I did a talk at the Computer Forum at Stanford a couple of weeks ago that I thought went well: it was a seminar for engineering grads and undergrads about career paths and how to navigate them. I thought I’d post the slides here.
Speaking at Stanford is unique in that these folks are not stressed about finding a job and avoiding moving in with their parents. They know they will have many great opportunities, and choosing between them is daunting.
I had some fascinating conversations after class. Many of the folks, even the undergrads, are already involved in several startups and are also juggling offers from Google, Facebook, and the other big folks.
A few themes that we covered that I hope come out in the slides:
- There are no set career paths any more. There are simply a set of decisions you make along the way, each of which need to be made with the best available information but also with the best effort to stay true to who you are and what you want to do.
- Even if you are strictly an engineer, don’t be intimidated by “business stuff.” In fact, given how few counter examples there are, many non-technical MBAs over in the business school are just as intimidated if they want to start a company and see few non-technical folks doing the same.
- You can be good at more than one thing (big company or small company. management track or technical track).
- Make choices that teach you what you want to learn, introduce you to people you want to work with, and let you do things you like. Don’t worry about what your teachers, friends, parents, or some “future employer” will judge you on.
- Focus on foundational skills that will serve you in any situation, and be wary about developing connections and skills that will only serve you inside of a single bureaucracy. Once you get laid off from that situation, you will be left high and dry.
- Be wary of “seeking job security.” Seek “career security.” If you seek “job security,” you may get neither “job” nor “career” security.