So you want a career in technology?

I had about 20 eighth graders sign up for a short talk I did this week about my career.  It was one of those classic career day sort of things.  I started by saying that I remembered career day back when I was their age, and it was fun to hear about what architects and lawyers and accountants did, but I was more interested in how they got there (i.e., what were they doing when they were in eighth grade that may have led to their fates).

I noted that my generation was “rotting their brains” by watching too much t.v., just as their generation is “rotting their brains” with Facebook and computer games.  I confessed to watching a lot of t.v. at their age, but still I seemed to survive, and it wasn’t the only thing I did.

Here’s the Prezi I created for the little 15 minute talk:

Some explanation:

Having a passion— story about a very happy phone line installer I met in Philadelphia. Doing it for 13 years, wanting to do it for another 20 years. I admired his passion for a basic but fulfilling job.

Being Hands-on— the importance of taking things apart and building things. When I was 15, I bought two Morris Minor 1000s at an estate auction, and rebuilt the best one entirely. I learned a lot from working with machines.

Embrace change— Our iPhones are about the same as super computers 25 years ago. Think of today’s super computers on phones 25 years from today. Discuss.

Discover innovations— Innovation isn’t always technology. It may be simply bringing people and their motivations together in new ways, like Wikipedia.

Experience humility— technology can and will let you down. It is fragile and unreliable, but it is also becoming essential. Breakage and failures are part of the process, not avoidable.

Always learning— Because of change, you will be a lifelong learner with a career in technology, so get good at it. But it’s not just because of the change– my 1974 sailboat will take a lifetime to learn how to sail really well. Technology is similar, and lifelong learning is easy in any career ambition you are really passionate about.

To conclude, three recommendations:

Be passionate: right now, it can be able anything. Study it. Look it up online. See what others are saying and doing about it. Be passionate now about anything, and in the future you will find more to be passionate about.

Be hands on:
there is a risk of being all virtual and cerebral about things. Take things apart. Build things. Break things. Fail. Make something you are proud of. Get a bike and take it apart. Build with Legos, sew, paint, get messy.

Any job is a good first job:
babysit, get basic jobs, work for a summer when you are in high school, instead of just travel. All jobs are good first jobs, and your first jobs will continue right through college.

That’s it for now.

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