Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

I want an apprentice

September 12, 2003

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Yes, that’s right. I want an apprentice. Not some Dickensian, child in forced-labor kind of apprentice, of course, or even a Donald Trump–type apprentice (I added this just for the podcast version - Douglas, 5/31/05) , but someone who wants to know what I know about technology. Someone who wants to begin their career with all the advantages that weren’t available when I was starting mine. Even more, I wonder why no one has sought out myself (or any of you readers) to help them start their high-tech career.

Who can you turn to?

When I was starting my career, there was simply no one to turn to if you wanted to learn about PCs. Colleges were still immersed in their programmer-centric discipline and computers weren’t common enough accessories to find many friends that could help you, either. Those of us who could find one another started user groups, but even then we were divided by incompatible hardware and software. If you wanted to learn about PCs, you were on your own.

Of course, now the situation has changed dramatically. Chances are that most of your friends and relatives have computers, many running the same MS Windows. You can trade information and learn much more quickly. That said, there is still a dearth of people to teach you how to work in high-tech as a career, or start a high-tech business of your own.

Knowledge for the taking

Many of us have a great desire to share our high-tech knowledge with others. This is how I came to writing in the first place. It was another way to “get the word out” to those who could benefit from my experience. Perhaps you give classes at a local library or college or are an executive on a user group committee. Whatever the reason, we like sharing.

This should be the perfect opportunity for someone who wants to learn about high-tech as a career. Back in my college days, I would have begged for someone who could help me walk through the minefields of a high-tech life so that I didn’t have to suffer all the setbacks they had already experienced. Which leads me to wonder, where are the newcomers and why aren’t they seeking out this repository of knowledge we carry around?
Other sources

To answer my own question, of course, nowadays there are alternative methods of gaining our knowledge and that of thousands of others. The Internet has the power to connect anyone to more information than one person could ever hope to absorb. Friends and relatives are more advanced in their computer skills. The world is simply more computer literate. Still, I often read email and discussion group postings about the basic issues of building a high-tech career – how much to charge – where to work – corporate or freelance. It seems there is a disconnect between those of us who are working in high-tech and those who want to join the club.

Speaking for myself, perhaps I come across as too old and too much of a grump for people to seek me out. Maybe they don’t think I am on the cutting (make that, bleeding edge) enough to offer any insight. Maybe they already know everything they need to know. Whatever the reason, I don’t get half as many questions as I expected when I first started writing about technology.


A modern-day apprenticeship could benefit everyone involved. High-tech workers could feel good about passing on their knowledge while gaining the use of a set of hands along with a willing and eager mind. I have no desire to have “employees”, but I would welcome the assistance of an apprentice on my rounds. Apprentices could try on the trappings of a high-tech career before committing to it as a vocation. If they like it, they could learn at the accelerated pace that practical knowledge and exposure brings. The idea of apprenticeship works in both the corporate world and the world of freelance. I have always thought there should be a more structured method of introducing new high-tech workers into a company. Even today, many are left to sink and swim on their own , struggling to learn how the company works, as well as learning about the technology. We should all expect better.

Get in touch

Whether you are already established in your high-tech career, or just starting out, I would be interested in hearing your comments on this. Are you looking for an apprentice, too? Are you looking to be an apprentice to a knowledgeable high-tech worker? Are any of you involved in some type of an arrangement like this? Drop me a line and fill me in on the state of apprenticeship in high-tech and the state of your high-tech career.

Book of the week: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni


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