Beyond the CS Degree: How to Build Your Career in Tech

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You’ve completed your CS degree, you’re hungry to start your tech career… but where do you go next and how do you excel?By Sramana Mitra (Founder, One Million by One Million)

It’s the same old story: the world of tech is saturated with men, and female CS grads are barely getting a look in. Here we are, encouraging women to get involved in tech, and yet role models are all too few and far between.

Google, for example, recently released report acknowledging the lack of diversity in their workforce. The company says most of its workforce is white (61 percent) and male (70 percent).

To be fair, by and large, this is not Google's fault. It simply reflects the fact that the nation's education systems have not been able to attract enough women and minorities into their Computer Science programs, hence, for Google (and other tech companies who have similar demographic distributions) there is no supply of trained workers to hire from.

So, is this cause for despair? Far from it. On the contrary, this is the perfect time for women in tech to get involved and change the tech landscape from the inside out.

Opportunity in Scarcity

For those women who do have a Computer Science background, this really is a golden opportunity. Here are some strategies that you can use to catapult yourself to highly successful careers in the technology industry.

Notice none of them actually have anything to do with your actual computer science skills. I am assuming, you have learnt those well, and continue to keep yourself current. These strategies are the extra elements that may get you to a much larger role in the industry.

Become a Role Model

The media is desperately looking for cool, interesting women doing cool, interesting things with their careers. Become one of those icons, so you can leverage the media attention that can put your career in fast gear.

Marissa Mayer is one of the best examples of a female computer scientist who gave the media a “story.” The media lapped it up. Marissa's career trajectory catapulted her to the top job at Yahoo!

Think, Write & Speak

In these days of pervasive social media, it's easy to develop a voice and find an audience, if you can write well. CNN's Fareed Zakaria was recently touting the advantages of knowing how to write. If you don't know how to write well, learn. It's one of the best investments you can make.

Nerds, often, cannot communicate well. Leaders, however, always do. Your aspiration should be to become a leader, not a nerd.

In that journey, public speaking is also a great asset. Develop a unique, well thought through point-of-view, and communicate it through the social media channels by writing, speaking, engaging in public debates and conversations.

Argue & Debate

Women tend to avoid conflict. Don't. If someone screams at you, feel free to scream right back. Learn to argue and defend your point of view in compelling ways.

Learn to Carry Yourself

Image matters. Instead of treating this as drudgery, being defensive about it, embrace the fun. Enjoy fashion. Develop a personal style. Make an aesthetic statement.

This, my observation, is a key issue today. One of the reasons we don't see as many women in computer science is that young girls tend to correlate computer science with nerdy looks and boring lifestyles. The icons and role models we're looking for today are those that are not only brilliant minds, but also have more style.

In other words, we're looking for feminine feminists.

Develop a Renaissance Mind

I believe, the next decade of innovation will be driven by people with renaissance minds, not the pure nerds and geeks. This, actually, plays to the strength of women, especially those who have studied not just computer science, but have also explored other liberal arts disciplines.

Do Not Quit

One of the greatest defeats of the feminist movement in America has been the phenomenon that women in the thirties are quitting the workforce in large numbers.

Many of them are highly educated, and just as they acquire sufficient experience to take on more substantial roles, the body clock sets off an alarm. Time to have babies.

However, family doesn’t mean the end of your career – it just means more juggling’s required. Whatever you do, please do not quit!

Take Risks

Entrepreneurship is a great way to give expression to a unique personal vision. Take risks to pursue that expression. Afraid of failure? Read: How Do You Overcome The Fear of Entrepreneurial Failure?

Stop Making Excuses

I don't believe there is gender discrimination in the tech industry IF you are good at what you do.

Have fun!

Are you a CS grad? How have you found the tech industry so far?


About the guest blogger: Sramana Mitra is the founder of One Million by One Million (1M/1M), a global virtual incubator that aims to help one million entrepreneurs globally to reach $1 million in revenue and beyond. She is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and strategy consultant, she writes the blog Sramana Mitra On Strategy, and is author of the Entrepreneur Journeys book series and Vision India 2020. From 2008 to 2010, Mitra was a columnist for Forbes. As an entrepreneur CEO, she ran three companies: DAIS, Intarka, and Uuma. Sramana has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.