When I was 13 and about to finish the 8th grade, a teacher I hardly knew approached me in the hall. “Whitney, I’d like to talk to you about next year.”
“What about next year?”
“Well you’ll be entering high school next year, and you’ll be asked to pick your electives soon. I think you should consider choosing Computer Science.”
“What’s computer science?” I asked.
“It’s when you make computer programs.”
I was sold.
So I opted into the computer science elective for freshman year. I ended up loving the class so much, I took it every year of high school (my school only had one class).
My senior year when it was time to apply for college, my computer science teacher encouraged me to pursue a degree in CS since I seemed to like being around computers so much. A liberal arts education certainly didn’t appeal to me, so I took his advice and applied early to CMU. And got in.
At 18 years old, I believed the only way to have a career in technology was to make computer programs. It was all I’d been taught and the only thing I’d ever been exposed to.
It was a year and a half later before I learned the truth.
When I eventually discovered the small Human-Computer Interaction program at my school, I was elated. Described as “the synthesis of computer science, design, psychology and statistics,” it was a calling. To this day I can remember what it felt like to read those words on the page. Total enlightenment tinged with a bit of “why didn’t they tell me sooner?”
It’s been 12 years since that moment, and it feels like I haven’t gone a day without telling that story.
Why? Because it kills me to think of even one kid not considering a career in technology because they believe the only way to do it is to be a programmer. That is just media romanticized crap. There is far more to technology than programming. There’s design. There’s strategy. There’s writing. There’s project managing. There’s field research. There’s data analysis. There’s EVERYTHING.
Kids: you don’t have to be a programmer to work in tech.
If you are under 18 and reading this, I want to hear from you. And if you love all things UX, then I really want to hear from you. You have options, so many of them, so many more than anyone has ever had. I can help show you the way.
Today I’m launching a new program called Minor in Tech. Our mission is to evangelize non-programming careers in technology to children and teens. We believe every student should have a minor in technology regardless of what they major in.
The tech industry is hungry for greater diversity — racial, socio-economic, cultural, educational and (especially) motivational. Not everyone can be the next Mark Zuckerberg, and more importantly, not everyone wants to be. Technology is a sector in which anyone can follow their passions and make their dreams come true. Technology is a platform, a tool, a product, a means to an end. The purpose is what really matters. When the technology fails, it’s purpose that remains.
A career in technology holds no less prestige than a career in medicine or law. Working with tech gives you the opportunity to create products and services that can change people’s lives, make them better at their jobs, give them more time with their kids, help them achieve their goals, make them happier.
How? The simple truth: working with tech is really working with people.
They’d have you believe that a tech job is all about staring at screens all day. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve spent the last decade building a career in technology centered on compassion. I coach teams on how to better understand their customers and colleagues in order to devise solutions that better meet everyone’s needs. I believe that win-win situations exist and I help create them every day.
So can you. And you can start right now. I want to show you how.
If you’re under 18 and want to be a member of Minor in Tech, or if you’re 18 and older and want to learn more about Minor in Tech and possibly be a mentor to our members, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at [email protected]. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Together we can change the world…and have a ton of fun doing it.
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