Here is the email discussion I referred to a couple days ago regarding career strategy advice:
—– Original Message —–
From: “Mishkin Berteig”
To: “Greg Matthews”
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2003 7:16 PM
Subject: Re: Seeking Advice — Computer Science
Greg, I’d be glad to spare you a few minutes. See my responses below… — Greg Matthews wrote:
My name is Greg Matthews and I am a Computer Science student at the University of Windsor. I am currently preparing to go into my final year of studies with plans to graduate next April (2004), and I have decided to go into this last year with a strategy to best prepare me for my job search after completion.
Good idea 🙂
I am currently seeking to find some advice from professionals within this area and I was hoping you might be willing to answer a few questions for me that might help me better plan for my future career. Would you be spare a few minutes to answer some questions for me?
Here are my questions:
- In your opinion, what is the current state of the job market for IT professionals?
Bad, but not insanely bad. Basically, if you are pure comp-sci with no other skills and no experience, things are going to probably be rough. Even with other skills and experience things are tough. But they have improved substantially since 2001 which was a completely dead year!
- What caused you to go into your specific area of IT and if you were to start over would you still take this path? If not, what?
I got onto my path accidentally in some ways, and quite deliberately in others. For example: I never expected to work with Java, partly because it didn’t really exist until I got out of school. However, I quite deliberately did not stop learning after I finished school. The path I have taken, which could be summed up as “Object Oriented Guru” (and along which I have not yet reached the summit), was only sorted out after I got finished my degree and had some work experience.
- What IT professions (if any) would you recommend staying away (possibly due to over-saturation/high-competition or otherwise)?
It is difficult to say. The problem with the IT industry is that it changes quickly. (That is also an advantage, of course.) I honestly don’t think it is possible to plan even a year ahead in terms of any specifics. Use your education to go as broad as possible: theory, math, business, languages (computer and human), humanities and social sciences, science etc. This is so that you can know what you are talking about no matter where you find yourself in a year or two or five… If you are not already well-read, it is probably urgent to try to broaden your horizons. In the long run, prepare to always be learning! Other than that, choose what is most attractive to you. I chose programming because that is what I enjoyed most. If you like fiddling with hardware, follow that, etc.
- What advice would you give to a person looking to get started with minimal previous experience? How can I get my foot in the door without experience what would an employer look for?
Well, there are lots of possibilities. Get involved in or start an open-source project. It doesn’t have to be big or take a lot of your time. Make sure that you advertize any personal projects you have done. If you haven’t done any, you might be in trouble so I would suggest you get moving on that. For me, personal projects meant stuff related to AI. Just do something that you are interested in.
- Is additional education (Masters or MBA) important in today’s market?
A post-graduate degree is not necessary, but professional training can be very helpful. For example, take a seminar course on Project Management, or a software development methodology such as RUP. This will likely cost you a couple thousand, but believe me it is worth it. If you can’t afford that, or find the time, do a ton of reading in a subject related to the computer field, but not really computer sciency.
- What would you consider to be ideal entry-level positions to gain the best experience and opportunity?
Two things to consider: 1. your first job should be with a small local technology startup where you are either the only technical person or one of two techies. This allows you to get experience doing everything, and that is criticaly. After a year, or at most two, get out of that job and find one with a big tech company such as IBM, Sun or Microsoft. These can be hard to find but they are excellent. After that, your career options are pretty much open. Whatever you do, don’t take a first position with a large company if you can avoid it because you risk being pigeon-holed into a specialty that may not suit you. (Caveat: if the position is exactly what you are hoping to do for the rest of your life, then go for it!)
I would greatly appreciate if you could answer any of these or offer any additional advice you may have to offer.
Thanks in advance!
Do you mind if I put up your email and my responses on my weblog? I will happily remove your name if you desire, or link to your home page if you want…
– Greg Matthews
I think that the summary to all that I said is:
- have a broad foundation of education
- be flexible
- continue learning outside of school
- try doing things you enjoy
- don’t get pigeon-holed early on
Interestingly, non of that advice is specific to the IT field and represents a fairly “liberal”
approach to education and work.
Some links: Charlie Kirby’s cool site and his other cool site.
Some people might think this would be a good place to say something about the “war” with the USA and Iraq. So there, I did. But that’s all I’m saying about it 🙂
One hour later… okay so here’s a link about the war.