Do You Have the Skills to Work at Today's Tech Startups?

You’ve always dreamed of working for one of those prestigious companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google, but you’re not sure if the skills you possess – or ones you’re developing – are what today’s tech startups are looking for.

To answer some of your questions, we caught up with tech startups across the country to talk about which skills they recommend students develop before beginning a career in technology.

“Within a startup, you don’t have an accounting, billing or HR department at your disposal,” said Dana Marlowe, principal partner at Accessibility Partners. “I would highly recommend that a (student) job seeker specifically state they’re willing to adapt to new roles at any whim and demonstrate their ability to wear a lot of hats.”

In an effort to clearly illustrate what skills are in highest demand, we used to provide a bit of history behind some of today’s top tech companies – including the skills they are looking for in future employees!  

Tech startups of the past


Brief history:

Amazon is a multinational electronic commerce company and also the world’s largest online retailer. The company began in 1994, when founder Jeff Bezos incorporated the company as Cadabra. Bezos decided on in 1995 because of the alphabetic advantage and because it was a more exotic name.

Desired skills for aspiring Amazon employees*:

  • JAVA
  • Software development
  • C++


Brief history:

Apple is the world’s second-largest information technology company behind. Formerly Apple Computer, Inc., the word computer was removed from the name in 2007 to reflect the company’s shift to consumer electronics after the introduction of the iPhone.

Desired skills for aspiring Apple employees*:

  • Software engineering
  • C++
  • OS X


Brief history:

Facebook is a social media networking website with over a billion users. When it was launched in 2004, the site was limited to Harvard University students and was referred to as “The Facebook” by creators Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The site has gradually expanded and now allows anyone over 13 years of age to become a member.

Desired skills for aspiring Facebook employees*:

  • PHP
  • Python
  • Software engineering


Brief history:

Google is a multinational corporation that specializes in search; cloud computing, software and online advertising. The company began in January 1996 as a research project aimed at creating a new system of analyzing relationships between websites.

Desired skills for aspiring Google employees*:

  • Python
  • JAVA
  • C++

But what skills are today’s tech startups looking for?

First, it starts with getting the right education. “A student looking to gain the right skills in order to get a position at a tech startup should focus on taking classes in the STEM realm (science, technology, engineering and math),” says Money Crashers co-owner Andrew Schrage. “These classes will provide you with skills in data recording and analytics, problem solving, computer programming and repair, research, and communications, among others.”


Schrage also said startups are looking for people with experience and skills in new programming languages such as HTML5 and Google Go.

Yes, there are plenty of technical skills needed to work at a multinational tech company. But check out what our experts said about how to turn some of your intangible skills into a beneficial career.


“As the need for specific technology skill sets expands, the issue isn't always ‘if’ someone knows the answer to a particular business problem. It instead becomes a question of: Do they know ‘how’ to determine the answer and then communicate that answer effectively,” says Matthew White, CEO at Whitepoint, Inc. 


“In a startup, you'll be solving problems. You're hired in part for your ability to think outside the box, apply acceptable industry standards in new ways and execute ideas that have no step-by-step roadmap,” says Janet Corral, CEO at SparkWorks.


“With all the resources available now online, a motivated person can learn any skill quickly. The hardest thing is to find someone who has the enthusiasm to take complete ownership over their own projects,” says Bryan Leeds, co-founder of Xsync.


“A new employee must be able to wear many hats and be efficient in many areas. The idea is to fail fast. It is OK to make mistakes, just learn from them quickly,” says Ryan Neergaard, media manager at Vino Visit.


“Hours are often long, pay (is) dependent on company success and teams are small. Without a passion for the work, employees will burn out quickly and head for greener pastures,” says Ben Caudill, co-founder of Rhino Security Labs.

Problem solving

“As a new company, we are experiencing each triumph and dilemma for the first time. There is no tech department, no human resources department or customer service department to fall back on to deal with issues. Each issue comes to the entire team and they must be able to deal with it as it comes their way,” says Liz Salcedo, co-founder and CEO at Everpurse.

Final thoughts

The advice in this article will only get you so far. To gain a true competitive advantage, consider these options:


You can gain valuable insight into a company or business you are interested in. It’s the ability to test drive your future career and decide where you really want to end up.


A mentor will not only give you valuable career advice, but has also been there and done that – they are good at seeing beyond the day-to-day business activities and are able to help you focus on what you want in your career.

Networking opportunities:

Not only will you build up your vocabulary to speak with others and your ability to communicate for future interviews, but you could also establish great rapport with potential employers in your field.

These ideas are not only important for getting a job, but are also beneficial in developing personal relationships that may help guide you as you build your career.

For more about how to develop your technology skills check out top tech jobs for education of all kinds and the comprehensive guide to finding your perfect technology career.


* (Analysis of 39,019 job postings at Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google; 06/25/2012-06/24/2013)

External links provided on are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Kendall is an Online Community Specialist at Collegis Education who oversees online communities on behalf of Rasmussen College. She has a passion for social media and enjoys motivating and encouraging former, current and future learners.

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