How Your Liberal Arts Degree Prepares You For a Technology Career
A growing number of the new jobs in tech aren’t in coding — they’re in fields in which you need to talk to humans. That’s where liberal arts majors come in.
Say you’ve created a great app. It’s fast, beautiful, easy to use, fills a huge need and everyone loves it. It’s going to revolutionize a field. But the people in that field don’t see that. They don’t know how to use your app, or they don’t understand why they need it (yet).
Better engineering can’t solve these problems. Better design would help, but only to an extent. What you really need is someone to go out and talk with the people in the field, show them what your app can do for them, and listen to feedback. That takes someone who understands people, someone who has dedicated time to learning and thinking deeply about how people behave, and who is always striving to understand people a bit better. In other words, you need a liberal arts major — someone with a grounding in fields like sociology, literature, music, philosophy, fine arts, communications, political science, anthropology, history or linguistics.
The critical thinking, problem-solving skills and openness to diversity of thought that these liberal arts graduates have in abundance means they’re uniquely able to tackle the complicated mission of connecting users to products.
Tech companies are realizing that in order for their products to reach full potential, they need to hire people who are genuinely curious about customers. This is particularly true in sales, marketing, operations and communications roles.
Tech is no longer all about coding, and coding will become a smaller part of the field as software development increasingly becomes automated and development teams shrink. The biggest companies have already evolved from their engineering-focused roots. This next stage of tech depends on humans talking to humans — in person — about their lives and what they need.
As technology changes, even the skills required to work on the engineering side of tech changes — from coding to machine learning. Having a solid base in critical thinking and an ability to understand and relate to people never becomes obsolete, however.
This rise of liberal arts majors in tech is not a secret. A slew of recent articles have documented this trend, which is reflected in hiring across the sector. Out of 565 current positions open at Facebook, a quarter of them are in marketing, writing, sales or business operations. That’s not counting the dozens of openings in design, legal and research that liberal arts majors could tackle as well.
Uber has 120 open U.S. positions in marketing, community operations, business and communications today. That’s fewer than the 260 open engineering positions, but that ratio could eventually even out. This has already happened at Slack, which is currently looking to fill 34 roles in engineering as well as 34 sales, marketing or customer experience positions.
Selling is helping
“There’s no job posting that says, ‘Seeking Liberal Arts Majors,’ ” says GrowthX Academy co-founder Sean Sheppard. According to Sheppard, the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that these majors have in abundance are critical to many jobs in tech, particularly in sales.
Sales has always been one of the hottest fields within the tech sector, but Sheppard says it’s getting even hotter now as companies increasingly realize that it doesn’t matter how awesome their products are if customers aren’t buying.
“Selling is helping,” Sheppard says, and people with liberal arts backgrounds have developed the empathy, humility and curiosity to be amazing helpers. Helpers can connect with customers, figure out what they want, and bridge the gap between product and customer.
Liberal arts study is an ideal background on which to overlay sales and marketing skills. In order to help you utilize that background to its full potential in tech, GrowthX Academy launched a 15-week program to teach best practices in business acumen, sales communications, management, sales methods and professional development, and we know that liberal arts majors are particularly well-suited to master these skills.