Do you need a computer science degree to break into Ottawa’s tech sector?

Techopia was on the road again this week, dropping by the Rideau Street offices of PageCloud for HackerNest – an international non-profit running self-described “unpretentious tech events.”

With that atmosphere in mind, it was fitting that Wednesday night’s gathering helped erode the misperception that one needs specific educational credentials to break into the tech industry.

“Don’t feel down on yourself because you don’t have a (computer science) degree,” said Annika Thurlow, HackerNest’s global operations manager, in response to an audience question. “It’s not necessary to work in the tech industry these days.”

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She says more and more people in the industry are self-taught coders and that “a great portfolio and stand-up personality” can lead to solid job opportunities.

Those sentiments were echoed by Thurlow’s fellow panelist, Iversoft marketing director Graeme Barlow.

He said he’s co-founded five companies during his 18 years in the tech industry, all without a computer science degree.

“I got into tech through pure passion, self-taught myself to program – really, really badly –  networking the hell out of everything I could and found people who were way better at it than I was,” he said.

Barlow said earlier in the evening that Iversoft, an Ottawa app developer, looks for developers who possess both hard skills as well as creativity and willingness to embrace new technologies.

“We don’t want the person who was really good at Flash five years ago and still loves Flash … (we want the person who) has this hunger to keep looking for the next (great) (programming) language.”

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