Options, Options, Options

06/22/2022 10:24 AM | Anonymous

by member Glenn Keller

I’m having a conversation with my cousin. He’s a trustee for a local university and they're trying to start up an engineering program. It’s a liberal arts school with an emphasis on the arts, especially music. He waits for me to stop laughing and reminds me they have excellent chemistry and physics programs. I concede the point and admit he may be onto something.

But where to find students? He is not going to compete with Rose-Hulman or Purdue, is he? He assures me that is not the idea. Besides, it's a religious affiliated school with a mission. They just want to nudge some of their current base into STEM.

We talk about STEAM, and I suggest that some of his future engineering students are probably studying cello and really don't know what in the world they are going to do with it. That can happen when you make a career path decision at 17 years old. They may even feel trapped with student debt and would welcome some options. Options are good. People that feel like they have options in finances, relationships and yes, in careers, are happier and more resilient. (And by the way, I didn't single out cellists on purpose, at least not consciously. More on that later.)

As my cousin and I spoke, I related the tale of a Computer Science professor who handed me an option. I was a theatre major, who could have probably found work but not enough to make a decent living. She encouraged me to make it my hobby and to go to graduate school for Computer Science.

"I can do that?”

"Of course, you can," she assured me, "and you're good at it.”

I didn't realize it was an option.

One of the reasons I was doing so well in that beginning comp sci class is that I worked really hard at it. I figured I might as well since I spent so much time in the lab. In fact, one of the lab assistants, a senior computer science major pointed out that "no one spends this much time in the computer lab.”

"I'm trying to do really well." I tried to sound convincing.

"Uh-huh." She was definitely on to me.

As it turned out, she didn't mind having me around. Oh, and I forgot to mention, besides being a computer science major, she was a cellist.

My cousin and I parted ways with him thinking about recruiting a few of their music majors into the new program.

I wonder how many people that are out there need a career option and don't realize it's staring them in the face. Music skills translate readily to mathematics and coding. Some of the technical aspects of theatre are not a whole lot different than designing and administering networks. So, the next time you attend a career fair, instead of just burying yourself with the informatics and comp sci people, try buttonholing a few music or theatre students. Because face it: you need options as well. Part of the mission of Women & Hi Tech is to help supply and drive awareness of those options. If you are seeking advice for a career change, new talent for your company, or simply a support system, I strongly encourage you to get involved with Women & Hi Tech!

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