The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science was honored to host a career preparation and leadership seminar for future IT professionals and entrepreneurs on Saturday, November 9. The all-day seminar, which was designed and presented by leaders from the Illinois Technology Foundation, offered several key insights for students preparing for future IT careers. The sixteen students who participated in the event had an opportunity to mingle with several extremely accomplished panel members who generously gave their time and expertise.
The seminar was organized as three presentations. The first, which was called “Developing Your Brand and Building a Personal Network”, emphasized the importance of carving out your niche, clearly portraying what your passions are, and determining how you can channel those passions to meet the needs of an organization. Panel members David Anteliz, Wayne Bulmahn, Alan Howard, and George Nakis explained how professionals must identify who they are and what excites them or else risk working in a job that fails to fulfill them and that they, in turn, fail to fulfill. The students were asked to take some time over the next few weeks to identify what they like and what they are good at as well as what they don’t like and what they’re not particularly good at. They are then to look for things that are common among the items in the two lists. This will help them discern the kinds of jobs for which they are best suited and the roles they will likely be happiest playing.
The second session, “Understanding Your Role in IT and the Business”, was led by panel members Wayne Bulmahn, Kirk Fallbacher, Krysia Jacobs, and Jack Leifel, This session described the different kinds of companies for which the students could work, including public and private companies and for-profit and non-for-profit organizations. The panelists discussed what characterizes good IT organizations versus bad IT organizations, suggesting that how prominent a role IT plays and how much it is valued at an organization help determine how fulfilling a role in IT at that organization would be. The panelists also stressed that IT professionals must always keep in mind that technology’s value to an organization is through what it enables other employees to accomplish in regard to the mission of the organization. This session also gave the students some insights into the interview process, suggesting that it is often advantageous to ask for clarification on interview questions as well as to seek things they and the interviewer have in common during the interview that don’t have a lot to do with Computer Science. Regardless of the impressiveness of your technical chops, you need to come across as likable, deep thinking, and confident in your own brand and ability to contribute.
The afternoon session, which was led by panelists Andre Allen, Marcus Cobb, Ed Hoff, Krysia Jacobs, Sally Smoczynski, and Tim Waterloo, focused on leadership, particularly as it applies to leadership in IT organizations. The effective IT leader was described as inspiring, relentless in cutting costs, pragmatic, collaborative, savvy in creating value, and visionary. Ultimately, the IT leader is an influencer, someone who can identify and implement steps to realize the vision of the organization, even in the face of adversity, and rally people to work together to take the necessary steps. The panelists, who were extremely dynamic and conveyed the confidence one associates with effective leaders, shared snapshots of several leaders from history, including Margaret Thatcher, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Marissa Mayer, Kim Hammonds, and Lee Iacocca, citing them as examples of effective, transformative leadership. These examples, as well as the insights and stories of the panelists themselves, inspired the students to cultivate the leader within each of them to prepare for roles in which they will lead corporate IT units or translate their ideas into new entrepreneurial ventures of their own.
This was a tremendously beneficial event for the students who attended. It was a unique opportunity to meet very accomplished professionals whose insights and stories are significant because they are shaped by what they themselves have lived. I think students learned a lot today from these twelve industry professionals who generously spent parts of their Saturday with us. The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science is very grateful to the Illinois Technology Foundation for designing and offering this extremely beneficial event, and we look forward to holding similar events in the future.