I’m only 13, but eventually I want to do something with technology, probably with Microsoft or Apple. How can I prepare myself? For example, pro athletes at an early age train to prepare themselves, so what can I do?
– Techie in Training
First I want to congratulate you on knowing what you want to do with your career this early on. As with any aspiring athlete or engineer, there are few things you want to do to grow your skills appropriately and ensure this is what you want to do.
1. Follow the industry: Aspiring basketball players would likely read up on their favorite athlete, coach, and team and follow the latest news, blogs and stats from the sport.
Do the same with the software engineering world. You will learn a lot about how leaders became successful. Through your research, you’ll become knowledgeable about the industry and start to develop a game plan. For example, if you love gaming, you would undoubtedly follow game developers, your favorite titles, and read up on what game developers really do and what skills they call upon in their day to day job.
2. Don’t forget nutrition, conditioning, and league play: Nutrition and conditioning are important to any athlete. They’re the foundation to a successful career. As an aspiring engineer, your nutrition is your school work. Loading up on math and science classes and participating in technology clubs will give you the nourishment you need as an engineer and is very appropriate for engineering students.
Conditioning is an area that requires a little more effort. You will need to take that technology you learned in school and apply it. See if you can develop your own game, tool, or site: Once you have created something on your own, you can flex the muscle you have just developed.
And last but not least, play your sport even if you are at the JV level. Michael Jordan didn’t make varsity basketball the first time he tried out and that didn’t stop him. There is nothing like participating in engineering team events and meeting other people your age with the same goal. You can gain a lot and make some friends along the way. League play also lets you learn teamwork, quality, and achieving as a team.
3. Model your plans after the big league: In the software world at Microsoft, you have to determine if you want to be a Pat Riley (Program Manager), Jon Starks (Developer), or Patrick Ewing (Developer in Test). Learning the roles can also help you figure out what you want to do , what you might be most successful at, and which traits you will need to make it in these different roles.
Pat Riley always pushed the envelope with his team and got them to do some amazing things, as with any great PM at Microsoft. Jon Starks scored points and drove the ball to the hoop, as a developer writing quality code to ship is the name of your game. Patrick Ewing was versatile and could block like no other and make baskets, as developers in test blocks bugs and helps the team ensure quality.
You can apply all of this—passion, devotion, and strong execution—to your future career in engineering. Each path is different but now you have a few fundamentals to think about.
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