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Tech Jobs For a Student? 399

Nick Manley writes "I turned 17 back in August and have been fascinated with technology my entire life. I have a special interest in software and computer programming. I am really hoping to find a job, or at least an internship, where I can learn more about my field and expand my knowledge of software development. Does anyone have recommendations for someone like myself, without any college education, for ways to get a head start on my career? Preferably, one that doesn't include selling iPods to kids at Best Buy."
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Tech Jobs For a Student?

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  • My advice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drdanny_orig ( 585847 ) * on Saturday November 04, 2006 @09:47PM (#16720935)
    Go to college, take neat classes, be well rounded. Learn to read, learn to think, learn to write (English first, then C++/Python/Java, what-have you). All of that, plus enjoying these next few years of life is way way more important than an internship or being some Google-head's code slave for a summer. Plenty of time for work after you've had some fun. And yes, I'm completely serious about this.
  • Don't overcommit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Saturday November 04, 2006 @09:54PM (#16720993) Homepage Journal
    You're seventeen? That's way too you to commit yourself to a career. ( Not meaning to imply that you're stupid or have poor judgement, just that you haven't had time to see a lot of the world and the different ways that it can be viewed ) If programming interests you, do it for fun.

    Speaking as an employer, technical skills - beyond a bare minimum - are seldom the most important thing that you can bring to a job interview. Being articulate both verbal and written - helps a lot. Having a history of jobs ( even flipping burgers ) in which your former boss will give you a good recommendation - showed up on time, cooperated with fellow employees, didn't steal, didn't drink or toke on the job, etc - really may be the most important thing.

    You're only seventeen and the world is your oyster. Don't commit too early. Try several jobs, try several majors, travel a bit; find out more about the world. Then choose.
  • by juushin ( 632556 ) on Saturday November 04, 2006 @09:58PM (#16721025)
    I am a professor at a large highly ranked national university and I hire students that can code (high school or whatever). I have tons of projects I would like to work on that require programming (typically in Matlab but also in other programs), I don't have time to do it all myself, and I am in a department in the life sciences where we don't necessarily get students who can program. I agree with Czyl. Contact a professor at a local college/university and I think that you will find an opportunity. Make sure you come across as being motivated, smart, and dependable.
  • Re:Are you buying? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by daeg ( 828071 ) on Saturday November 04, 2006 @10:26PM (#16721241)
    That's a load of crap. Unless the kid has made terrible financial decisions already (like taking out fraudulent credit cards), you can still get loans that are in a grace period until you are out of school. Sure, they are higher interest than subsidized loans, but most state schools are cheap for in-state residents. It's no Harvard or MIT, but it's better than nothing.

    At 17, go get a job. Any job. Your primary focus should be school and extracurricular things. Enjoy high school while you still can -- senior year is your best year. Go to the football games. Help the cheerleaders in their volunteer car wash. Smear Vaseline all over the car doorhandles in the junior parking lot. Go get laid.

    Unless you are some sort of technical genius, no one will care what jobs you had pre-college. At best it is something to joke with during an interview (college interview or a job interview). Everyone has their horrible first job stories to tell.

    When you get into school, you can probably get a job supervising a campus computer lab. Maybe working on the school website or helping out the newspaper (there is a lot of technical behind-the-scenes to a paper). If your campus has mass media degrees, they likely have a radio/news channel, too, which is more technical experience. Second and third year you can probably tutor. The last year or two you can look for internships. They may or may not be directly related. I got a job working for a large insurance company doing technical writing at $23.50/hour -- not bad for a college kid.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday November 05, 2006 @03:08AM (#16722773) Journal

    I'm speaking as a 16-year old currently in community college and seriously considering not continuing on to a four-year.

    Of course it's your decision, but I would strongly recommend against skipping university.

    I know it's insanely arrogant of me to think this way, but my opinion is, if 9 out of 10 places will throw my resume away because it doesn't have a line of text on it, I wouldn't want to work for those 9.

    That's fine. I probably wouldn't either. But what if you're applying to the 10th one, and someone else with a degree also applies? Which of you is more likely to get the job?

    if I spend the next 6 years learning to code - which I actually consider fun - instead of living in a place I'll hate taking classes I hate and leeching my parent's retirement fund, I think I could get to a point where I can stand on something other than a piece of paper

    If you go to university to learn to code, you are going to waste your time. I first started programming aged 7 and when I got to university I was already pretty fluent in three or four programming languages (these days I've lost count, and I tend to pick up new ones fairly frequently). Programming is a really, really small part of a computer science degree, however. What you learn will still help you, however. Some useful things I learned, which I probably would not have learned studying on my own:

    • Exactly how a compiler translates the code I write into machine code (and what it will generate), which is essential for writing really optimised code.
    • How to analyse the complexity of an algorithm to determine its worst-case performance.
    • When to disregard that assessment, because I know that the algorithm will get much better performance on the data I'm feeding it.
    • A whole bunch of game theory and graph theory that I draw on when designing algorithms and data structures.
    • Exactly what an OS is doing when I make a system call, and how to make use of this efficiently (and how to change it when it's not doing what I want).

    And I got the piece of paper. The thing about that piece of paper is not that it says I can write code (it doesn't), it says I can stick at something for three years, and it says that I have the ability to learn everything required to get a degree in three years.

    When I was your age (I'm now 24, by the way, and about to finish a PhD), I really hated it when people began sentences 'when I was your age.' I also wanted to be a programmer (actually, at 16 I was torn between programmer and IP lawyer, but that's another story). Now, I do write code (and do a bit of consulting), but primarily I'm a tech writer / journalist. Having a degree makes it a lot easier to switch fields, because it shows your first employer in your new area that you have the ability to learn something new. You may still want to be a programmer in 10 years time, but if you don't (or if there aren't any programming jobs around then), it helps to have a diverse skill set and evidence to back it up.

    College is not about the paper, it's about learning about life.

    University is what you make it. In the UK, we have four classes of degrees; first class (first), upper second class(2.1), lower second class (2.2), and third class (third). The advice I was given, which I still consider good, was to make sure I didn't get a 2.2. Either do well academically, and get a first or a 2.1, or do something really interesting with your time there (direct plays, or whatever) and get a third, but avoid getting a 2.2 and not having anything else to show for your time there. If a university has a good computer society, this may well help you in several ways. For me, administrating the society's network taught me a lot about Linux. For others, meeting older members who are now working for companies like Red Hat got them their first job.

    Whatever happens, you are likely to meet a lot of interesting and clever people at a university, and encounte

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun