Four technology executives presented their perspectives on what students can do to position themselves for successful careers in today’s booming tech economy. The event, which was sponsored by the Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences (CaMS) at Lewis University, was held at 4pm on April 4. Presenting were Danny Combs of Donnelley Financial, Tom Drez of Christian Brothers Services, Bill Greene of The Rubicon Group, and Michelle Mikka – Van Der Stuyf of BizStrat, Tom, Bill, and Michelle are Lewis alumni and serve on the CaMS Advisory Committee. All four panelists have hired Lewis Computer Science students and are quite pleased with their performance.
The distinguished panel offered several helpful insights to the students who attended. When asked what technical skills students should gain before entering the job market, the group emphasized that is important to know a lot of the current languages and tools, but it is even more important to be able to learn new languages and tools quickly. Today’s top languages and tools weren’t nearly as popular five years ago, and what was relevant in 2014 isn’t nearly as relevant today. Today’s technology workers must learn quickly and be open to and excited about learning new things always. They must also accurately represent their skills on their resume. They should not exaggerate their knowledge of particular areas and tools, but should instead accurately depict their areas of expertise. Otherwise, they will mislead potential employers, an occurrence which never benefits anyone.
In terms of soft skills, the group stressed the utmost importance of honesty, humility, and passion. They emphasized the need to value service and to be always willing to go above and beyond. Today’s technology workers must be able to communicate well with customers, and that involves listening to them and valuing what they have to say, and respectfully offering alternative ways for them to meet their requirements without making them feel challenged or threatened. Good employees are humble: they know their place, they respect the organization’s hierarchy, and they work within it to advance the goals of the organization, a task that inevitably involves putting the customer first at all times. Finally, good employees are honest. They admit when they make mistakes, they don’t try to cover up deficiencies but instead devise practical plans to address them. They do not lie but instead honestly and openly try to help others understand the challenges and complexities. They know their audience, respect them, and work to help them as equal parts of the team.
Today’s technology workers must be passionate about their work. Sometimes, from their vantage point in the trenches where they see a steady stream of problems to fix quickly, it is hard to see the larger value of what they are contributing to the organization. It is important to remember that their efforts contribute to the success of many, both directly and indirectly. Even the more mundane aspects of their work have value. It is important to see that, to celebrate it, and to find inspiration in knowing that their efforts make others’ lives better, even if they can’t readily see the immediate impact. There is no time to become complacent or to count the hours to the weekend. Instead, successful technology workers apply their skills and expertise to help others, a task which never ends but which never grows tiresome.
After the panel discussion, the panelists mingled with the student attendees. Students had an opportunity to ask questions about specific careers and receive additional advice about customizing both their studies and their job search efforts. It was a tremendous event that left the students feeling inspired, energized, and much better informed about how to plan their next steps. The four panelists certainly conveyed the idea that their upcoming transition to the “real world” need not be a scary one. The time and wisdom the panelists shared were such great gifts.