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Joining us on this episode is Dr. evelyn zayas, Department chair of information technology AT rasmussen university.
Rasmussen University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to global enrichment and meeting the evolving needs of their diverse communities.
With an emphasis on innovative programs, dynamic curriculum, and general education skills, they are committed to being a pioneer in the field of career-focused education.
they empower their students, faculty, and staff to exceed the expectations of society through academic excellence, community enrichment, and service to the public good.
Bob Martin: Welcome to our third and final episode of our information technology career series on Imagine America Radio, where we’re focused specifically on IT careers. Joining us today is Evelyn Zayas, department chair of information technology at Rasmussen University. For those of you who don’t know, Rasmussen University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to global enrichment and meeting the involving needs of their diverse communities. With an emphasis on innovative programs, dynamic curriculum, and early education skills, they are committed to being a pioneer in the field of career-focused education. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Rasmussen University trains its students to enter the workforce in nursing, business, design, education, health care, justice careers, and—today’s topic—technology careers. Evelyn, I want to thank you for joining us today.
Evelyn Zayas: Well, thanks for having me.
Bob: Let’s just jump right in. We want to talk about software development careers. Can you start off by telling us a little bit about what the typical software developer does through the course of his or her day?
Evelyn: Sure. A software developer basically designs and builds computer applications. They may create custom software for a specific customer, or they may work on a team to create commercial software for the general public. Some may develop new applications for mobile or desktop use. Others may help build the underlying operating systems and utilities, while other developers may take over the maintenance and improvement of software that is already in production. Some of the other types of things that software developers do include identifying user needs, testing software, writing documentation, and working with database systems. The specific job requirements of a software developer depends on the employer or on the project that they’re working on. For example, a software developer working in a small business may wear many hats, so to speak, whereas a developer working on a team for a medium-sized business or a large corporation may have more defined job responsibilities. Whatever the case, the opportunities are very diverse.
Lee Doubleday: Wow, so it sounds like a software developer is someone who needs to be able to take in the information, understand what the issues are, and then create a solution for the issue. Is that correct?
Evelyn: Absolutely. That’s exactly right. They need to be able to, on one side, talk to the user in business terms. And then also talk to the computer programmer in technical terms to get the actual code written.
Lee: Yeah, that’s really cool. I don’t think I ever fully understood what software development meant, but I definitely didn’t understand that it’s almost like—the way you just described, it’s almost like a translator between the business side and the development side and making sure that both sides are on the same page to accomplish whatever the goal is.
Evelyn: That’s exactly right.
Lee: All right. Now, can you tell us a little bit about what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about the demand for software developers?
Evelyn: Sure. The employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is projected to grow 22% from 2020 to 2030, which is much, much faster than the average for all occupations. More than 189,000 openings for software developers, QA analysts, and testers are projected each year on average, over the next decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or who exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Bob: Evelyn, this is Bob again. That’s amazing. So, Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting 189,200 job openings for people coming out of programs like you have at Rasmussen. Am I right with that?
Evelyn: That is correct. That’s a lot of job openings.
Bob: So, my question, then, gets to—why would you suggest someone go to school for a formal education like Rasmussen University to become a software developer, versus maybe attending a boot camp or maybe being self-taught? That kind of person that could do that kind of thing. How long is a typical program of study at Rasmussen University?
Evelyn: So that’s a great question. Whether it’s college or a boot camp versus being self-taught, that’s—a lot of people ask that question. So, coding boot camps have become really very popular within the last decade or so, because often they have agreements with tech employers for graduate job placements afterwards. They are certainly a time and financial commitment, and admittedly less than a college degree program, typically. However, employers still value a college degree, and in some industries, a college degree is required for employment. While coding boot camps may be the right answer for some people, a formal education in software development will provide the student with the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge needed besides just coding, besides just programming—because software developers do more than just program. Besides that, there are other support systems for students in a formal education setting, such as financial aid, more flexible scheduling, a community of like-minded learners, and career services.
So, for example, at Rasmussen University, our software application development associate degree program can be completed in a year and a half, and students can even go on to complete their bachelor’s degree in computer science. We offer all the benefits that I just mentioned. I did want to address the self-taught pathway to becoming a software developer. While this certainly has been done before and it might be the right answer for someone who is pretty tech-savvy to start, there are some big pros and cons. The biggest advantage is that it’s way cheaper than a boot camp or college. However, the student must be really self-motivated to not only stay on track, but they also have to figure out kind of the breadth and the depth of the technologies to teach themselves. And the student really has to work harder—much harder—to market and prove themselves to employers when looking for a job afterwards.
Lee: Yeah, I mean, I would imagine that it’s not uncommon for employers to automatically weed out those individuals that may not have certain credentials, without ever even considering their resume or maybe what they can do. So, you would be potentially closing doors for yourself by not getting a more formal education. The other thing I would just piggyback off of what you said is, something that’s really nice about going to a formal education is being able to learn or glean from the experience of the teachers. Can you talk a little bit about the experience of the teachers there at Rasmussen?
Evelyn: So, all of our faculty are professionals in the field so that they can bring to the classroom, to the course, whether it’s online. Our technology programs are online, most of them anyway, so that they could talk about the experience, they could bring that real world experience, real world projects to students so that the students could actually then see what’s happening when their boots are on the ground, as they say.
Lee: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think that especially in the field of information technology and software development, it is a field that is constantly changing, where you would need to kind of always keep up with that education. And in the case of being able to lean on the teachers, they have that real world experience and can kind of talk about, “Hey, when this update came out, this is what we had to do in order to be ready for that,” or whatever it is, the teachers have actually done it.
Lee: Okay. Now, we talk about demand for IT professionals on this podcast quite a bit, and I don’t think it’s any secret that developers are in high demand currently. What would you say—or would you say that now is the best time to get into software development? And what would you say to someone who is a little unsure if this career would be a good fit for them? In other words, they maybe have always thought about becoming a software developer, but aren’t quite sure if now is the best time. What would you say to someone who’s trying to figure that out for themselves?
Evelyn: Well, since the growth rate for software developers, QA analysts, and software testers is much faster than the average occupation for the next decade, you really can argue that now is the great time if you think that software development is a good fit for you. So how do you know if it’s a good fit? Software developers must have a good balance of both software design and development skills—that’s what you get in your formal education—but also soft skills. And soft skills are like problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, interpersonal skills, which means working well with teams, with other people. Perseverance, the don’t-give-up-ness, and the intrinsic motivation. So, software development is not just about the coding, and that’s what formal education has over coding bootcamps: It gives you the time to work on these soft skills. So, software development is about using both technical skills, as well as these soft skills, to interact with others and to develop computer applications for human productivity and enjoyment. And that’s what a number of software developers, female software developers that I work with—I’ve asked them, why are you into software development? Because it is a very typically male-dominated field, and a number of times—more often than not—they’re into it for the social good. They like the idea of building applications and using their technology skills for social good. So that’s always really heartwarming. I just wanted to throw that in.
Bob: Evelyn, Bob again. Really, very interesting conversation. I want to ask you to talk a little bit about what I call change-of-career people, and I’ll set this up a little bit for you. This whole COVID thing—there’s just a lot of people making massive changes in their careers, looking at things that they hadn’t looked at before, thinking about different careers that they always wanted to pursue. And I’m thinking that there’s got to be a bunch of them sitting out there that’re going to be listening to this podcast that’re thinking, “Jeez, I’ve always wanted to think of a software development program, that kind of program development.” And so that’s your mindset. So, what do you think I, as that person—as that career-changer—needs to be looking at in a school? Is it accreditation? Is it relationship with employers? Is it how the instruction is delivered? Do you have a checklist of what our listeners should be looking at or going through when they’re looking at a school and evaluating whether or not it’s a good fit for them?
Evelyn: Sure. I would say that people would want to know—well, what I would want to know is whether the school is accredited so that it meets certain standards of educational quality, whether it offers transfer credit options—meaning that if I’ve taken college credit before, you could give me some credit for it, even if it’s general ed credit—if there’s what they call self-directed learning options, meaning maybe I could, quote, “test out” of some classes if I know about something, maybe I can get credit by taking an exam, even if it’s maybe one course or another, maybe just speed up things a little. I would want to know—we touched on this already—if the faculty has real-world experience, if they actually have worked in the field, if they have student support services such as peer tutoring. What if I need help with something? Because sometimes some of the technical—if I’m new to programming, if I’m new to technology, maybe I need help. What kind of support services do I have? I would want to know if I end up with a portfolio of projects to showcase my knowledge and my skills that I could show my future employer. I would want to know if they have support services for disabilities, okay. I would want to know if they have military benefits for people in military, looking at all the different—because depending on who’s asking, what their current situation is—of course, they would want to know if they offer financial aid kind of a thing. If they have career services or postgraduate services. And I would pretty much say that those are kind of the most important questions to ask.
Bob: So, what I’m hearing, Evelyn—I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but what I’m hearing you say is you need to make sure the school you’re going to has been around for a while and is accredited by a regional or national body that accredits other schools. Whether it’s in the case of Rasmussen University, whether it’s University of Minnesota, or whether it’s University of Florida—wherever it may be, that’s what the regional accreditation comes in. Am I right?
Evelyn: That is absolutely correct, yeah.
Bob: And then I hear you—yeah, then I hear you saying employer relationships are important because, eventually, the person is going to be looking to get a job. So, where they can help with the school, where Rasmussen University can help connect them—that’s outstanding, right?
Evelyn: Yes. Career services and postgraduate services is what I’d all kind of ball that up to be. Yes, absolutely.
Bob: And then financing—you talked about that. You want to talk a little bit about that? You talked about military. You want to make sure they got military benefits. You’ve got those kind of students, right?
Evelyn: Yes. Military should always have some kind of benefits, whether it’s a discount, whether it’s forgiveness—anything that helps. Anything like that could help.
Lee: Yeah, Evelyn, let me ask you something. Do you have students who enter without any prior technical experience, or do I need technical experience in order to start a software development program at Rasmussen?
Evelyn: There are some prerequisites that would be required to start in a software development associate program—just so that basic, basic technical requirements—yes, there are.
Bob: You’ve done a great job. This is extremely exciting. I think it’s just been a great episode. Lee, I know you share—this is our third episode in our IT career series, which will end the end of December. We want to thank our guest, Evelyn Zayas with Rasmussen University, and urge any and all of our listeners to contact Evelyn directly. She can be reached through Rasmussen University website. And on behalf of my colleague, Lee Doubleday, and myself, we want to thank you, and we hope you all have a great day.