During the course of my experiences as a parent and as an active tech community member, I have had opportunities to observe students-- both mentored and not mentored--who have worked on websites and who use technology at various skill levels. I have also heard a LOT of talk from the IT community about the value of diversity in the work force and the lack of diversity in IT. Concern that minority students are not looking at IT positions as likely possibilities for their career choices is a "hot" topic, but I fear that there is too much talk and not a lot of action. Therefore, I want to propose a call to action and outline a few key ideas.
First, why does this matter to me? I love technology and most of all, I love technological advancements. I solve all the problems I can every day, using the mind and tools that I have. The problems I cannot solve (or the problems I cannot see) will require someone who thinks differently than I do. This is where diversity and new blood comes in. I want people who don’t think like me looking at the problem areas. When diverse minds can work as a team-- bringing together many different points of view to take a look at a problems--the possibility of solving the problem is much greater, and better yet, the possibility for making new technological advancements related to "the problem" is much more likely.
In my opinion, many people who become teachers do so right out of college and are academic minded. IT related skills are generally learned on the job. This means most of our educators do not have ample opportunity to build and enhance IT skills. What we need is IT workers with enhanced IT skills to dedicate some time to get involved in the education process. How do we do that? At the lowest level - just start talking to others around you. Become an influencer. You can start with your neighbor, your family, your nephews and nieces.
IT careers are being overlooked by people who would bring a lot to the field and contribute to it because the depth and breadth of possible career paths is not understood by minorities and students (no, I don’t care why this is… I just want to get into how do we fix it). In my experience, people of any age can learn IT-related skills and do well , but IT professionals have a difficult time making time outside of work to mentor others.
So here is my call to actions with related time it could take:
(15-30 min) 1. Go to your local junior high and high school and give them a flyer that they can display or hand out to students to make sure they are aware of the FREE tools Microsoft offers students https://www.dreamspark.com
(1-2 hours) 2. Make an effort to talk to a teacher/guidance counselor about IT positions and the vast opportunities for students.
(1-2 hours and a little effort) 3. Go to a school and ask if there is an opportunity to talk about what you do and take questions.
(up to you) 4. Mentor, Mentor, Mentor! Don’t agree to do a website for an organization, agree to mentor students or someone who would like to explore IT to develop it.
(no additional time ) 5. If you blog, set up a category for students/beginners and mark blog posts that contain appropriate skill level instruction.
[insert more of your own ideas here]
So I started this with "Why does the diversity issue matter to me," and I am ending with "Why shouldn’t this matter to everyone?" Our world is built on technological advancements. I am not asking anyone to leave their IT career and become a teacher. On the contrary, I think we make the best impact exactly where we are. My call to action at the lowest level is merely a request that we all start talking to people outside of IT about IT. Encourage others to get involved. Stop by a school and ask them to make the students aware of FREE tools available to them. Then, when you can, mentor others to help them do things for themselves.