I was recently invited to attend a luncheon for new Microsoft interns. They wanted me to discuss my background and thoughts about how to be successful in a tech-focused career.
After thinking about it for a while, I came up with three points to share with the group – I thought it was interesting enough (based on the questions/feedback) to share here:
- Be passionate about what you do – the best work experiences in my life have been when I’ve worked on things I am extremely passionate about. Conversely, the least favorite experiences have been when I’ve worked about things where my interest level is lukewarm. Life is short; spend your time working on things for which you have a true passion. These will vary by person but have similar characteristics. You’ll know you’re in deep when you don’t notice/care what time/day it is. When your bills start piling up because you’re never home. When your significant other starts calling herself a “startup widow”. When you’ve lived in the same place for three years and you meet some neighbors who tell you that they thought your place was “vacant for the last three years”. If you find yourself in a position that you aren’t passionate about, move on and do it quickly.
- Stay up to date – Mary Meeker states (Slide 5) that there will be more Smart phones shipping in 2012 than desktops/laptops. There wasn’t an intern in the room whose undergrad curriculum focused on this – the point being that things are forever changing in technology. Whatever your area of passion is (from #1 above), once you embark on a career you have to constantly work to stay abreast of the changes via blogs, thought leaders on Twitter, etc.
- Get your hands dirty – experience increases your value immensely. Whether this means choosing from a wider variety of projects within a company and/or ability to raise venture and start a company. The best way to gain experience is to dive headfirst into a project and immerse yourself. If you’re a developer, the best thing (IMO) to do is to write code as much as possible. Sitting in meetings all day won’t get you to the magic 10,000 hours you are going to need to become an expert.