Many of you probably know someone who participated in this week’s “Hour of Code,” the more pop-culture name for “Computer Science Education Week.” As is typical, and beautiful, of computer scientists, Hour of Code is a small, encapsulated function that is biased towards action: a “one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics”. Right on!
A colleague asked me for thoughts on “tech” careers to share with Hour of Code participants. Below are my thoughts to participants, a CIO’s perspective, if you will, with love. Feel free to share with folks who are considering joining tech.
IT is not computer science. Learn the difference. It will make you a better interviewee, and enable you to make smart career choices now, instead of later.
Computer science is good for coding but practical experience always wins.
Get an internship.
Don’t embark on a technology career unless you are flexible about change.
Coding isn’t about learning to code, it’s about becoming a systems thinker.
Pick a platform and stick with it a while instead of trying to learn multiple ones at once
There is a reason why coders have a reputation of staying up until all hours of the night. It has to do with (healthy) obsession and hyper-focus. Go with it. Plan for it. Your personal “level ups” usually happen during one of these sessions.
Employers and the market are not very interested in desktop applications right now. Expect that interest level to go down.
Don’t listen to global computer language popularity contests. Check the want ads for companies that you admire, instead.
Get a Github account. Anybody can say that they know how to code, but the employers you want to work for will want to see your body of work.
The easy learning road is often the way to join a crowd of easy-road colleagues, which is fine when there is market demand, but less good during market declines. Pick a platform to learn that is used by companies or individuals that you admire.
Finally, as another colleague pointed out, as you embark upon a tech career, there will be times where you have choices between getting on a career treadmill and doing what you think others expect of you, or following your bliss. The long-term formula for success is to do things that interest you; it’s really hard to be good at something that doesn’t interest you.