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Experts say companies are looking for a mix of accomplishments for technology jobs, including on-the-ground experience and leadership skills that often come from taking post-graduate business courses. That includes how to run a business, problem solving and some acumen around mergers and acquisitions.

Damian Dovarganes/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Technology is replacing jobs in some sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, but is also creating positions, including management and executive roles, in a broad range of industries such as financial services, communication and retail. That bodes well for students taking post-graduate business degrees, such as an Executive MBA (EMBA), with an eye on a career in the technology field.

Experts say companies are looking for a mix of accomplishments for technology jobs, including on-the-ground experience and leadership skills that often come from taking post-graduate business courses. That includes how to run a business, problem solving and some acumen around mergers and acquisitions.

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"If you have relevant technology experience, combined with business experience, and then you tack on an MBA or an EMBA – I think that's a very potent combination," said Adam Nanjee, head of financial technology at the MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto-based innovation hub that connects companies, investors and entrepreneurs.

Mr. Nanjee said a technology specialization could be key to gain a job in the industry, which is much different when compared to some other, more traditional sectors such as financial services, consumer products or resources. That's especially true today given the increased investor interest in stocks such as Apple, Facebook and Shopify.

"Doing an advanced degree in technology gives any incumbent the opportunity to really figure out how to assess a technology. What are those right metrics? Because it's not like a traditional company," Mr. Nanjee said.

Tech jobs in high demand (and the salary is also appealing)

The good news for people pursuing technology positions is that the market is "super hot," according to Debora Bottineau, senior regional manager of human resources consulting company Robert Half Technology.

"Anyone coming out of a program with an emphasis on technology is setting themselves up for some serious wins because there is tremendous demand now in the marketplace," Ms. Bottineau said.

Robert Half is seeing the greatest demand in Canada for jobs such as developers, information technology (IT) security and big data experts and business analysts. Ms. Bottineau said hiring is happening not only at technology companies, but at corporations across all industries as they invest in their IT departments.

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"The days of IT working in isolation are over," said Ms. Bottineau. "Technology transcends every department. Companies looking for IT professionals today are looking of people that bring exceptional communication skills, individuals with problem solving skills and collaboration, an ability to work in a team environment and to look at the business holistically and strategically. MBA and EMBA programs are driving a lot of that through their curriculum."

The compensation for technology jobs is also increasing across the sector. In its latest compensation guide released in September, Randstad says starting salaries in technology are set to rise by an average of five per cent in 2016 compared to this year. Big salary bumps are forecast for people in jobs such as mobile applications development (an 8.1-per-cent increase), chief security officer (6.6-per-cent increase) and lead applications developer (6.1-per-cent increase).

Canada needs to boost its technology skills

The increased demand for technology positions in Canada means job hunters should feel less pressure to move to places like Silicon Valley to find suitable work. Still, to remain competitive in the global technology industry, Canada needs to continue to produce more candidates with better technology skills, said Jason Hermitage, vice-president of marketing and operations at Microsoft Canada.

Microsoft has its own programs to train employees to work in the technology sector, including the Microsoft Academy for College Hires (MACH) for its newest university hires, as well as the MACH MBA for people with a few years of professional experience and currently working toward a full-time MBA degree.

"The pace of innovation is changing and the benefit of having an MBA, when there is so much change, is being able to look at the entire business, left to right," Mr. Hermitage said.

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He said Microsoft spends a lot of time trying to recruit the best candidates to work at the company, and a post-graduate business degree is often attractive.

"I'm hiring for problem solvers – for people that want to learn and can learn really fast. And probably most importantly, people who can collaborate with people from many other disciplines," Mr. Hermitage said. "When you think of the value of an MBA, we see it as an opportunity to bring in someone who has with a diverse set of skills and the ability to have conversation with a broad set of stakeholders, whether it be HR [human resources], marketing, finance, sales, operations."

Startups also need smart, experienced founders

A post-graduate business degree can also be a draw for entrepreneurs seeking financing for their new ventures.

Boris Wertz, founder and chief executive of venture capital firm Version One Ventures, said his he considers the educational background of people behind startups before deciding whether to invest.

"A strong education is always a super good indication for future professional success," said Mr. Wertz. "It's a strong signal that they are smart and like to work hard."

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That said, practical experience is also crucial, since a lot of the learning also happens on the job.

"A lot of the people that have risen through the ranks of companies like Google, Facebook or Salesforce.com learned their peers in a fast moving environment," Mr. Wertz said.

He also believes there's a lot of value in the relationships and networks that people develop while pursuing their higher education. For instance, Mr. Wertz met the cofounder of his first company, JustBooks (sold to AbeBooks in 2001), during his PhD program.

"It can often be about being at the right place at the right time and with the right people – and brainstorming ideas," Mr. Wertz said.

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