Starting a high-tech career: Part 4
© Douglas E. Welch 1997
Getting your first job is only one step on the path to a computer
career. Just because you have a job doesn't mean you stop learning.
In fact, it usually means that you are learning even more about
computers and learning it even more quickly.
When you have a job it becomes easier to learn about computers
since you are exposed to them everyday. Part of any computer job
is learning about the quirks and traps of the systems around you.
Unfortunately, this can lead to tunnel vision about not only your
own company, but also about the computer industry as a whole.
Many companies use one computer platform exclusively and this
can cause your skills on other platforms to atrophy. While it
isn't directly related to company business, it is in your best
interest to keep abreast of development and changes in other computer
platforms. You can never tell when you might need a new solution
that only a different platform can provide.
Never turn down the opportunity for training. Even the worst training
class can produce nuggets of information, new techniques, new
commands or new processes that can be extremely useful. You will
have even more access to cheap or free vendors seminars and training
than you had before. A good manager will see the need for time-off
to attend these classes and hopefully, help build your skills
Hobbyist no more?
Just because you work with computers doesn't mean that they will
stop being a hobby for you. My work has always benefited from
my continuing computer hobby. Your hobby will probably have a
different focus from your day-to-day work and this helps it to
remain a hobby. Of course, the best feature of a hobby is that
it will often yield serendipitous results by providing answers
to problems you might be having on your job.
Sometimes working with computers can be a "job" in the worst sense
when you are facing the same tasks and problems day after day
at the office. A hobby can help to insure that you still have
fun with your computer and avoid the burnout possible with any
The Need for Speed
The biggest problem we all face is the extreme speed of obsolescence
in the computer industry. Knowledge that is critical today can
be worthless tomorrow. It is important to understand this fact
and learn to live with it. You must read your trade magazines,
browse the Internet and talk with your peers so that you can continue
to be an asset to both yourself and your company. Don't become
trapped in the myth of "that is the way we have always done it."
It is rare that the solution that worked last week will work perfectly
today. Your high tech career is one of extreme change and extreme
volatility. Embrace this as an opportunity to learn more, not
an insurmountable challenge.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. While he cannot answer every letter directly,
he welcomes questions and suggestions. Douglas can reached via
email at email@example.com or http://home.earthlink.net/~dewelch/