Upon completing my undergraduate studies, I was faced with a difficult decision: do I face the real world head on or do I spend more time learning in graduate school? Nervous about the real world, thirsty for more knowledge about information security, and unsure of the answer to the dreaded question “What do you want to do with your life?” I chose to enter the Fast Track program at Syracuse University. I accepted the offer to graduate school, and am now two courses away from walking across the stage one more time.
Current undergraduate students have asked me countless questions about my decision. “Why did you go to grad school? Is it worth it? Is the work hard?” The truth is that graduate school means different things to different people. Every student will gain something different based on their program of study, their background, where they go to school, and other factors. However, regardless of these factors, there are a few important things to consider before choosing to attend graduate school.
1. What do you want to study?
Although this is a seemingly simple question, it is still one of the more difficult ones to answer. I still ask myself what it is that I am truly passionate about. Undergraduate studies have lots of fluff. You are required to take lots of liberal arts courses to broaden your horizons and help you figure out what you want. Graduate school is for those who know what they want. Courses you must take will all be directly related to your field of study. This is one of the things that makes graduate school so intense and focused. Be sure you know what you want before you devote hours of coursework to the topic.
2. Do you have any real world experiences to support your studies?
I found myself at a disadvantage as I started my graduate coursework. Students were older and more mature than I was. They had years of management, leadership, and work experience to draw from during class discussions. Starting my Masters as an undergraduate student left me with very little to contribute to some class discussions. Working a few years allows people to figure out what they like and don’t like (read #1).
Although you can learn a lot from textbooks and class lectures, nothing compares to real world experiences. Figuring out how the industry works can allow you to figure out how you work. Learn some more about yourself and bring that knowledge with you to a graduate program.
3. Who’s going to pay for it?
You’re probably sick of the student loan bills that have started coming in, and more debt probably sounds like it isn’t an option. Regardless of where you go to school, look into positions as a graduate assistant (GA), research assistant (RA), or faculty assistant (FA). Often times, these positions will provide good monetary compensation for your work. Whether it’s a stipend, tuition, or generous hourly pay, positions like these will help you greatly in terms of paying for your education. Make sure you inquire about positions like these within your program of study if finances are a concern.
4. What do you want to do with your life?
Everyone’s favorite question. I started looking for jobs within the past year and realized I should have started a long time ago. Internships, classes, as well as other real world experiences have led me to figure out the direction I’d like to take once I finish up school. As I page through job descriptions, I realize what it exactly is that employers want. Do the same for your field of study. Is a graduate degree necessary? It might be beneficial to look at the LinkedIn profiles of someone who works at your dream company. Did they go to graduate school? In some cases, a graduate degree is necessary while it may not be in other cases.
5. Do you really want to be here?
Writing this post became a big topic of conversation with some friends in graduate school. Joanna Kitts, a student in the International Relations Graduate Program at Maxwell, wrote that her biggest piece of advice “would be to consider whether you’re actually ready and want to go to grad school or whether you’re using it as an excuse to put off finding a job or because you don’t know what to do…because that’s what I did and I regret it a lot.”
Instead, Kitts suggests taking a gap year. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a year off or doing something that isn’t necessarily related to your field for a little while in order to figure out what you really want…I wish I had done that.”
Graduate school is a big decision! Make sure you take it all into consideration before making a final decision.
I went to the local college bar a week or two ago. I was sitting with some friends from my program, when someone I didn’t recognize started talking to me.
"I think we’re in a class together."
I felt bad, for I didn’t recognize him. I introduced myself and we started to talk about the class. He bought me a drink and we started to dive into our thoughts about the class. I felt indifferent about the class, but he started yelling in my ear about his frustrations with the class. Being uncomfortable with his loud voice directly in my ear, I started to tune out.
But then he started talking about my attitude toward the class. "You don’t have a SHIT" he said. "You stare blankly into your computer and you don’t even look up."
I told him that the class was frustrating to me because I already took it as an undergraduate so the material wasn’t challenging or refreshing. I told him that I felt stuck, and that the assignments in the course didn’t require me to recall that information anyway.
He started to scream again about how stupid the professor was. “He’s an idiot! He doesn’t know anything!” What the fuck is this!” he kept saying over and over.
His anger started to escalate more and more and I became even more uncomfortable. I told him that my feelings about the course were more towards apathy than anger. I told him I took steps outside the classroom to take advantage of my education rather that complain about it, but he didn’t want to hear anything of it.
I do understand his frustrations with the program. But it’s not enough to complain about it over whiskey. Do something. You’re here. You’re in a great program. Take advantage of it. Finish your drink and do something about it in the morning.
Okay, maybe not everyone, but I am.
I jumped right into my graduate degree. And by jump right in, I mean that I started it three years into my undergraduate degree. The program offered at my school allows you to start your Masters early and ultimately finish in half the time. You save on time, you save on money, and you get another degree. I was sold.
I was sold until I started to realize that I had no idea what I wanted. The classes I was taking overlapped with what I took as an undergraduate, which made me feel like my time wasn’t being well spent, contradicting the initial promises of the program. I was taking classes to fulfill requirements instead of enrolling in them because I wanted to be intellectually stimulated by the class topics.
I found myself intimidated by my new peers. Many of them were older, had years of work experience to discuss in context of classroom discussions, and knew exactly what they wanted to do after graduation. Meanwhile, I could count the number of internships I’ve had on one hand and couldn’t tell you what I wanted to do when I was finished with school.
"But you’re in grad school, shouldn’t you know?"
Yes, I probably should know. At least that’s what everyone thinks. Yet, I am still trying to figure out how society expects 20-somethings to know what they want with only minimal experience in the real world. Yes, there are internships to guide you and help you explore the possibilities. But there are so many possibilities out there, that it can be difficult to find the one place that makes you want to work the rest of your life. It is unbelievable that people can find their passion so young. Why is it so easy for some and so difficult for others?
I thought I liked information security so I started to fulfill requirements to receive a Certificate of Advanced Study in Information Security Management. However, now that I’m taking these classes, I’ve found that I don’t really want to do that anymore. “Great, now what?” I constantly think to myself. Time is running out and I still haven’t found the one thing that drives me professionally.
What’s so puzzling about education to me is that we are all expected to learn from books, PowerPoint slides, and homework assignments that really just require the ability to look up articles in a library database. I don’t learn from that. I learn by doing.
Sure, there are laboratory sessions I’ve taken time and time again that give you “hands on” experience in your field. But how can you compare a two hour lab session in a virtual environment to two months within an actual company?
An internship last summer cleared up some questions for me. I’ve found that I’m a manager at heart. My last internship helped me determine my strengths within the field as well find a job that fit the skills I possess. But I only found that information by stepping out of a classroom and thus, out of my comfort zone.
This isn’t just me. My friends are confused. People who are applying to grad school and willing to spend the money because school is a more legitimate excuse for a 20-something to not have a job than a unforgiving job market. People want time. People want to convince themselves that they grad school will help them figure out what they want.
Yet here I am, about six months from walking across a stage to shake some hands, and I am more lost than when I started. I, in no way, blame the program that I am a part of. As one of the best schools in the country, they provide several different opportunities for students to learn in different areas within technology. Perhaps the overwhelming possible tracks within technology also intimidate me. There is so much to explore, but so little time to get acquainted with each subject area.
It is a combination of my lack of experience, societal pressures, and skill sets in different areas that lead to my confusion. I am confused. I am taking risks by trying new things, pushing myself to learn outside of the classroom, reading and re-reading job descriptions online, and speaking with former professors. It seems as though some of them can tell me where I’ll be in ten years better than I can.
I will most likely return to NYC after I shake those hands and work at a company I previously interned with. I will get the long-term experience I have been sought throughout my college years. I will grow. I will learn by doing. I will meet people who live outside the Syracuse University bubble and have different experiences to share. Most importantly, I hope to figure it out.
I had a whirlwind of a summer.
I finished an internship at Fox News Channel yesterday. I was hesitant to take a position within a large company due to a disappointing experience I had with another large company two years ago. I applied to be a digital intern on a whim, and could not believe when they called me saying they wanted me to work there. I sat on my decisions for weeks, but ultimately decided to take the internship and give corporate a second chance. I didn’t want to totally dismiss the idea based on one experience, which was difficult for my (very) stubborn self to admit.
I typically get nervous easily, but found myself calm on the first day. I was amazed at the work environment they created. The staff put on Matt & Kim while interns filed in for orientation. The staff was young and enthusiastic, which was the complete opposite of *cough* other internships. People were willing to set aside time to share their experiences with me. Questions were welcome. Learning more and “why” was always an option. The work environment was welcoming. People laughed in the office and shared stories. We joked about news stories. People weren’t miserable.
I wasn’t used to this. It’s sad that people do live lives where work sucks their soul up and turns them into a miserable blob of a person. How awful.
My first internship made me so nervous about life post-grad. Are all corporate companies filled with cubicles?! Do people not socialize after work? Are people even happy to be here? I was so scared that the real world was just a mundane series of events on repeat that I sucked up every bit of college and got sick at the though of working in that lifestyle again.
I am pleased to say that I have personally found that all jobs are like that. I went out for an intern’s birthday about midway through the internship and one employee said to me, “Sorry you don’t stop having fun after college. Did we scar you?”
He was serious.
I told him, “No! That is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.”
I can discuss the technical and project management focused things I learned at the internship (which was a lot).I’m more thankful for finally being optimistic about my future. I’m confident that you can be happy at a job. I’m also more confident than ever that adults aren’t lame, miserable people who stop going out and having fun. In fact, it’s probably easier to afford more things when you have a salary.
There’s so much to say, but those are just my two cents. I have so many thoughts around that I’m just letting it all flow out into this blog post. Maybe I’ll write something more organized later.
This was life-changing and I’m so incredibly thankful.
I’m sorry I’ve completely neglected this blog. This was a place for me to write about technology, but I was hired as a blogger for Infospace and stopped posting here.
Rather than writing tech articles here, I may use this as a more professional blog. We’ll see how it goes.
You can google “The Blue Pages bandcamp” and get their album for free!
711,646 tweets were posted during the 2-hour soccer game from 433,797 different Twitter accounts. The most exciting moment during the game was at 19:55 UTC when Carli Lloyd scored the second US goal, which hit a peak of nearly 12K tweets per minute. At the end of the game, celebratory tweets about USA’s win skyrocketed up to around 22K tweets per minute.
Go ahead and Google Image search “Girls in IT” or “tech girls” and look at what pops up. You have to scroll down a bit before you find pictures of women working with computers (if you find them at all).
Why is this true? Even though women are working in and with technology, why is it so hard for some people to believe that women are working in the field and are here to stay?
Women in tech are known for things like Pinterest, which is stereotypically a female-dominated site. But people fail to think about the women who are leaving a mark in our everyday lives. Take Arianna Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post or Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. People think of Facebook and think of Zuckerberg, or Foursquare with Dennis Crowley, but why not eBay with Meg Whitman?
This summer, I’ve been working in the Syracuse Student Sandbox as a manger for the developers who are working with our startup teams. In a recent email to a friend discussing my position this summer, he said , ” it’s very rare to find someone I can geek out about IT to. And to a GIRL!? That is just crazy talk.” But why is it crazy? Is it absurd that I hold a position of power within a startup incubator or ludicrous that a girl can actually manage technical projects?
While some men are very accepting of women in the workplace, others are immature and refuse to acknowledge talent over looks. While working in corporate last summer, I traveled to different companies to make the most out of my experience. While in an elevator with two older males, I overheard them chatting about the new interns in the office. “Did you see the rack on the blonde intern? Damn!” They both laughed and continued talking about women in the office.Further discussing the issue, he wrote back saying “It definitely still feels like a man’s profession with the numbers I’ve seen at firms in the city (New York City). That being said, I’m always happy to see people breaking the mold…its a much more fun environment when its not just a bunch of dudes hanging out.” Although the atmosphere is more fun with women working, he failed to mention any increase in productivity, an introduction of new ideas, and different perspectives on problems within an IT firm.
As a peer advisor for the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, I’m often asked what it’s like to work in a field dominated by men. Parents and female prospective students are often surprised to here my candid response of “I don’t notice it.” I’m just like the guys, but I add value by bringing new ideas to the table with my feminine thought processes. I’m president of an organization and people tell me they’re so impressed by a woman holding a position of power. But why? I’m a person who studies and works hard; it doesn’t matter what my gender is.
So hey, boys. Women are here, they’re working, they’re making big changes, doing big things, and they’re here to stay. We’re more than a set of boobs in pencil skirts. Pay attention: there’s only more of us coming your way to rock the IT world.
Waking up on 9/11 was just like any other day for an elementary school student living in New York City. My mom woke me up, made me breakfast, got me dressed and I was out to door walking to school with my father. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my first-ever computer class that my teacher burst through the door, screamed that a plane hit the World Trade Center, and then started to sob. Not knowing what to say or do, we sat at our desks quietly as we listened to people screaming outside. As we saw smoke creep up the sidewalks and up to our windows, we panicked. Teachers who had access to a radio were talking about the rumors that were quickly spreading about other possible attacks. We heard about the possibility of bombs being placed in schools and I prayed for my mother and brother who were in academic buildings. My dad soon burst into my classroom and grabbed my hand, telling me we had to leave. We then sat around his office with his employees listening to the radio, watching people scurry around outside, and trying to put the pieces together.
But the radio was all we had. I didn’t have a cell phone to call my parents, nor did they have cell phones to contact my school. Twitter and Facebook had yet to be created, and there was certainly no TV nearby to listen to the news. We waited around our landline phones for calls from family members. At night, we watched one news station to try to figure out what was happening.
Waking up on July 20th, 2012 was just like any other day for a college student living in the digital world. I woke up, browsed through my Instagram feed on my iPhone, and then started to check out the tweets I missed while I was asleep. I anticipated seeing word of how the most recent Batman movie was, expecting to hear about how amazing it was mixed in with a negative review.
My Twitter feed was quickly filled with talk of movie theaters, children, and the horrific news of what happened the night before. Tweets of sadness, disbelief, and links to articles about the event were all that anyone was talking about. I read articles directly from my phone, retweeted links to spread the word, and continued to read reactions from people I followed. I then decided to run a general search on Twitter for Aurora to see what others were saying.Thinking that this may have been something personal that happened in her life, I dismissed the tweet and made a mental note to check back in with her later. Tweets posted shortly before this one included discussion of guns control laws, how people were in disbelief, and how sorry people were for victims in Aurora, CO. Feverishly scrolling through my Twitter feed, I quickly found the one tweet that summed up the events of the night.
It was only a matter of a few minutes before I knew the whole story. Facebook allowed us to keep track of what people were saying, along withReddit, Twitter’s search, and a Storify. I didn’t event get out of bed and yet, the news was sitting in various forms in the palms of my hands.
I then turned on my compter to watch the news about the horrible incident. (Mind you I do have a TV, but why would I watch it when I had a computer within arms reach?) My other roommate walked in, said that she checked Twitter and heard what happened, and then watched the news with me.
Checking Facebook later while at work, I stumbled across this status update. Developments, as well as continued condolences and reactions were overflowing the Internet.
News stations and Twitter accounts are still curating data and aggregating responses to best show the reaction to the news.Syracuse University is especially grateful to have Class of 2012 Class Marshall Stephen Barton (mentioned above) alive and well. News will continue to pour in today as more people share their personal accounts of the story and updates on the alleged shooter are further investigated.
And yet, I can access it all from something I can carry in my pocket. I have yet to turn on the tv, sit around a television with my family, or look outside to try and get the news.
Social media has given us the ability to discover information faster than ever, discuss thoughts, send condolences, and share reactions. Keeping up with the latest news or the ability to share your opinion with the world has never been easier, or more convenient. What a difference eleven years makes.
Note: I do not think the events of 9/11 are comparable to the events of the shooting early this morning, the stories were compared merely for a comparison of the spread of news. My heart goes out to the victims of this awful tragedy as well as family, friends, and those injured.
Everyone working in IT has heard it before: “You’re in the right field.” or “You’re in the right place at the right time, IT is booming.” There’s no doubt that IT is in fact the place to be in today’s world. School of Information Studies Professor Anthony Rotolo recently tweeted: #NewRule: It is no longer acceptable to say, “I’m not a technology person.”
The truth is, you’re a technologist if you know how to use your iPhone, if you can’t live without your laptop, and if you check social media more than you’d like to admit, you’re a technology person.
While it’s important to find your niche in the vast field of IT, it’s also important to be well-rounded. Not only do well-rounded technologists stand out in a pile of resumes, but you’ll be able to do, make, code, and organize projects that weren’t even thought of five years ago. Part of IT is always thinking of the next best thing. Being knowledgeable about code, design, organization, development, and testing are all key parts of being a knockout in the tech world.
Talk The Talk
IT is filled with protocols and acronyms that are constantly thrown around. “Did you set up the FTP client? Make sure there’s an SSL certificate on the site and don’t let the DNS server fail under any circumstances.” For people outside of IT, these letters are alphabet soup among other mind-boggling concepts. For an average person, going on the Internet is just opening a web browser. But for technologists, it’s about using DCHP to retrieve an IP address, connecting to an AP, etc., etc. Even if you don’t know how to set up an FTP client or a DNS server, it’s important to talk the talk and to actually know what you’re talking about. Nothing is more frustrating than someone who thinks they know what’s going on and ends up creating a technological mess. As a technologist, it’s important to know what’s going on and articulate it in a way that’s easy to understand, but also accurate.
Know The Code
Knowing how to code is one thing, but knowing about code is something completely different. Learning different programming languages and utilizing them is an undoubtedly great asset to have as a technologist. However, it’s not for everyone. Personally, I know a bit of a few coding languages. I can make a basic website and database and can recognize differences between languages. I know which languages serve which purposes but I don’t know enough (yet) to build my own product or service. The beauty of IT is that I don’t need to know this. While it’d be a great help if I did, I know enough to talk to developers about their style, the way they code, why they chose the languages they did, and how to read through code and understand it. Understanding can allow me to work more closely with developers than the average person but also understand the processes behind building a product. That in itself is incredibly valuable.
Know Project Management
You may know how about IT acronyms and how to code, but it may not go anywhere if you don’t know how to manage it all. Information is all around us, and it’s quite overwhelming to think of the information you can get with a few clicks and a couple of keystrokes. People are building all the time, and it requires a lot of managing and cycles before something is done right. Managing technological projects can be tough; it requires working with technologists and business folk alike to get something done. It’s important to know how to work with both parties and talk to them in a language each of them understands. Knowing both sides and connecting them can be difficult, but it pays off if it’s done correctly.
IT’s cross between management and technology, which used to be two completely different worlds, is now more ubiquitous than ever. Enthusiasts are bridging the gap between these two fields and creating innovative products and services that were previously unheard of. Even though some people gravitate towards the more technological side while others are interested in project management, knowing what’s on the other side and how to manage these two types of people can make you an incredibly valuable asset to any project team or company. It doesn’t hurt to have a strong area of interest or talent, but make sure you can back it up on the other side of IT too.