Are you a recent or soon-to-be university graduate? Heard the buzz about Vancouver’s tech scene and want to get involved? Working for a startup can be one of the best things to do after you graduate university. You gain experience in a bunch of different areas, get to work with other young, ambitious, and dynamic people, and, if you’re lucky, make it big.
Although the industry is booming, it’s not as easy as just putting on a hoodie and handing out your resume in Gastown. Startups need people who are multi-talented, willing to hustle, and above all know what it takes to succeed.
But how can you know what it takes if you haven’t worked at one yet? That’s where this guide comes in. Even if you are fresh out of university and your resume consists of being barista at Starbucks and mowing lawns, there are 3 ways you can become a bona fide startup vet.
Go to events
The tech community never sleeps, and it never stops giving away free pizza, beer, and knowledge either. These events are always casual (suit and tie not recommended), and you’ll usually walk away having met some pretty fantastic people and learned something new. For example, next week is Lighthouse Labs’ Student Demo Day – where the community congregates to see what new technologists are actually building. Local companies also often have open houses with free beer on Fridays. To stay on top of these events from week to week, the best place to look is Startup Digest.
You might want something to talk about at these events. To stay on top of what’s hot in the Vancouver tech scene, Vancity Buzz, BetaKit and TechVibes are all great resources. More than that, what recent grads really need is mentorship – someone to be your startup Yoda. Tech hubs like Launch Academy provide great opportunities to meet people. Read about something happening, then ask someone you admire about it. People at startups are always happy to help.
Learn to code
If you’re looking for one skill to get you into the startup industry, it’s coding. This is true even if you aren’t a Computer Science major. For example, Billy Lan graduated with a BCom from UBC and attended Lighthouse Labs directly after.
“I saw that at these startups, you need to be able to wear multiple hats. Learning code at Lighthouse Labs was just another 8 weeks onto my degree, as opposed to another 2 or 4 years,” says Lan. Lan now works at 20 Year Media as full stack web developer. For other Lighthouse Labs grads, like Jackson Chao, that complementary skill can become a brand new career.
After graduating from SFU a year ago with “only broad skills,” Chao now works as a developer at Pressimus, with other juniors being mentored by him. As Chao says: “It’s a special experience to see something you built being used by other people.”
With coding, you can bring ideas to life. And that’s what the startup scene is all about!
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