Doing the Hard Stuff
I must admit several things in order to be plain here. Part of my dream was driven by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock. When it came time to repair a shuttle engine, built a tri-corder from vacuum tubes or mentally calculate slingshot equations around a star, Spock could do it. I wanted to be that guy.
The other thing I’ll admit is that there are a lot of very smart, talented, and motivated students all over the world. I’ve met many. Read about many more.
That said, I’m hearing a lot of stories about young students who just want to get by with the minimum. Rationalizations abound. There’s no need to know everything. There’s no time to dream up their own problems and test the code on their own computers. Word problems that invoke spaceflight or science seem tiresome. Every effort is made to get by with the minimum of effort. A few, here and there, cut many corners because they can’t wait to get on with life. After all, everything seems so easy on TV.
In one of my Background Mode podcasts, I asked astrophysicist Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann how long it took from her freshman year of college until she landed a faculty position. Answer: 16 years of continuous work: Masters. Ph.D. several Post-doc appointments.
What Employers Want
From my own career experience, I can affirm that any reasonably sized company has broad computing needs. There will be pockets of every kind of computing endeavor. Java and Python on Linux. macOS on MacBook Pros used by the engineers. The IT department will generally favor the all-embracing enterprise solutions provided by Microsoft. There may be a massive and complex SAN system. There will be a security group that lives and breathes Linux. There will be engineers working on a giant contract, and the decision was made to use C++. Payroll needs an experienced Oracle guru. Positions posted on the internet.
Because of this, employers are looking for graduating students who have a broad range of skills. Ones who have matured enough to see themselves as beginning to take on the responsibilities of a seasoned, talented employee who can handle a wide range of challenges with many different tools.
Snark about operating systems and languages might impress others in school, but out in the real world, vision, motivation, talent, depth of knowledge, and real skils rule.
The emergence of advanced technologies such as digital movie making, artificial intelligence, robots, genetic research, biophysics, interplanetary spaceflight, augmented reality, virtual reality and autonomous systems means that the skill levels required have reached enormous heights.
Someday, and probably soon, a door will open. Be ready.