今日推荐英文原文：《Find Your Path in Computer Science》
今日推荐英文原文：《Find Your Path in Computer Science》作者：Vanita Sharma
Find Your Path in Computer Science
Here’s what I learned from discussions with my mentors in the industryI vividly remember the nights I’ve fallen asleep in my college dorm questioning whether I chose the right major. In high school, I often responded to the questions about my career aspirations explaining that I wanted to be in technology, but not a “coder.” In reality, I had no idea what “coder” even meant; all I thought was that it wouldn’t sound cool or exciting for a girl like me. I thought that once I’d conformed to the stereotypical geek lifestyle in college, I’d no longer be able to nurture my own personal interests and explore what makes me happy.
While I still wonder what career would be the best fit for me, I’ve learned that a computer science education opens up endless opportunities to find yourself and explore new things. I asked my mentors in the industry how they found their place as a girl in the world of technology, and here’s what I learned.
Conquering Road BumpsThe fear of failure and the stigma of being a woman in CS are some of the biggest obstacles girls face in the pursuit of computer science. Made Lapuerta, a Harvard graduate with a CS degree, recalls that her first exposure to coding was from a video game design class in middle school, and she recoiled, thinking, “This is nerdy…. This is what my brother does.” As a byproduct of CS being such a primarily male-dominated field, many girls have the misconception that they aren’t fit to succeed in it, especially after an unsuccessful first attempt. Made later reflected, “Something I thought was so clearly for younger boys was something girls could excel at too.”
Once we realize anyone can code and we find our confidence, success becomes even more reachable. Stereotypes may remain, but learning to disregard them is a step to success. Lauren Smith, a recent graduate of the University of Washington, mentioned that despite the traditional developer stereotypes — being a recluse, staying up all night, sleeping in —, “I’m just going to keep doing it because I enjoy doing it.”
Choosing a CareerLike many, my initial image of a computer scientist was of a Steve Jobs-like software engineer hunched in front of huge monitors, spitting out code all day with no social interaction. Software engineering at a big tech company seemed like the ultimate goal during my freshman year, but I worried about what I would do if it wasn’t for me. However, after many discussions with my friends and mentors in computer science, I realize that a CS degree is an open door to any destination.
Made reflects on her realizations over the past few years of internships, career fairs, and college classes: “There are so many paths you can take with your coding skills and so many industries that need you — health care, fashion. Any company that needs a website needs engineers.” A computer science education presents you with valuable industry knowledge that employers can’t find elsewhere.
Jobs for Computer ScientistsHere are a few examples of the opportunities that stem from a CS background. When applying to jobs, software engineering shouldn’t be your limit. Lauren, an incoming product consultant at Tableau, notes that “women tend to sell themselves short on what kind of jobs they apply to.” When applying for internships, Lauren cast her net as wide as possible and was open to all these different job roles.
Software engineeringWhat is it? Quite literally, it’s the development of software — designing, building, and testing to satisfy user requirements.
What are they like? Izzy Koningstein, a software engineer at Google, says she enjoys the development process of making a project. She notices that software engineers are generally detail-oriented and can creatively think about solutions.
Product managerWhat is it? A product manager guides the development of products and takes responsibility for determining customer needs.
What are they like? Sharon Lin, a software engineer intern at Microsoft, has noticed that her PM peers tend to have many interests and want to take on many roles. Similarly, Norin Lavaee, a past product management intern at Microsoft, says she enjoys face-to-face contact and driving things forward.
Tech at a consulting firmWhat is it? These roles can range from business technology analysts to engineers.
What are they like? Made searched for social opportunities in her employment, which she found in her upcoming role as a digital analyst at McKinsey. At a consulting firm, you’re able to work with clients from a wide range of industries, from fashion and retail to oil and gas.
While these characteristics may give you a sense of the type of people who work at these jobs, these are not guidelines for what you should pursue. Norin advised, “Do whichever role you’re more passionate about… Anyone can thrive in any role, and you always have the option to switch.” The pressure to know everything about your future — what you’re studying, what you want to be when you grow up — presses this artificial message that you constantly need to know what you’re doing.
In fact, many computer science graduates switch their jobs every few years after college. The blessing of a computer science background is that it gives you the opportunity to change careers when you crave something new or when your interests change. Reflect on what you enjoy and carry it forward into your work.
“What are you doing in your free time? Integrate that into your work. Look at what you do for leisure and what you’re drawn to outside of the classroom. Find how you can integrate your tech skills with that.” — Made
“Find your best qualities and see what they can be useful in — whether that be development, leadership skills, etc.” — Lauren
“It’s often easier to transition from technical to non-technical roles. If you spend some time getting knowledgeable about the technical side of the field, it can help you understand exactly what the engineers are doing and help you in other roles as well.” — Izzy
Creativity in Computer ScienceThe beauty of code is that there are no limits to its creations. Nearly anything you find interest in can be integrated with technology, and along the way, you may find connections and ideas that lead you to your dream job. Personalizing your path in computer science can be manifested in various ways, of which I have included a few examples below.
Create with your passionsEvery industry has been transformed by technology in the last decade. Find a way to share your passions with others through your creations. Izzy’s pursuing her dreams alongside her job at Google to become a certified health coach and later take on clients. Using her technical skills, she’s building her website with a blog and data figures made with code. On the other hand, Made, in love with fashion, thought of using image recognition models to detect trends in pictures of runway shows and outfits. Her passion transformed into her startup, Dashion, which has a great following and amazing content!
Help your communitiesUse your technical skills to volunteer and help out the communities and causes that mean the most to you. Lauren, an avid fan of a tea shop in Washington, plans to help build a website for them. Sharon, at the beginning of the global pandemic, relieved a cause of stress for many by creating a site that tells you if you qualify for unemployment benefits in your state. And recently, amidst the tragic death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, I have worked on a BLM resource website to educate others and spread awareness.
Learn in new waysWith MOOCs becoming more and more popular, there is no limit to the diversity of courses you can take online. Sharon, although a software engineer intern, has taken an online class on cryptography and competed in various cybersecurity competitions. There are other ways to get creative with your technical skills as well, such as hackathons and group projects.
Participate at workMany tech companies have diversity and inclusion initiatives. It’s likely that the causes you care about most have communities of supporters and advocates at your workplace. If not, spearheading something like that can be an enriching experience. Norin has been interested in accessibility technology, which focuses on creating products that are universally beneficial to people of all abilities. She advocates for accessibility in her teams at Microsoft — educating others and moving the company forward in their progress.
Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what makes me happy. But my future and the career I pursue remain unknown. Rather than provoking stress, I cradle these question marks as exciting opportunities to explore and try new things. As I carve my path as a girl in computer science, I still have my worries, but I remind myself of Tolkien’s words:
“Not all those who wander are lost.”