BRATTLEBORO >> "What do you want to be when you grow up?" can be a daunting question for students who may not even know what they are going to eat for breakfast in the morning. Thursday afternoon, science teacher at Brattleboro Union High School, Dan Braden, aimed to alleviate some of that stress by introducing students to three professionals in the technology realm.
A video game developer, a web development and technology coordinator spoke about what led them to their work and offered suggestions about how to reach their career goals.
"You have to not only learn the skills, but also have to have the ability to look at situations and say 'yeah I'm going to invest some time into this, because I think this could pay off for me down the road,'" said Aaron Lamontagne, president of Interval Technology Partners, a web development company based in Walpole, N.H.
Last year BUHS and the Windham Regional Career Center collaborated to establish a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Academy and a Fine, Visual and Performing Arts Academy. In the STEM Academy, students can choose between two strands — biomedical or engineering. This past Thursday afternoon, Braden, who is also the outreach coordinator of the STEM academy, kept this month's speakers focused on tech careers. Thirty students signed up for Thursday's lecture and roughly that amount showed up. Some students were eager with questions and stayed afterward to talk with the speakers.
"With computers you sort of have to specify; you have networking, electronics and coding," said senior at BUHS, Aidan Paradis. "You can never know everything there is to know about computers, isn't that frustrating?"
Lamontagne responded to Paradis by explaining that though it's frustrating to not necessarily know "everything" about computers, one usually ends up falling into a specific "niche," and can earn a substantial living.
"Technology is always changing, and when you're looking for people on your team, you generally want people who can adapt to the changing technology," said speaker, Rich Gallup, executive producer at Disruptor Beam, a video game development company based in Framingham, Mass. "Yes it is good to specialize, but you can't stand still." Gallup acknowledged that if and when the students are faced with something they don't understand, to take on the obstacle as an opportunity to learn something new.
Robert Wickberg, technology coordinator at BUHS, was one of the guest speakers for the event, and added to Paradis' question. "I think if you're in the right field you'll find it challenging, but not frustrating,"he said. "Ideally, when you're searching for a career, find something you like to do, and then figure out a way to make money doing it so that that internal reward of doing what you love comes first, and then the money comes along afterward."
Other discussion was prompted by questions from students such as Colin Costa-Walsh and Liam Reynolds who asked about scale and development and how to handle stress. Gallup said that he believes stress is self-inflicted and suggested to search ways to convert that into "healthy stress." Paradis also chimed in several other times throughout the lecture and was looking for some insight on what a mobile game developer had told me while he was visiting Champlain College.
"She basically told us to our faces, don't go into video games," said Paradis.
Gallup responded, "I would take that as a challenge, don't take that as a direction."
At one point, the lecture became a conversation between Paradis and Gallup who was live video chatting from his work place.
"A minute ago you said that you 'lucked into your career, so if that's the standard, can I only expect to get where I want to get with some luck?" Without hesitation, Gallup, said, "Yes," but that it is about "managing" that luck through skill development as well being located where jobs are available and presenting themselves professionally. Gallup also suggested to the students that they show future employers the work they have already completed or that they are designing.
Lamontagne noted that the students are at a great advantage because they have tools such as Youtube where they can visually learn the specifics of code or something tech related.
The students were not only left with an immense amount of suggestions from the three professionals, but Braden also made them aware of three classes that will be offered to help them build their future career: 3D Modeling in Maya taught by graphic design teacher, Braelyn Ingvoldstad; a virtual high school class in programming or a "start your own business course," through the Windham Regional Career Center.
Gallup agreed that the thousand dollar Maya program would be worth their time if they are seriosly invested in further a career in technology. "That will take you places."