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The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, partners with top Austin business leaders, who share their views and expertise to help students prepare for an ever-changing economy.

To understand what’s going on in the exceptionally hot Austin technology sector, you need look no further than the Austin Technology Council (ATC), a membership organization that counts more than 280 companies and 1,600 tech executives in its ranks and partners with St. Edward’s University on an internship program that will launch in the spring. If it’s important to tech, it’s being discussed and analyzed within the organization.

And perhaps no one knows more about the industry’s biggest needs than Julie Huls, the president and CEO of the ATC. She shares the critical skills that today’s employees need to stay relevant — and how to overcome some common obstacles for people interested in joining this industry.

What are some of the skills that businesses in tech fields are hungry for today?

Certainly, there are the technical skills — specific programming skills or software certifications, which people can find in the recent workforce needs analysis we did. But businesses are also looking for a very specific set of soft skills. Are job candidates intellectually curious? Do they have an ability to solve problems? Can they work effectively with others? Teamwork is inherent in tech companies, so it’s a common trait companies seek when hiring.

There’s a lot of buzz about having an entrepreneurial mindset, even within a traditional job. Is that necessary?

Yes and no. Of course companies want people who can execute, who keep an eye on the company’s long-range vision when they come in every day. That’s entrepreneurial. But entrepreneurs are also people who tend to buck the system. That’s great when you’re on your own, but when a company’s leadership team has a specific vision, those doing the hiring will be looking for people who are going to get in the boat and row in the same direction. They don’t want management problems with rebels who think they know better.

You’ve gone from being the first person in your family to graduate from college to becoming the head of a major technology organization in a tech-heavy city. Can you offer advice for people who may have their own barriers — they feel they’re the wrong age, or the wrong background, to succeed?

Absolutely. I was born on a farm. I didn’t have parents who were engineers. I didn’t have any connection to technology. Wanting to be in the tech sector, for me, was overwhelming and intimidating. But tech, in particular, is extremely egalitarian. They want people who are driven, who are eager to work, who want to be part of something big. Those qualities are celebrated. My advice is that there’s always a way. Leverage your drive and your hard work and people who know better to get what you want. People, especially in Austin, want to help you be successful. It’s our biggest asset.

Graduate programs in The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University prepare students for professional success by helping them build highly sought-after skills. Learn more about our convenient weekend and evening programs.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.