Now that I'm in the real world (and working in tech banking), I hear from a lot of students claiming they're interested in working in/around technology, and asking for advice on how to learn more about the industry and keep up with trends. In order to save myself some time and not be forced to repeat the same answers on every networking call, I figure I'll list out some of the resources I use daily, and what I've found helpful in building out my knowledge set in technology.
A subset of the newsletters/blogs I subscribe to (in no particular order):
- DealBook & Term Sheet (everybody should subscribe to these, even if you have zero interest in technology)
- Stratechery (I cannot recommend this newsletter enough - one of the most valuable sources of insight I've ever encountered)
- The Information (a bit pricey for students, but useful if you're really invested in this)
- A16Z Weekly & Ben Evans' blog
- Mattermark Daily
- ...likely missing some
As you can likely imagine, I definitely do not read all of the above everyday (or I would spend my whole day reading). I will skim (and selectively read) almost all of them, and when the headlines start looking identical I'll stop doing that as well. If you're low on time and only want to commit to reading three of the resources mentioned above, my top 3 would be Stratechery, StrictlyVC and A16Z Weekly.
The truth, however, is that even if you end up reading all of the above newsletters every single day, you will take a long time to get familiar with a lot of the proprietary terminology and obscure concepts that tech guys like to use. Unlike most other industries (you don't need a PhD to understand the economics of a Coach bag), many of the underlying technologies enabling revolutionary trends today are obscure and technical in nature. Also, there are so many subverticals within the tech space that trying to understand all of them is damn near impossible.
If you're a beginner, I would approach learning about technology like this (most of you will focus on Consumer Internet so I'll just write about that):
1. Know that understanding "the tech industry" is a ridiculous task and that building a specific area of expertise with adjacencies is far more practical and valuable in the long run
2. Figure out the area you want to focus on. For most of you it will be Consumer Internet - to understand it, you should read initiating coverage/primers on Google/Alphabet, Netflix, Facebook and Amazon at the very least. If you don't have access to research, reading investor presentations and annual reports is a recommended replacement, although you should supplement those documents with any free research/insights you can find (Stratechery and A16Z come in handy for this)
3. Read the Kleiner Internet Trends report. Read more than one if you can.
4. Find articles online about concepts like network effects and Metcalfe's Law (especially relevant now), the Hype Cycle, Aggregation theory, Moore's Law, etc.
5. At this point you'll have the ability to interpret news about the industry, and perhaps begin to understand implications of things for yourself (like why Microsoft bought LinkedIn)
A few things about the above recommendations:
- Obviously different sectors take different kinds of steps to learn. For the most part, learning about the incumbents is a good place to start, although for semiconductors/electronics that's a pretty daunting task
- Technical expertise is different for each subvertical. Cybersecurity and electronics tend to be pretty technical, while Consumer Internet does not.
- When you've built a groundwork on understanding domestic Internet trends, you should start learning about China and India
It's important to understand that true tech guys in Silicon Valley are not impressed by suit-wearing Wall Street types. They believe in technology almost to a fanatical, religious extent.
There are many of you out there (and many of my friends) that doubt technology and its value. You look at unicorn valuations and claim "bubble!" You look at how we act with smartphones in our hands and lament the impersonality and superficiality of the new generation. You miss the good ol' days, so to speak.
But just take a minute to think about what you've been given, and what you take for granted. Today, a kid in a dark room with just an Internet connection, a laptop and an iPhone can make a greater impact on the world than George Washington could with his entire army back in the 1700s. We've seen technology start political revolutions. We've seen technology lift entire countries out of poverty and create trillions of dollars of wealth.
Because of technology, we are each now more empowered than we have ever been in history. We can talk to and influence people around the world no matter their socioeconomic class. We can gain expert-level knowledge on nearly every subject imaginable. Governments and corporations are held responsible for their blunders and are being forced to be more transparent. And the power to create has been democratized as well, meaning everyone can make their own dent in the Universe with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work.
The best way to start learning more about tech is to actually be interested in the sector, and to believe in the mission. Then you'll have the motivation and the curiosity to explore the sector to a depth that would impress an interviewer.