Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Thoughts on “Black in America: The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley”

There has been a lot of media attention thrown at Silicon Valley and a lack of diversity stemming from the CNN special “Black in America: The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley” that recently aired. Overall, I loved the program and wish it was longer than one hour with more depth. However, at the end I did have a concern.

My concern is that the program started the conversation about diversity in Silicon Valley (leading to conversations about diversity in IT overall) but I’m fearful that is all it will be. A short conversation. In order for things to improve, the conversation has to eventually lead to ideas, which lead to possible solutions. Six months down the road are we still going to be having this conversation? What about a year from now? Nothing get's accomplished if people talk without providing ideas.

I believe that if you are going to point out a problem, you need to be able to provide some possible resolutions and/or recommendations based upon the facts provided. Unfortunately, all I'm reading about in blogs and on Twitter is that there is a problem (racism, sexism and ageism has been a problem in IT for a long time not just limited to Silicon Valley). I'm not hearing any ideas on how to fix the problem.

That being said, I think the focus shouldn’t solely be on getting noticed for a good idea in Silicon Valley. Almost anyone can throw together an idea to present. The bigger picture should be on the fact that there are talented blacks (as well as women, Latinos, and other minorities) that are going unnoticed in Silicon Valley, as well as other parts of the country, when it comes to technological innovation. In other words, focus on getting noticed for your technical talent instead of just one good idea. Just like an athlete, when you get noticed for your talent and what you can bring to the table, then you become the center of attention. We need to find ways to get that attention. Once that is done, Silicon Valley will come.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Windows 8: Grabbed My Attention

Got my hands on the Windows 8 Developer Preview and I have to say that has got me interested in Windows again. Even though this is only a pre-beta developer's preview of the OS I can say that I like what I am seeing so far. Microsoft taking a risk to try something new with Windows.

I have it currently installed on a MacBook Pro running in VMware Fusion 4 and plan to install it on a Dell Optiplex 320 and maybe, hopefully, a Dell Inspiron Duo so that I can get a chance to use the touch features. More to come.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting into the IT field

As both an IT professional and an IT instructor, the one question that I get approached about the most is "How do I get a job in IT?". Here is the general advice that I give:

1. Decide what you want to do. You need to try to have an idea of what you want to do or what you enjoy doing most with computers. Fixing computers? Networking? Programming? Wed design?

2. Research. Once you decide on which direction you want to go in IT, do some research to learn what is needed to be successful in that area. Does it require a degree or any certifications? How much experience do companies generally expect in the area you are interested in? Don't walk into the IT field blindly.

3. Be realistic. The tech boom of the '90s has long passed. Don't walk into IT expecting an hugh salary starting out especially if you don't have any experience (or certifications or degrees). That entry-level job on the help desk might suck but it gets your foot in the door.

4. Take classes. This is especially important if you are making a career change. Take some classes at technical college or other continuing education courses that fit the area of IT that you want to enter. Adding some formal training to hands-on experience is great.

5. Practice. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Volunteer your services for free to get exposure as well as hand-on experience. Additionally, this also helps you build a reference list of people that can speak about your work.

6. Market yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and sell yourself.

7. Find a mentor. Get in contact with someone who has been in the industry for awhile who can help guide you and provide advice.

8. Get certified. While some people scoff at certifications, it is highly suggested that you earn a few certifications to add some credibility to your skills. Get certified in the areas that you are interested in.

9. Consider going back to school. There are tons of people looking to enter IT for the same reasons that you want to and at the same time there are many IT professionals who are without jobs. Things are competitive so you need to have that extra edge to make you stand out.

10. Join a professional organization. Whatever your interests, find an organization to join locally. This provides you a way to network with other IT professionals. HDI and AITP are two examples.
11. Consider starting a business. I constantly tell my students don't make it your goal to work for the Geek Squad but instead make your goal to start the NEXT Geek Squad. Sell your skills to profit for yourself first but remember not to quit your day job.