7 Things Hollywood Gets Wrong (and Right!) about the Tech Industry

By Robert Half on March 23, 2017 at 9:00pm

No doubt about it, the tech industry is a hot topic. Even non-tech professionals want to be a part of the new “IT” industry - more than half of non-IT professionals said they would find a career in tech attractive, with 6 per cent saying the appeal comes from its culture. Where do we get the idea of this appealing culture? Check the box office and your TV guide.

Many television shows and films have highlighted the tech industry and, more than often, exaggerated what it is like to work in technology. Here are four things that movies and television get wrong about working in tech, and a few realities they get right.

Hollywood gets it wrong

1. Myth: Everyone in technology works in the Silicon Valley.

Since the Silicon Valley tech boom, many shows and films have depicted the exciting life of a Silicon Valley techie. From HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” “The Internship,” Bravo’s “Startups: Silicon Valley," to Amazon’s “Betas” and others, technology in the entertainment industry seems to be isolated within the Bay Area startup world. But those of us north of the border know that can't be true. With close to a million Canadians were employed in the tech sector, or 5.6 per cent of Canada’s total employment in 2016, tech is booming up here.

Furthermore, it’s a no-brainer that every company - whether a startup or a corporation - has a technology department. In fact, a Robert Half Technology survey suggests that 60 per cent of Canadian tech pros favour midsize or large companies to startups, citing that they provide structure, stability and opportunity for career growth. Even though Hollywood shows you otherwise, a tech pro does not need to move to the Silicon Valley to find a job. Take a look at this infographic to see what hot tech jobs are in demand all over Canada.

2. Myth: If you do work in Silicon Valley, it’s all free food and ping pong.

Happy hour starts at 3 p.m. and everyone wears flip flops and jeans? Yeah, right! Many TV shows and films have highlighted the fun company culture of startups, but they make entrepreneurship look too easy.

Bravo’s reality show “Startups: Silicon Valley” includes very little reality; their personal drama and partying demonstrate a less “work hard” and more “play hard” mentality.  Time even dubbed it as “dangerous for America’s youth entrepreneurship movement.” “The Social Network” and “Betas” also dramatize the startup reality, giving viewers a slanted look at the startup tech industry. Ask any startup founder, and they will tell you it took more than an idea and a few crazy parties to find success. 

3. Myth: Coding is a career for young male geniuses in hoodies.

One of the specific tech careers highlighted by Hollywood is coding. But in most films and TV shows, the programmer is a young guy in a hoodie, staring intensely at his computer screen, watching lines of code scroll by. He quickly types characters to create the perfect algorithm, and voilà! The website is up and running in under five minutes! But, let’s be real. A programmer knows that it can take much longer than a few minutes to code a program, and there is much research and trial and error involved. Apparently, this process is not as exciting as the fictional coding we see on screen, hence Hollywood’s tendency to embellish a little (or a lot).

All the movies and TV shows listed before, and many others, highlight this stereotyped character. While it’s true that the tech industry does have a diversity problem, the real world of coding is still more diverse in age and gender than portrayed in Hollywood. That said, if Hollywood portrayed more female characters in these roles, like Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or malware coder Darlene from “Mr. Robot,” it could inspire more women to go into tech careers.

4. Myth: A career in cyber-security is really a high-intensity game.

In film and TV, cyber-security is turned into a videogame or a high-speed technology chase. Movies like “WarGames” and “Hackers” portray hacking through a videogame-like program, which makes it much more entertaining to watch, but much less realistic.

These are laughable scenarios for those who know the real deal behind cybers-ecurity. Hackers cannot hack into systems, let alone decode a bomb, by furiously typing random characters into a program. Especially not using Excel, as shown in “Unthinkable." Excel?! Really? A simple Google search could have told them that’s not how Excel works. Come on, Hollywood - get it right! Every programmer knows that hacking is not as immediate or dramatic, as it can take weeks to hack into a system or fix a cyber-security threat. Hollywood makes it look so easy.

​Hollywood gets it right

1. Reality: A satirical look at Silicon Valley may actually give us a glimpse of reality.

HBO’s show “Silicon Valley” takes a somewhat realistic approach to startups through a comedic lens. It is known to satirize many truths about the culture and companies of Silicon Valley, including the perks and cutting-edge (sometimes absurd) technology. This series portrays the long hours, complicated decisions and hard work that it takes to make it as a startup. The six hilarious characters pitch their idea to venture capitalists, build a product and struggle against fictional - but very lifelike - corporations, while of course, getting into ridiculous situations. The show is also very focused on the details; the writers research the technology, code and programs used in the show to make it as realistic as possible.

2. Reality: “Mr. Robot” takes realistic hacking to dramatic heights.

A few television shows do get it right. “Mr. Robot,” a USA Network series that won a Golden Globe Award, has been praised by techies for its realistic depiction of programming and hacking. Depicting an ordinary IT professional by day who fights cyber-crime with his hacking skills by night, the cyber-thriller also is not afraid to show when coding attempts can go wrong. Finally, a show that gets hacking right, with all the excitement of a thriller!

While understanding that Hollywood aims to entertain, television and film can give audiences a skewed perspective of what it’s really like to work in the technology industry. 

Watching these tech dramas is entertaining - but if you’re ready to explore your career options in the real world of technology, take a look at Robert Half Technology’s job listings.

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