Michael Nigohosian

Article Summary:

How can you gain real-world IT experience while still in school?

Gaining Real World IT Experience While You're Still In School

Many students desire to gain "real-world" experience to get a jumpstart in their new careers, and this is great. This article will discuss a few ways to get some real-world exposure to the computer science profession.

College and the Real World
To start off, the student must realize that college and most technical training programs give you the tools you need so you can understand the concepts of the real world. They are designed to teach you the fundamentals of your trade, so that you may make a smooth transition to the real world. And they do a pretty good job of it.

But, if you want more than what a typical training program will give you and want to expose yourself to the real world, it is up to you to gain that knowledge.

Here are some ways you might do that:

(Note: It is rather important that you have a very solid foundation in the fundamentals of your discipline. Those fundamentals are taught in the courses you are taking. Otherwise, you will only frustrate yourself when you try to understand new, real-world concepts.)

Technical Trade Books
There are numerous books out there that have real-world case studies and the corresponding logic used to solve the problems.

The following paragraphs are from The Secret Path To Contract Programming Riches in a section that describes how to quickly become an expert:

"Find technical books written by industry experts that have many years of experience and study every word over and over until the information and its use becomes second nature to you. Most importantly, find books written by those who were involved with the development of the tool (programming language or development environment) you are using. They have first-hand insight into the technology and as such have an important perspective to reveal.

Along with these books, you should also study books written by those who apply the technology in the same way you will. For example, let's say you will be a contract programmer using C++. In this case, ideally, you need to find a book written by a contract programmer or consultant that has many years of experience programming in C++. This is important; for the author will reveal tips and secrets he or she has learned as a result of that experience. This is where you get the opportunity to condense your experience by learning from the experiences of experts. But, you absolutely must study these books with a fine toothcomb and not let anything go by not understood."

"If the trade books you are studying have chapters that specifically deal with real-world problems, go through them with a fine toothcomb and do every example given there. You must master these. The authors are revealing points of crucial consequence when on the job. Make sure you understand everything here. They will tell you things you won't find in textbooks and provide you with [knowledge] anyone else can only get while on the job."

Computer science newsgroups can give you a huge head start in your career if you use them properly. Very often, real-world questions are posted, which will give you a good idea of what is being done in the real world.

The following paragraphs are from The Secret Path To Contract Programming Riches in a section that describes how to take advantage of newsgroups to enhance you career:

"As I've mentioned elsewhere, you should subscribe to special interest newsgroups. One of my favorite starting places is at: http://groups.google.com, which includes Usenet newsgroups and other popular forums. Within these newsgroups you can read and answer peoples' questions on problems they are having with their development tool.

This will give you practice and insight into real-world problems. Many questions are fairly advanced and they will force you to delve deep into your knowledge base to come up with a solution. But don't get discouraged here. People with lots of experience and advanced knowledge post questions. What's even greater about these newsgroups is the fact that most of the time the corresponding solutions, posted by others, are right there along with the original question. Thus, you're able to see how others went about solving the problem. This is an EXTREMELY VALUABLE medium for learning. Don't let this pass you by.

You should read through development questions and try to answer some a few times a week. Don't be intimidated if you can't answer any questions. Remember that most questions posted to these newsgroups come from people who have unsuccessfully tried everything they knew how to solve a problem. Thus, these questions are generally among the cream of the crop, as far as hard questions go. Use your trade books to find the solutions to the questions and post those solutions to the newsgroup. You will get tremendous experience from this. Since most questions come from people working in industry, you will be exposed to real-word scenarios that will help you better judge what and how to study in the future."

Part-time Work
I prefer finding part-time jobs working in your field rather than internships or co-op programs. But, internships and co-ops are very useful too.

You see getting a part-time job where you do actual work can give you more experience under similar pressures of a real-world job as opposed to internships, which are programs that in many ways "baby" you and don't let you experience real-world pressures and projects. Don't mistake this for a criticism of internships. They have their place and I have done them. But, I believe by working a part-time job you obtain on your own gives you more real experience and exposure to real-world projects and a better resume.

So instead of finding a college job at your local fast food restaurant, find a part-time job at a nearby company that has an IT department and work there.

In conclusion, if you put your mind to it, you can actually gain a lot of real-world insight and useful, real-world experience by putting in an extra effort and doing more than is expected of you in your training programming, by utilizing advanced trade books, newsgroups and strategic part-time jobs.

Michael Nigohosian is the author of the award-winning and bestselling series, "The Secret Path to Contract Programming Riches" (available in trade paper, audio CD, and Adobe eBook at major bookstores, Amazon.com and www.mwwcorp.com). He is the creator and instructor for the course "Introduction to Contract Programming." Michael is a veteran computer consultant and also serves as director of Rapid Mastery Technology" at McGillis, Wilcox, Webster & Co., Inc.". For more information, visit www.mwwcorp.com.

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