Saturday, November 25, 2017

Takeaways from Presenting at my First Career Fair

I responded to a generic Facebook call for people who were interested in sharing their careers with Booker T. Washington High School students.  Let me know if you need anybody to cover areas related to software, statistics, and/or management, I said.  

So that's how I came to be one of three computer science panelists for a few dozen students who selected that career area. 

There were a few prepared questions that I had thought about over the course of the week leading up to the career fair.  I reflected on my career so far, which started out less as a plan and more as a series of things that just kind of happened.  I like these Economics courses, I'll keep taking them.  There's a job opportunity in Tulsa working for people I already know and like, sure.  

Image Credit: Yixler
If I didn't like where things were going I'd make adjustments to change course.  I didn't want to appraise or analyze the commercial real estate market forever, so I took some night classes in programming.  I didn't want to answer tech support questions forever, so I made my preference for being a full time QA person known to the right people in the company.  

So I spoke less of "follow your dreams" and more of  "stay open to your dream changing".  Always keep learning and adjusting based on how the world changes and how you feel about it. 

I brought what I think was a different perspective.  My two fellow panelists were, what I would call, "traditional" computer science people.  Males who had been tinkering with electronics since they could remember and who spend all of their waking hours either programming at work or programming for fun.   Nothing negative meant by this; they seem happy, and there appeared to be a cohort of young men in the classroom already playing out this role and eager to take the next steps of pursuing computer-related careers professionally.  

But I wore a bright pink shirt.  I said I entered college knowing I was vaguely interested in numbers and setting up web pages and how the world worked in general. I leave work at 5:15pm so I can make pickup at my daughter's aftercare, and I engage with my family or other parts of the world or yes, maybe keep working on computer-related problems if I feel like it that day.  I took a public policy angle on technology, saying that the field needs people who care *where* technology is going- summarizing the takeaways of a book I recently read, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark.  People who think about ethics and how we can make sure that technology is working for us and with us humans instead of against us.  I talked with expressiveness and passion for all types of knowledge.  

Retroactively, one could assume my goal was to reach analytical, passionate people who had missed the "tinkering since toddlerhood" window or to whom programming 24/7 forever doesn't appeal and encouraging them to seek out a spot at the table anyway.  Reassuring them that I'll be there in the crowded cafeteria with my bright pink shirt, waving them over to the geeks' table, pointing out the free chair.