When I was a teenager growing up in suburban New Jersey, my first job was working at a convenience store. My primary task was to take all the Sunday advertisements and insert them into the newspapers. We sold hundreds of newspapers on Sunday mornings, and my boss praised me for the speed with which I completed this task.
After that, I took a job at a record store in a big shopping mall. When that got old, I worked at a sporting goods store at that same mall. Hanging out with my friends late one night, I was complaining about my job and a buddy said to me, “You gotta get out of retail, man.”
In that instant, I had a powerful moment of reflection. I thought to myself, What else is there? It was a serious thought. I mean, my days consisted of going to school, going to basketball practice, watching TV, doing homework, and going to bed. As a 16-year-old, if I’d wanted to get a job outside the retail sector, I wouldn’t have known where to begin.
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I took a few PSCS students on a field trip earlier this week. They’re taking a video game programming class with a volunteer, who invited the students to visit him at his workplace.
It was amazing. One of the students had never been in the downtown bus tunnel before, and peppered me with questions about how the bus system works. When we arrived downtown, students remarked about the various eccentricities of Seattle’s business district. It seemed new and interesting to them. We arrived at the workplace and met up with the volunteer. He let kids sit in his chair and mess around a bit on his computer. Then, we walked around meeting other programmers.
One guy spent about 15 minutes chatting with students, answering questions about the game he was working on. He said to the students, “I remember when I was your age, I played video games all the time. It never occurred to me that people actually made them. I somehow thought they just appeared.”
One student asked about 3-D modeling, and he showed them the software application he uses to create his games. He offered this advice: “If you want to become a game programmer, the best path is not to spend a lot of money paying for college. You’ll need some certificate to prove that you know what you’re doing, but the best use of your money is buying a really high-end piece of software and then learning how to use it. There’s tons of free online tutorials to help you learn.”
It was time to leave, so we headed back through downtown, back into the bus tunnel, and back to campus in time for their next class. One student said to me, “Thanks for taking us, Steve. That was awesome.”
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