Starting a career in IoT isn’t the same as every other industry, as it’s emerging and undefined, constantly evolving, and demands a unique skillset. These careers earn a high salary for a reason, due to the specialized nature of the field. This calls for taking a different approach to finding and landing a job in the field, requiring individuals to not only be technical experts, but to also know the full stack of a product, the different ways of approaching the IoT field, and understanding the broader potential of IoT.
We’ve outlined six important tips for you to consider when looking at a career in IoT. Three industry-leading hiring managers offer their guidance on what they look for when bringing someone in to develop for IoT.
Meet the experts:
Outside of being the Internet of Things Program Director at Level, Kilton Hopkins is the Co-Founder and CEO of IOTRACKS, a company that provides the world with open technologies for building a better IoT. For over 30 years, Kilton has been fascinated with computers and software, bringing technology to life and always staying on the cutting-edge of innovation. Kilton received his MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2010, and brings a diverse applied background to his professional and educational work.
Lori DeMatteis is currently the Executive Vice President of Sales/Services of Industrial IoT Solutions at GE. With over 30 years of experience with technology, she brings a plethora of knowledge to every project she touches, and understands the business applications of IoT better than most. As made evident by her numerous leadership roles over the years, Lori has made a name for herself in the technology field, and has been featured in notable media such as NPR, CIO Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.
Vivek Vadakkuppattu’s background is comprehensive, defined equally by product management, business development, marketing, and public speaking. With over a decade of global experience in managing and creating products in the wireless field, his knack for strategy and entrepreneurship has given him a stellar track record of successful projects under his belt. His natural ability to create successful products from scratch require him to hire the best in the field, making Vivek a leader worth following.
Tip 1: Walk the talk – know how to develop!
Most IoT jobs will require you to have the hard, technical skills required for product development. Developing for IoT means having a suite of skills in your repertoire. Kilton notes the following programs, strategies, topics, and hardware understanding as being imperative to successful IoT development:
- Wireless communications such as LoRa, Sigfox, and Bluetooth Low Energy
- Sensor Expertise for device selection & integration
- Data analytics & data science
- Machine learning & artificial intelligence
- Fog/edge computing infrastructure and software development
- IoT architecture.
Vivek: “From a technical standpoint when looking for people with IoT experience, I prefer those who have worked on an embedded display device like a Fitbit, something we can connect to and interact with. It’s good to have someone who’s worked across various platforms such as Amazon AWS, Salesforce plugs, Microsoft, Oracle, and more.
The more of the above skills you can do, the better.
Tip 2: Know the full stack of IoT development.
With a career in IoT, you’ll need to be able to communicate your findings to teammates, to your boss, to the public. You will shine if you can connect your IoT knowledge to the full development stack, including the business side. Being able to say “Here’s my IoT product and here’s what it can do for you” is much more appealing than just saying “Here’s my IoT product.”
Vivek: “When you’re looking for a job in IoT, you should know the business side, the security side, the analytics side. Know the entire stack and have full visibility of a project. Know how the IoT device works with the cloud, know its security, and know the customer side of the product. Don’t go into an interview saying, ‘I’m an IoT guy’ – be able to say, ‘I’m an IoT guy but I focus on security or ‘I’m an IoT guy but I focus on developing.”
Lori: “IoT is the convergence of other technologies. It combines AI, data analytics, development, and more. That’s where it’s heading. Everything will be using IoT. Don’t consider just being an IoT pro; decide on a field and figure how to connect IoT to it. IoT is an enabler and launch pad for other technologies and software.”
Tip 3: Learn what a Use Case is.
Use Cases (UC) came up frequently when speaking with Vivek and Lori. UCs describe how individuals perform tasks regarding the product or service (in this instance, the IoT hardware or software), and outline how the system’s behavior responds to each input or request. Think of it like a flowchart but more focused on the technical side.
Why should you care? UCs outline the lifecycle of a product’s use, and factors in how the user will engage with the technology. This will mean incorporating the business side of things, user experience, product management, and communications. By understanding UCs, you will be able to walk into an interview being able to outline the entire suite that is an IoT project, not just the technology or software.
Lori: “What’s attractive is someone who can understand use cases that are industry-specific, such as using IoT in security. Saying ‘I’m a specialist in logistics and I can see how this field is becoming industrialized.’ People should be industry-focused, not IoT-focused.
Vivek: From Vivek’s recent IoT blog on LinkedIn: “The product manager in me sees IoT as THE enabler of entirely new services, use cases/applications, and business models across industries… at the end of the day, the real power of IoT lies in the use cases/applications it can enable, and no one is better poised to leverage this than an expert in the field. Show in a use case how this can all come together.”
Tip 4: You should show off.
Everyone should be able to talk the talk of IoT, but that only goes so far. Your portfolio should showcase actual tangible projects you’ve worked on. Demonstrate what you can do. Be proud about your work. What employer wouldn’t want to see what you’ve made? Whether it be a technology or software example, the more complete and applicable the project you can show, the better.
Kilton: “The single most impactful thing on a resume is direct, hands-on experience with IoT projects. The best projects are not just prototypes but are actual ROI-generating IoT projects.”
Vivek: “Try pitching an IoT application to an existing company; figure out a practical application like how you can connect IoT to one of their products. Create a project that a real person or business would use, and a company may be impressed by seeing your product management skills and embedded use experience.”
“Maybe even consider bringing a device or project to the media and not being shy. If connecting with a company isn’t working, then maybe the media will pick your project up as a story. Companies look through the news, and you never know who will come across your story and be the one to reach out to you directly.”
Tip 5: There are multiple approaches to starting a career in IoT.
There’s no right answer for getting into IoT. Each industry will have different ideas, needs, and requirements. Each problem that IoT can solve has a different way of being addressed. There are even ways to work with IoT not on the technical side if you aren’t a technology expert or developer.
Kilton: “The first thing to know is that every company is adding IoT technology differently. There are no standards, so one company may think that an IoT architect should be a master Java programmer while another will think that the best candidate for an IoT architect role will come from IT infrastructure management.”
Lori: “IoT emerging professionals should be able to bring their IoT knowledge everywhere, to AI, to security, anything. You don’t need to be able to build a box or a robot or a sensor – a sensor is just a unit. It’s the software that’s running it that’s making the difference.
A car is a car, it has an engine, it has 4 wheels. What makes tesla incredible is its software that sets it apart. Innovation is coming from safety features, simple things like automatic braking, telling you when cars are on your sides, and more. IoT can be the software and the data gained from application.”
Vivek: “At the end of the day, IoT is a platform. The power of IoT can be applied to any industry, and it’s not always technical. What is a company trying to solve at the end of the day? The power isn’t technical – it’s knowing a space, and being able to use IoT to make a difference. When you start working with sensors and devices, you can always work with people who are tech experts. Even if you’re not a developer, you can become a master of using it, and to be the first person to use IoT in a certain field and to create new business opportunities.”
Tip 6: Think about the big picture.
When Lori discussed convergence, that’s not necessarily limited to technology. The potential – and goal – of IoT, is that it’s meant to be more than just a bunch of fun gadgets that talk to each other. Your refrigerator can talk to your smartphone, and that’s awesome, but what does that mean?
It means IoT can make our lives easier, improving our daily quality of life, making menial tasks easier and giving some people their lives back in a way that only technology can.
Lori: “IoT isn’t just about making things fun, it’s also about making a better life for yourself. IoT will give us more time to spend with our families, and that’s something we should all be striving for…. IoT is going to change how we live. IoT will be a part of everything, from being a child just born and being able to survive, to the self-driving cars that will allow older adults who’ve had their licenses taken away be able to live their lives. We’re at a massive point of transformation across the entire world, and IoT will be a game-changer.”
Kilton: “The Internet of Things is not a subsection of humanity’s computing technology… it is the next manifestation of it as a whole. There will be very few industries not impacted by IoT within the next 10 years. The demand for IoT expertise is rising but has not taken off like a rocket yet.”
Pulling it all together.
To begin a career in IoT, you need to walk the talk, communicate your findings properly, and to be able to apply your knowledge to specific industries. You can do this by building a strong portfolio of products that could generate an ROI – and not just a prototype. Build out use cases and understand the full context of an IoT project. Be able to connect the dots surrounding the product itself.
The IoT industry is rapidly evolving and there’s a clear need for more professionals to tackle this increasing demand. Take the advice from Kilton, Lori, and Vivek, and be able to walk into an interview saying “I know IoT, I know its potential, and I know the full stack surrounding it.” The ability to develop for IoT is impressive and important, but understanding the industry as a whole is what will allow you to begin a career in IoT the right way.