who founded the Women in Web Dev community, contacted me to ask if I'd do an interview for the Women in Web Dev blog, after reading a random comment I'd made about working as a software developer but not in the tech industry, I was initially surprised. I really shouldn't have been, but I was.
Anyhow, you can read the interview here. I was very happy to help raise the profile of government jobs, and that Jenny is planning to publish more interviews with devs who are working outside the tech industry. There are so many different kinds of opportunities out there for programmers to work in all different fields, and I think it's really important for people to realize that. Non-profits and healthcare are other fields you might also hear about, but honestly practically any field you can think of will need software developers. My co-worker's brother is a dev for an athletic wear company. One of our former students got a job as a dev working for an airline. Tech, and programming, are everywhere.
Also, as a bonus if you've read this far, here are some more things I love about my job (the list was really getting too long so I had to pare it down a bit!):
- I love seeing how our work directly helps our co-workers (and thus the constituents of the state of New Mexico). One of my favorite memories is the time one of our users told us that the new app we created helped her do in one hour what used to take 8 hours. There's no wondering if we're creating something useful around here... We know our apps are going to help people and make their lives better.
- I love constantly learning new things, both technical and procedural. The department has SO many different areas of responsibility, and new ones are being added all the time. I've learned about egg dealer fees, petroleum lab tests, dairy sampling procedures, all kinds of stuff, not to mention all the different technologies required to create apps for all those different things.
- I love being up-to-date with technology. Government software development has a reputation for being behind the times, but not here. Even the bleeding edge isn't enough for us, sometimes (looking at you, progressive web apps... They're great for consumers of information, but totally inadequate when your users are producing information).
- I love being part of an organization that encourages learning. Since NMDA is part of NMSU, we get 6 free credit hours per semester. I earned my masters while working here, nearly for free, and still regularly take classes. I'm signed up for a block chain class this coming semester, in fact. [That class got cancelled, but I did just finish auditing an applied machine learning class!]
- I love seeing a news story about an NMDA function or going to the gas station and seeing the NMDA sticker on the pump and thinking "I wrote an app for that!"
- This is totally silly, but I love seeing this sign when I'm driving on the interstate. We get our own sign, how cool is that!