Computer Science in general is a vastly expanding field with so many different points of entry. This week the White House is focusing on STEM education by hosting its annual Computer Science Education Week. The focus is on expanding access to educational opportunities to students across the nation, putting a specific emphasis on initiatives to reach women, students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. At Hired, we know the importance of building a solid foundation, and we know there are multiple paths to a career in tech. In support of CS Education Week, we asked a few star engineers who found their current jobs via Hired to reflect on their past experiences and share some advice for students considering a job in tech. Here's what they had to say.
First and foremost -- know yourself. Ask yourself the tough questions and take some time to reflect so that you really know what you're looking for in a career. Preston Copeland, an engineer at Aidin, suggests considering your personality to figure out what components of a career in Tech would be a good fit for you. "I'm an INTJ (introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging) [on Myers-Briggs], so I knew a profession involving system building and technical expertise would appeal to me. I also knew that I would not mind a job that isolated me (relatively speaking) for several hours -- I would find the solitude refreshing, not draining."
For those who don't major in CS or want to change careers, determine what it is you like best about your job to make sure your next role is one you are truly passionate about. Adam Kaczmarek, an engineer at Curiosity Project, originally majored in Mechanical Engineering with a focus in robotics. However he says "CS was always a part of the work that I was doing in my career in defense and aerospace. I came to realize that it was the part of my job that I found most challenging and rewarding."
This passion will definitely drive you and motivate you in a when you're working in a highly challenging field. Nisha D'Amico, who majored in CS and is currently working at Opower, recounts the struggle that she had early on in her undergrad classes. "I remember telling my mom that I wanted to quit CS," she says, but "I realized I had to take a step back and really think about why I wanted to quit. It wasn't because I had lost my passion for the field... It was simply because in that moment I had lost sight of why I was there in the first place. After that, classes only got harder, but nothing tore me down again." Having passion for your job doesn't mean there won't be challenges ahead, but it's those very challenges that will drive you to excel each day.
Copeland sums it up nicely: "Difficult and unfulfilling seems unbearable. You want to aim for difficult, but fun."
However, at the end of the day, passion alone won't get you where you want to go. Use your passion to focus your skills and become great at what you do. Marcus McLaughlin, an engineer at Kitchensurfing, shares "If you're seriously considering it, don't wait! Start now! I started playing around with BASIC at a very young age. In this day and age, the barrier to entry is falling every day. The number of resources that you can find on the internet, from free books, to interactive tutorials, to the combined wisdom of the world's engineers via StackOverflow, is mind-boggling! There are also events and organizations that are created to help people learn to program. Get out there and learn!"
Tammy Bailey, an engineer at Moz, offers similar words of wisdom. "Now there are so many things to be involved in -- hackathons, coding challenges, events for high schoolers -- so get involved early and figure out if that's something you want to do with your life and just meet people. It's very competitive, so study and apply yourself and make that effort early on to be great."
In sum, we encourage all developers and people in tech to consider their own paths and how they can extend a hand to support CS and STEM education -- whether through participating in hackathons or just sharing code and being a resource within the community. Tech isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and we should all play a part in supporting individuals who want to get involved in our field.