I read an article recently about the supposedly unemployed or underemployed generation of students graduating college. The idea that there are students out there graduating with degrees and not being able to find jobs is certainly a cause for concern, but there is more to the story than just a lack of employment opportunities. I ran into this in person the other day at a checkout counter at Best Buy. Lee and I were checking out with all the prizes for KCDC and as you can imagine, that sparked some interest from the checkout guy. He indicated that he was trying to get into software development and he had a degree in computer science. The rest of the conversation went like this….
Checkout Guy: How would I get into development?
Me: The first question I would ask is, what are you doing with your Computer Science degree?
Checkout Guy: Well, I am wearing a blue shirt at best buy….
Me: That’s your job, but are you doing anything on the side? In your free time?
Checkout Guy: I am doing some stuff with Netduino. I really like the device side.
Me: Great answer! That exactly right. *handing him my card* Give me a call or shoot me an email. I would love to help you get started.
Checkout Guy: Cool Thanks.
As you can probably guess, I never heard from him. Had he called me, would I have helped him out? Absolutely. The struggle is that most young adults have no idea what it takes to get into this business. Its not that they are not willing to do the work, they just don’t know what that work is. And mostly, that work is picking up the phone and calling people and asking them for help, or advice, or a direction.
As an entry level person, do you have a mentor? Do you have someone who you can ask for advice or a direction? Not a professor, or a counselor, but a person with feet on the ground doing the work you want to be doing?
As a senior dev, are you mentoring anyone? Do you have someone you are there for, answering questions and providing advice? If not, find someone. Either from a random encounter, or something more intentional.
So, how do you find these people? Simple, you ask… Find a user group, technical conference, or linked in group and start asking. Go to the people leading those things, and ask if they can recommend someone. The single most important thing you can do to get to where you want to be, is get out and meet people who are already there.