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Brian emailed me to ask my advice on getting into a technology career. He states that he doesn’t have the capacity to learn physics and math in order to get a degree in computer science. He is wondering about possibly programming, networking, or even system building.
I’ve talked with several friends who are in the technology field before about this same thing. All of us say the same thing to each other: College helped us get to where we are, but not in a classroom capacity. It’s the things we learned outside of the classroom that helped us the most. My degree is actually in English education. I had planned to become an English teacher. One day when I was student teaching, it just suddenly hit me. I said out loud: “what am I doing? I should be working with computers.” My seventh-grade class sitting in front of me were all, like, “DUH!” I was the last to know.
You are your own person. Follow your heart. Take small or temporary jobs, and see what just clicks for you. If your dream job doesn’t exist, then create it. Will that be easy? Of course not. But in the long run, it’ll be the most rewarding path — trust me on this. I cannot tell you what to study, or even where and how to study it. That has to come from within yourself.
If you’re interested in programming, though, I’d like to recommend Squeak. Squeak is a modern, Open Source full-featured implementation of the powerful Smalltalk programming language and environment. Squeak is highly-portable — even its virtual machine is written entirely in Smalltalk making it easy to debug, analyze, and change. Squeak is the vehicle for a wide range of projects from multimedia applications and educational platforms to commercial Web application development. It’s an excellent beginning point for learning programming, aimed at kids and teens. Don’t want to learn something for “kids,” eh? Remember: start slowly. Baby steps are key.
If you have OS X, another good program to try out is Automator. Start creating workflows more easily than ever. Starting Points automatically displays a sheet in new workflow windows, from which you choose categories representing the things you want to do. Then select options from contextual pop-up menus.
I’m not the person you should be asking for career advice. The person you should be asking is the one you look at in the mirror. Take control of your future, and your destiny.
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