13 Aug

Don’t underestimate the power of passion

A person can succeed at almost anything for which they have unlimited enthusiasm.

Charles M. Schwab

I had the good fortune of being selected as one of the engineers to go to the 2012 Grace Hopper conference on behalf of Intuit. It’s really quite strange being on the other side of the table after having been a college student for five years. Suddenly, everything everyone ever told me made perfect sense. Now that recruiting season is almost upon us again, I wanted to bring up something that I noticed at last year’s conference.

After speaking with the endless amount of amazing talent at GHC, it became clear to me one thing that seemed to be lacking in even some of the most qualified candidates. Aside from the general advice everyone gives to technical candidates (study your data structures, brush up on those algorithms…etc.), there’s one specific thing that can make even the most inexperienced person someone that every company wants.

Are you ready for it?

Really ready for it?

Ok. Here it goes.

PASSION.

It’s as simple as that.

The best candidates are the ones that can barely hold back a wide grin when they talk about their favorite classes or the awesome project that they worked on. They’re the ones with the spark in their eyes when they describe what it was like to be involved in a student organization. They’re the ones with the delight in their voice as they describe the first time they wrote a simple mobile app that, by all means, isn’t the most technologically advanced thing most engineers will ever see, but it’ll sound like they’re describing how they discovered the cure for cancer. Those are the memorable ones.

Technical skills can always be developed. There’s no question about that. But, if the passion for problem solving and delivering something that can potentially revolutionize the world isn’t there, then it’ll never be there. That’s something that can’t be taught. You can fill your resume with amazing projects and a ridiculous number of technical skills that would make any recruiter drool, but if you don’t have any passion for the things you worked on, then people won’t be excited about you and what you can bring to the team. You’ll fade into the background, lost in the endless sea of resumes that get collected at these conferences and career fairs. Trust me, that’s the last thing you want to do.

05 Apr

Two steps forward, one step back

I recently received some advice that didn’t really click with me until a few moments ago. I’m like a sponge; as an early career person I feel as if it’s my duty to be exposed to everything and try to soak it all up. But, what happens when you feel as if your current opportunities aren’t giving you as much room to grow as you would like? Now to clarify there’s always room to grow, especially this early, but not every opportunity goes in the direction that’s right for you.

Now, what’s the advice you ask?

Don’t be apologetic about what you want.

I’ve always been very nice. I grew up in a culture where being respectful is everything, but I’ve always been mindful of the things that I want in life also. The general rule of thumb was to step on as few toes (if any) as possible to get to where I want.

I’m not in one of those situations currently. I’m in a position to stomp on more than a few toes if I really go after what I want and I’ve been quite wishy washy about making the decision. Even though this decision will most likely be a positive career change, it’ll probably burn some bridges. While it may seem like the best thing to do is to minimize the amount of damage I’m about the cause, it seems like this may unconsciously sabotage any respect people have for me because it seems like I just can’t make up my mind.

There’s an interesting article about 10 ways women are unconsciously sabotaging their careers. Number 2 rings true here.

It’s important for both men and women to be well liked at work-but you can’t build a career solely around being liked. The trick is to find a balance between being a wishy-washy “nice girl” and a woman who’s too headstrong.

Sheryl Sandberg talked about this in her book Lean In. She states that if you please everyone, you’re not making enough progress. Every time I change my mind about my situation, I’m taking two steps forward and one step back. It’s progress, but at this rate, I’ll never get to where I’m going. So now I’m going to live by these words…I’m not going to be apologetic about what I want. It might put me in a position that takes me out of my comfort zone, but there will never be a big reward without a bit of risk and improvisation involved. It’s just the way the industry works.

19 Apr

Where are all the men?

Considering the male to female ratio in computer science, asking for more men is generally not something I have to do much. There is one area that men seem to be lacking in though.

I decided to attend Celebrating Women in Computing So Cal Conference literally the day before the conference last weekend and I’m happy to say that it was a great experience. This is my first time attending one of these types of conferences and I regret never going before now.

There’s plenty of experiences that I could touch on from the conference itself, but I wanted to discuss a point that got me thinking that was brought up during dinner the first evening. We had been praising one of the guys for being one of the few males that attended the event and I began to question, why don’t more men attend these types of events? Most of the speakers, events and workshops had very interesting topics that would have attracted both men and women. Not only that, but the conference is called Celebrating Women in Computing. It shouldn’t be just women who celebrate the fact that they’re in computing. Men should also be a part of the process.

A few of the speakers urged for women to not only encourage other women to get involved in computing, but also to make sure that men understand the importance of getting the word out also. If only women are actively trying to recruit other women, it’s going to be exhausting. There’s not too many of us; let’s delegate some of the work.

As the President of the ACM student chapter at UCSD (The Computer Science and Engineering Society), I have the ability to speak to some of the guys in our department at our meetings. However, when I explained the benefits of outreach and urged them to volunteer and get involved, there wasn’t very much of a response. When we opened up our position for an outreach officer position, I received several inquiries and applications. Guess what? ALL of them were from women. Not even one guy was even remotely interested in getting involved in that aspect. I think this type of thinking needs to change if we want to significantly see a difference in the ratios of men and women in computing.

To all you men out there, help us.

Share your passion for computer science and engineering and help us outreach to the younger generations. Together we can change how computing is perceived and make the world take notice. Celebrate women in computing and we can celebrate together.

Cross posted at the WIC UCSD CWIC blog.