I was fortunate enough to be asked to talk to Wadsworth High School students again at today's High School Career Day. It was a very well organized event and I was proud to be a part of it. I have had quite a few role models that helped shape my personal tech journey and I like to give back when possible.
While last years talk focused on a mixture of entrepreneurship and tech, this year I wanted to talk more about differentiating yourself in an industry that's attracting more and more people everyday. The following are a few of the topics we covered in case it's helpful to someone else.
Do What You Love
I've found the easiest way for me to learn new things are do to the things that interest me, and constantly learning new things is very important to your development as a developer.
Thankfully my desire to program on the web turned into a pretty good career as well.
An important thing to remember is that at some point in your personal development you will reach a point where you become stuck. The amount of knowledge you have yet to achieve will leave you confused about where to go next. I've found that focusing on the things that interest me and not the new and shiny worked quite well. One thing will lead to another in tech, but you should never get discouraged with the expectation that you should learn it all.
I owe a lot of my company's growth the local special interest groups that I found through sites like meetup.com. I ended up with an entire network of amazingly smart and helpful people that have allowed my business to spread word of mouth.
We grew together, learned together, and helped each other meet our career goals.
For me, giving a talk at meetups led to speaking at conferences which were an excellent way to be viewed as a subject matter expert. You'll need to back up your words, but if you're constantly learning new things that's not a problem.
On the Job Experience
Nothing can beat actual on-the-job experience. I encouraged all attendees to take advantage of co-op / internship programs to find out more about how their desired industries operate in the day to day. Find out if you'll enjoy programming for the rest of your life as quickly as you can to avoid a costly change down the road.
Outside of working for other companies, you can do things to showcase your aspiration and talent by tinkering on side projects or even contributing to open source development. As you learn more about programming languages, libraries, and frameworks you'll be introduced to an entire world of opportunities to show off. Take advantage of it.
Finally, feel free to reach out to the company's you admire and ask if you can learn more about how they work. You may even be able to hang out and shadow them for a day to learn more about what skills they are looking for so you can direct your own personal education.