Career panel at the Brooklyn College Computer Science Department

Today I had an honor of speaking at the career panel for CS students at Brooklyn College CUNY.

My friend Suzanne invited me to participate a few weeks ago, and I immediately thought it was a great opportunity, especially since the topic of careers in tech is near and dear to my heart, and I loved being in college and wanted to see what students these days are about.

There were quite a few topics discussed today, mostly focussed on students graduating and entering the job market. A few questions were really interesting and related to today’s hot topics, so I wanted to highlight and recap them here.

Q: What is your understanding of the future or trends in the technology field? What direction is the industry heading in and where are opportunities opening up?

It would actually be funny if someone can predict the future – or we would all be rich. Coincidentally, I just re-watched an old Soviet movie really popular with kids during my childhood, it’s called “Guest from the future”. The movie was made in the early 80s, and there’s a time machine that allows people to travel in time, and in the future circa 2080’s people “flip” in flying little cabins instead of using cars, and have devices that can read anyone’s mind. But if these things will actually happen in the future, and when – nobody knows for sure.

The best thing we can do is to get solid fundamental education, stay curious, and know how to adapt quickly. Also find out who the experts are in your area of interest (be it mobile, connecting tech with physical devices, artificial intelligence, etc.) and talk to them. A great discussion with smart people is priceless, and sometimes you can even find yourself thinking about something that addresses needs of people, and seeing it used widely in the near future.

Q: How is the technology industry currently for women and/or minorities? Do you have any particular advice for women and/or minorities interested in technology?

Technology industry is a great place to be for women and minorities! I did not personally face any prejudice or discrimination either in school or my career, and actually feel that the opposite is true – tech is a very welcoming place to be right now, with lots of jobs and openings and developer bootcamp programs encouraging women to apply. Technology field is very fair and based on merit and actual work you do – so being great is the key, regardless of your background and who you are.

My advice for anyone (men or women) would be the same – do your best, learn as much as you can, excel at what you do, be professional and a good communicator, and the rest will fall into place.

Q: Please talk about graduate school. How necessary or important is it for the field?

My answer would be based on my own experience (so might not apply to everyone), and I really didn’t want to spend time in grad school, but rather get as much hands-on, real-world experience as I could. So no grad school for me. Other panelists suggested to consider grad school if you know already you want to focus on a certain area of your field, or if your employer is subsidizing your education in some way. Agreed on both counts.

Q: What skills, training, classes or experience are important for someone interested in the technology career field?

Some panelists provided very focused answers, targeted to web development with technologies at hand (HTML/CSS). I disagree. Technologies du jour may come and go, but your basic fundamental understanding of how things work, and how and why new technologies were created will serve you long term.

For example, Ruby is a very popular language to know today. There are developer schools specializing in teaching Ruby and making you into a web developer in as little as few months. It is great. But just to know Ruby, its syntax and how to create web pages, is only scratching the surface. If you really understand why Ruby was created in the first place, what MVC is and how it was implemented with Rails, what are the limitations of Ruby that are better done in other languages, you’ll go way further than majority of other self-proclaimed developers.

If you know your fundamental stack and principles, you can program anything from a spiffy web app, to a mobile app, to a tiny-sized app that you put into a watch or send to the moon… So don’t limit yourself to one technology, and stay curious and keep learning every day. Skillshare is a great place to learn new stuff, including non-tech subjects like business, project management, art, etc.

Big thanks to Suzanne, Brooklyn College CS society who organized the event, and my fellow panelists, who each offered a unique perspective and shared their experience and advice. It was a great honor!

Rails Meetup Recap: Flatiron School Student Demo Edition

Last night I stopped by the NYC Rails meetup group, which is now hosted at the Flatiron School, where students with no previous programming background learn the fundamentals of web development during the intense 3-month program. One of my friends is in the program right now, so it was great to chat with her and learn about it from someone who’s there almost 24/7 :)

Every week, a group of students present a project that they created to the fellow students and anyone attending the meetup. Yesterday 3 students demoed the app they called Octomaps, that shows locations of collaborators for a given Github repo on a map view. It was a pretty cool demo, especially given the fact that the students were just a few weeks into the program.

The app required using Github and maps API, database integration, some front-end presentation code, then deployment to Heroku. But above all just coming up a cool idea and not being afraid to dive in and implement in only a few days was very admirable.

Aside from great effort from students, major props go to Avi Flombaum, who runs the school and teaches most of the classes. I only was there for an hour, but it was obvious that he instills lots of enthusiasm and fosters curiosity (both essential for a web developer, I think), in addition to sharing the knowledge. Very impressive!

If you’re into web development, Ruby or just want to find out what you could learn in just 3 months, you should definitely stop by one of the meetups. They run through end of April, and next week is supposed to be an interesting group lunch ordering app. Seamless, watch out!