How to help my teen break into a career in tech

How to help my teen break into a career in tech

Which tech career is right for your teen?

If your teen is starting to think about careers because they are in high school… The tech industry needs to be on that list. 

We are surrounded by technology with the apps we use, our laptops, all the electronics in the kitchen and more. Careers in tech average an easy $120,000 on the base (before bonuses and stocks) with just 2 years of working experience. 

By the end of this article you’ll have a good understanding of

  • The 3 main career paths in the tech industry (yes one of them is software engineer)
  • How to know which one to choose based on your teens interests and strengths
  • How to break into that career

How tech companies work

All the digital products we use everyday like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Instagram, the screen in your car, your email, our smart TVs, and much more… are all created by product teams within a company. 

These product teams consist of 3 main roles: Software Engineers, Product Designers, and Product Managers. 

An over simplified overview of how they work together: 

Product Designers will design the look and the feel of the user interface, then pass those designs to software engineers who will write code and make it possible for users to interact with. Product Managers are responsible for overall success of a product and prioritizing which features get built.

Software Engineer

Signs your teen might be interested in becoming a software engineer: 

  • They are more logical than emotional
  • They enjoy or are good at math
  • They have showed interest in coding
  • They love computers and applications
  • They are more introverted than extroverted
  • They are not afraid of solving hard problems

Software Engineer overview: 

Typically software engineers are focused on two main responsibilities. (1) They develop new features that are prioritized by Product Managers and designed by Product Designers. (2) They fix bugs and errors when they come up in the application.

A typical day as a software engineer can look like: attend stand up meetings with their team, write code to build new features, fix problems and errors in the system, and collaborate with other software engineers. 

Software engineers typically work on either front end work or back end work. Front end work refers to the visual user interface people interact with like what we can see when we open YouTube. Back end work refers to everything under the surface that makes things work (i.e. when you search something on YouTube, why you actually find the videos you want). 

It’s good for software engineers to have expertise in both areas (front end and back end), but it’s normal for the individual to decide where they want to specialize more which helps them determine which positions to apply for. When hiring managers look to bring on more engineers, they may try to find engineers who are better at certain aspects (things that their team is missing). 

If your teen is looking into coding they should keep in mind that there will be certain areas they enjoy more than others, and when they find what that is for them, they should lean into those strengths and interests. 


How to break into this career:

There are 3 main things you need to break into a software engineer career.

  1. Build expertise in a solid foundation of coding
  2. Build a portfolio for job applications
  3. Start applying

Not to discredit computer science degrees, but it is a myth that you absolutely need one in order to get a job as a software engineer. There are many boot camps and online courses available for people to take that provide the knowledge and certificate to enable you to start your career as a software engineer. Of course having a college degree will help, but employers often value work experience and capabilities a bit more (which is why it is necessary to have a portfolio). 

Here are some avenues your teen can explore to build expertise in coding and start building their portfolio to get their first paid opportunity (internship, apprenticeship, full time):

  1. Coursera
  2. Codecademy
  3. Young Technologist Network

Average Salary of Software Engineers:

  • Google (Entry Level): $189,000/year
  • Apple (Entry Level): $155,000/year
  • Netflix (Entry Level): $215,000/year
  • Across the country: $125,000/year

Get the Top 5 Resources Kids Use to Learn Code

These resources are organized by cost, difficulty level, and learning style to help you choose the right one.

Product Designer

Signs your teen might be interested in becoming a product designer: 

  • They are creative and enjoy creative activities
  • They are more emotional than logical
  • They have an interest in some form of art (drawing, painting, music, dancing, etc)
  • They enjoy psychology and how human minds work
  • They love talking to people

Product Designer overview:

Product Designers are responsible for (1) the look and feel of an application (2) the overall experience of users who use an application. 

They speak to users often for many reasons like to discover how they can improve a specific feature, what problems users are having with an app, or even what problems users have in general that they can design a solution for. 

A typical day in a designer’s life could look like this: attending stand up meetings with their team of engineers, speaking to users to validate designs they’ve made, collaborating with product managers on how a new feature should function, and designing features to be implemented in the application. 

Like software engineers, product designers can also have specialties that include user research, interaction design, visual design, ux writing, and more. Design managers sometimes look for new members who may have specific skill sets their team is missing.

If your teen has an interest in art, animation, or even psychology, the product designer career could very well be for them. 


How to break into this career:

There are 3 main things you need to break into a product designer career.

  1. Build expertise in a solid foundation of design
  2. Build a portfolio for job applications
  3. Start applying

Product design is a bit newer of a career track than software engineering and because of that there is no official degree for design like computer science degrees for software engineers. People who become designers typically break into the career from other industries and through self learning. 

The good news is that there is almost a shortage of designers and that the job market is always hiring for good designers. 

We recommend checking out the Young Technologist Network if your teen wants to explore this career path. The program is designed to help students go from no prior design knowledge to acquiring a paid opportunity.

Students build expertise in design, are guided step by step to build a portfolio of applications, and even guided with applying and interviewing until they get their paid opportunity. Check out more of the Young Technologist Network here.

If your teen would like to explore self taught options, they can look into:

  1. InVision’s Training
  2. Free lessons from Figma
Average Salary of Product Designers:
  • Google (Entry Level): $158,000/year
  • Apple (Entry Level): $183,000/year
  • Netflix (Entry Level): $190,000/year
  • Across the country: $120,000/year

Product Manager

Signs your teen might be interested in becoming a product manager: 

  • They have an entrepreneurial spirit and mindset
  • They are a natural good leader
  • They enjoy making hard decisions and solving problems
  • They love collaborating with many people
  • They love to present 

Product manager overview:

Product managers are responsible for the success of their designated product/s. They prioritize what engineers and designers work on, they are always identifying business opportunities for their product to achieve, and they present in front of leadership. Product managers are basically the mini ceo of their product lane in a sense. 

You need a good understanding of coding foundations in order to communicate and collaborate with engineers. They need good decision making skills to support their team and protect their team from distractions.

A typical day for a product manager is filled with meetings with many team members across the company who their product might affect. They plan the roadmap for each quarter on what their team will be achieving. They manage expectations from business leaders.

Product managers need to be good leaders. If your teen is a natural leader or is very entrepreneurially minded, the role of a product manager certainly would be for them.


How to break into this career:

There are 3 main things you need to break into a product manager career.

  1. Build expertise in a solid foundation of technology and product management
  2. Have a strong resume and be able to communicate really well
  3. Start applying

There are many pathways into product management. Some people make a career change and transition from being a consultant, business analyst, software engineer, or even product designer. Most commonly people transition from a business analyst/consultant role. 

As technology is growing to help us in every area in our lives, companies have also started product manager programs where you can go from being an intern to full time. 

Here are some of those programs:

  1. Walmart product manager program
  2. Google product manager program
  3. Apple product manager internship

Additionally, your teen can explore the Young Entrepreneur Network which will help cultivate their entrepreneurial mindset. Small groups of 5-9 students meet on a bi-weekly basis to learn business topics like building business plans, marketing strategies, presenting to investors, and much more. 

If you want help your teen develop their inner entrepreneur, check out the Young Entrepreneur Network here.

Average Salary of Product Managers:
  • Google (Entry Level): $159,000/year
  • Apple (Entry Level): $252,000/year
  • Netflix (Entry Level): $270,000/year
  • Across the country: $160,000/year


Starting a career in tech opens the door to high income and job safety. Even if one industry is failing during a recession, other industries will still need talented professionals for these roles.

Work experience is highly valued by employers and it makes most sense to start early. Even if your teen will go to college and get a degree, they can build expertise now, build a portfolio now, and get work experience from internships. 

The Young Technologist Network is a great option for young people who are looking to explore tech careers. If you have any questions about technology careers and which one your teen might pursue, feel free to reach out directly to our team at info@logolife.org.

Get the Top 5 Resources Kids Use to Learn Code

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