Categories: Expert Interviews

Expert Interview: Khai Yong of NEXT Academy on Navigating Your IT Career

Khai Yong is the Head of Growth at NEXT Academy, he oversees company growth, marketing and sales activities, empowering students from all over the world with in-demand tech skills and digital know-how.

Khai recently shared his insight on how to navigate your IT career during a time when technology is rapidly evolving. Read on:

Can you tell us about your professional background? How has your career evolved since you got your start?

I graduated as a pharmacist and after working in a hospital for several years I made a career switch into Digital Marketing. I worked for a global transformation company in the field of education and self-development which was where I cemented my digital marketing skills, specializing in digital advertising. Since then, I’ve forayed into the startup world, joining a venture capital-funded Education Startup based in Malaysia– NEXT Academy

What have you made sure to do throughout your career to ensure you remain a valuable asset to the teams you’ve worked for?

Being proactive, constantly suggesting new ideas to the team, executing them (not just talk) and keeping up with industry trends by following experts as well as investing in gaining knowledge through courses and books. It’s important to make yourself indispensable to the team. Ask yourself, would the company function well without you if you took a month’s vacation? If the answer is yes, you probably have to step up your game.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about negotiating a fair salary? What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

When it comes to tech and digital careers, your ability to deliver results as well as how you carry yourself in the interview can play a big role in salary negotiation. For example, in many digital marketing interviews, you’d be put on the spot, expected to come out with a business plan given a marketing budget. This is where having a good knowledge of a variety of digital marketing strategies can help you to excel in such interview exercises and impress your employers. For tech interviews, having a portfolio of apps you’ve built can definitely swing the negotiations to your advantage. Which is why, in our Coding Bootcamps, we heavily emphasize on helping students have a small portfolio of apps built throughout their learning journey with us.

The one piece of advice I wish someone had told you when you were first starting out: 

Do as much research about the company you are interviewing with. Get to know the ins and outs of different aspects of the company, such as vision, structure, operations, management team, culture, growth opportunities and salaries.

What type of research should those preparing for salary negotiations do ahead of time? What skills and training should they be sure to highlight?

Depending on the company you plan to join, it helps to really stand out. For example, in my past company, a particular job candidate ran Facebook Ads targeting the whole company with his application. Needless to say, his application definitely stood out and impressed us, even before interviews began. Skillwise, make sure you have the right competencies for the job you are applying for. If you’re interviewing for a tech job, make sure you know everything a programmer fundamentally needs to know. This is crucial because during the interview they might not be able to test you on everything, and if you pass the interview through luck, this might be devastating on your career progression.

What is the mission behind Next Academy? How are you hoping to help aspiring software developers?

Our mission is to empower passionate individuals with the skills, knowledge and network to build great companies, get better jobs and to thrive in the increasingly digital landscape. We also want to address the growing shortage of tech talents in the region. On this note, we recently launched a remote-learning program which combines the best of modern andragogy and technology to enable individuals to get access to in-demand, tech and digital skills from anywhere in the world.

Why is it so important that individuals in tech careers continue to seek training opportunities? How can this training increase their value as an employee or recruit?

Technology is evolving at an extremely fast pace, and so is the business world. Graduates in this industry are entering the workforce with little certainty or security. In fact, many new jobs that were not heard of when they entered college now exist. At the same time, old jobs are quickly being replaced or automated due to technology advancement.

At NEXT Academy, aside from constantly updating our curriculum, andragogy and delivery format, we want to train students with the proper mindsets which allow them to be independent, agile, resilient,and cross-functional. They must view their careers knowing that that new fields and platforms may emerge while others might disappear.

What types of experience or training is most in demand right now for individuals in tech?

In our region, the startup community is constantly looking for web developers to help turn their ideas into reality. We’ve also noticed a growing trend overseas, where our international students come to Asia to learn iOS Mobile Development. As mobile internet penetration increases, we’re expecting increasingly more people to adopt skills like Mobile app development.

What trends in software development are you following right now? Why should those pursuing careers in IT care about them?

We are currently in a very exciting period in software technology – there is a lot of promising news about Self-driving Cars, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum) replacing traditional economies, and IoT (Internet of Things).

Although some of these technologies are already shaping our daily lives as we speak (e.g. machine learning knowing your purchasing habits), there are still many untapped industries which could use these technologies.

Today’s software industry will be especially exciting for those who wish to be working on technologies which could potentially revolutionize or disrupt markets, or even the way the world works.

Thanks Khai!

Get the salary you want at the company you love. Learn more at paysa.com.

Author: Paysa