College Is A Stepping Stone

Jul 7, 2012

I’ve been taking part in interviewing a lot of college students and recent graudates for an IT position where I work. I usually perform some sort of phone interview and to get a feel for if the person fits what we are looking for. I ask some pretty simple questions. Tell me about your background? How did you get into this field? Have you used Apple products; iMac, iPhone, etc? How are you with Linux?

They all seem to do pretty well until I ask what I think are the most important questions. Where do you learn and how do you solve problems?. I am looking for some effort here. I get it. Your instructor/professor in college told you this and that, blah blah blah. That doesn’t matter. How do you know what’s going on? Trends, patterns, new tech, etc..

What happens when there is a problem that you don’t have the answer to? If your answer is to ask your peers, you’re wrong. Google it, then ask someone. Learn to solve problems on your own and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer, Google knows, I guarantee it.

Put some effort into it

I have interviewed about 6-8 people. You know how many subscribe to any RSS feeds. None. Not one. Every person that I asked how they stayed on top of the industry told me “well, uh,  I watch the news”. 

Really? The news? So the news anchor knows what’s happening in your field before you do? Be ashamed. You’re in this for the money, but it will never come. You don’t care enough. 

When I am looking for help, I want to see that you care. That you get it. School is so far off of what it’s really like that it’s not even funny. It’s just the way it is. But you have to try outside of that classroom.

Stay informed

If your looking to crack into the tech industry either as a network or software person, here are a few things to help you.

Read vigorously. Blogs (if you don’t know what RSS is, shame on you), Twitter, HackerNews, Books, anything you can get your hands on. Read and never stop.

Ask Questions. Hit up StackOverflow, or SuperUser if networking is for you, and ask questions. You might get hollered at, but that’s okay, the emotional wounds will heal. Don’t be afraid of IRC either. It can be intimidating, but there are some smart folks there.

Get Connected. Join some user groups and attend some events. Introduce yourself. You should volunteer. You will learn more from other people smarter than you then you ever did in school.

Play. Just play. If your in software, build some apps to fix your problems. Build throwaway apps. It’s okay, they will suck, but they’ll get better. If your a networking guy, try some networking stuff. Try to automate some networking tasks. See what the ones you look up to are doing and copy them

Come to an interview locked and loaded. Prove that you are one of the best, even if you’re not, yet.