A few years ago, I talked with a recruiter from a large, Silicon Valley tech company. His message was they were looking for “rock stars” to hire, and I should encourage my “rock star” graduates to apply there. The “rock star” message was repeated numerous times, and I confess that I found it a little disconcerting. For one thing, it didn’t seem a very inclusive mindset (and this company, like many in Silicon Valley, was sorely lacking in diversity). But, having taught all my life at smaller colleges, it also made me think about my students – some of whom were amazing and some of whom were bright, hard-working, and self-motivated, but would no doubt fall short of Silicon Valley “rock stardom.” Many of those students have gone on to challenging and fulfilling careers that make a difference in the world.
To extend the “rock star” metaphor, you need a lot more than a rock star to put on a show. You need backup singers, musicians, stage directors, lighting technicians, caterers, roadies, and so on. Similarly, there are all kinds of careers in computing that are essential to society, challenging to creative minds, lucrative, and in high demand. They don’t all require the same skill sets or lifestyles. As I work with students, I constantly remind myself that there are many such paths. A student who struggles with object-oriented programming or math concepts may not turn out to be an all-purpose “rock star” in the Silicon Valley mold, but I can still encourage them to follow their interests in computing. My job as a teacher is to help my students develop those interests and skills so that they can contribute to the show, in whatever role is right for them. I’m good with that.
College Faculty Rep
CSA Board of Directors