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On April 14th, 2020 I was invited by my father, a middle school counselor, to talk to kids at his school about careers in tech for career day. Four classrooms worth of kids rotated through my room and I did my best to sell a career in tech as something interesting and rewarding.
For the kids who were especially disinterested I also gave some general advice on how to learn more about careers they’re interested in, how to network, and how they might get their first job.
Here’s the list of resources I came up with that I thought:
- Kids would find cool
- Would set them down a path of self-learning
Make Friends Who Code
Hack Club is a non-profit community that helps high-schoolers start and run programming clubs at their school. They also have a large online group and run cool events like a cross-country hackathon on a train.
Hack Club is a spiritual descendent to Hackathon Hackers and Highscool Hackers, Facebook groups from around the time I was in college that highschoolers and college kids formed as they travelled between and organized different hackathons.
I hung out with the Hack Club folks in Burlington, VT while my friend Zach Fogg was working there.
Make Video Games
This is a course that I have not audited but looked to me like a solid introduction to the most-popular programming related career path for middle schoolers: video game programming.
Pretty much every kid I talked to at the school who was interested in programming was interested in making video games. Some even showed me the characters they’d designed and music they composed for their video game ideas.
That was rad.
Become a Hacker
What’s cooler than being a hacker?
Yes I made sure to explain what it means to be an ethical hacker and why they should want to be white-hats.
Apparently this generated some funny comments to my Dad.
“Mr. Castrio, did you know that guy was teaching us to break into computers??”
First Robotics is a program that’s been around since before I was in middle-school to teach kids about robotics. Groups form to build and program bots to compete in challenges.
It wasn’t a program I participated in as a kid, but I did get to see a First competition at MIT as a kid that my Uncle invited me to on the same day that my little cousin Sarah was born.
What's the best job for me?
This quiz ended up being a great time-filler when I ran out of things to say.
I’m not much of a speech-maker and this was a good excuse to get kids out of their seats.
For the classes that weren’t already very interested in tech, which was about half of them, I tried to win over hearts and minds by relating this quiz to something like astrology.
KhanAcademy has great curriculum for subjects all the way from middle school up through the first years of college. They were a lifesaver for me when I was taking Calculus and Chemistry.
I haven’t tried out their intro to programming course but I figured it couldn’t hurt to introduce the kids to a resource that can carry them through their highschool years and beyond.
How much money do programmers make?
This website surveys engineers at popular companies to find out what they’re being paid. It’s eye-opening for anyone considering their career options to see just how much engineers are being paid at top companies.
Reviewing the latest stats gave me some pause and made me reconsider my current non-traditional career path. However, I still value freedom more than money.
Linktree & QR Codes
I used link tree to create a short link with all of these resources and generate QR codes which I printed out, cut into squares, and handed out at the beginning of my presentation.
Learn Programming | Linktree
Build robots, hack computers, make video games.
It was fun to play teacher for the day.
I had four classes of kids in total with about 20 kids in each class.
It seems to me that they’d been sorted by how interested they were in technology already. One class was super interested, filled with aspiring video-game designers. One class was mildly interested with a couple kids already learning programming. The other two groups were largely disinterested.
Taking a step back from the daily grind and trying to make all of this relatable to middle schoolers was an interesting experience.
Career day was only half a day long. We started around 8am and finished up by 11. That was plenty for my voice to get hoarse, to start to forget what I’d already said.
It was as much a performance as anything and I don’t envy the teachers who do this every day. They’re truly something else and their job is hard.
Looking forward to career day 2023.