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Careers in hi-tech: pursuing hi-tech careers to prepare for the next millennium.

Computers creatively connect communities to new technology circuits: reaching beyond urban career boundaries.

"Computers have democratized technology," says Alexis M. Herman, the brilliant, beautiful and feisty lady President Bill Clinton appointed to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. "Computers have leveled the playing field thereby providing African Americans and members of other minority groups with access to science-based careers that were previously the exclusive province of white males. New and better equipped technological warriors are emerging primarily from the nation's HBCUs to enter the battle for jobs as engineers, computer programmers / systems analysts, chemists, physicists, biologists and other hi-tech professions."

Students considering career choices should also consider the fact that there is also a business and management aspect to the burgeoning technology industry. Ralph Szygenda, chief information officer, General Motors, Corp., who was honored as CIO of the Year during November 1997, in Baltimore at the Maryland Technology Showcase, says that there are unlimited career opportunities for people who want to manage technology and become the entrepreneurs who capitalize on technological innovations. Szygenda, who is responsible for developing and implementing GM's global information technology strategy, asserts "there's ample room in this business for more people at all levels who do what I do. Presently, I manage the Information Systems and Services component. I am accountable for management of all information technology efforts within General Motors. Before joining GM, I was vice president and CIO at Bell Atlantic Corporation where my main initiatives involved reengineering corporate business processes and generating information technology to meet the evolving and growing demands of communication, information services and entertainment businesses."

Szygenda adds, "...the bottom line is that there are employment opportunities for those who are involved in all phases of technology, ranging from formulating new innovations to implementing and managing them."

Leslie F. Hearn, CIO of Maryland's Office of Information Management, states that technology is constantly spawning new career and entrepreneurial opportunities. "There are billions of technology dollars waiting for people with the business acumen to understand the financial implications of technological change. One of the major concerns of today is how to manage what will happen to the nation's computers with the advent of the new millennium. The rapidly approaching year 2000 crisis is at the top of all corporate and governmental agendas. The problem is that all software must be converted so that computers will recognize the year 2000. To save memory, early programmers used one digit date fields; therefore, current software will go from 1999 to 1900 instead of 2000. This is potentially catastrophic for business; but it has created business growth opportunities for developers of conversion software and management techniques to solve this technological problem."

What is technology?

The International Technology Education Association (ITEA), Technology for All Americans Project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, offers the following definition: "Technology is human innovation in action. This involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities."

Although this definition sounds very basic, it reflects the level that technological advances continue to affect daily life by constantly bringing down the costs of computers, cellular phones, compact disc players, the new digital video discs (dvd) and other gadgets. But the sobering fact is that while we are all surrounded by technology, we must move towards mastery of technology. A lack of computer knowledge cripples any career.

According to the Technology for All Americans Project, "Technology is a fundamental aspect of human activity. The acceleration of technological change is a constant in everyone's life today. The power and the promise of technology is based on the need for technological literacy - the ability to use, manage and understand technology. Technological literacy is considered to be critical to the success of people." Considering the fact that so many people are proficient with technological devices ranging from video games and cellular phones, the student seeking to be a hi-tech professional must attain considerable proficiency with the higher-end applications of computers and other technological devices.

Developing a Personal Hi-Tech Infrastructure of Skill to Succeed in Technology Industry

* Begin by matching your major with skills and career goals; choose the right courses to succeed in your chosen field of endeavor. Consult your academic adviser.

* Develop a wide array of computer related skills and knowledge including use of modems, Internet, intranet, desktop publishing, digital camera.

* Develop the ability to apply hi-tech instruments to telecommuting situations through instruments such as cellular phones, internet, faxing, outsourcing, remote office services on a 24-hour basis. Future workers will be out of office on a much greater basis.

* Build your resume through participating in practicums, internships and coop programs that enhance skills and provide networking opportunities.

* Develop professional and organizational relationships that facilitate your achieving your career goals. Get involved.

* Hone your writing/presentation skills. Learn how to use presentation software.

There are unlimited options available to African Americans interested in pursuing hi-tech careers in an industry viable and growing, particularly in the areas of management and entrepreneurship. Admittedly, the glass ceiling remains a dominant feature of corporate architecture, but it can be shattered by people who carefully hone their skills, constantly study their environments, skillfully cultivate career enhancing professional relationships and labor diligently to be creative and innovative in the workplace.

You can get a head start on understanding the workplace by participating in internships that will broaden your skills while providing opportunities to observe how firms function. Companies are always interested in finding great talent and frequently look to college interns as potential permanent employees.

Sanhiv Ahuja, president of Bellcore, is straightforward when he says that he is interested in hiring as many new recruits as possible from HBCUs because "It's good business." Ahuja announced during 1997 that Bellcore, a New Jersey based telecommunications consulting firm, would sponsor three $10,000 grants, with durations of up to five years each, being administered at Morgan State University through the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering College Scholarship Program. Among the students from Morgan State who have interned at Bellcore through this program are Olufunmilayo Akinyele, a computer science major who graduated in June 1997, and Sonia M. Gipson, a senior majoring in computer science. Both students indicate that they experienced considerable growth, personal and professional during their internships. The internship experience will also look impressive on their resumes as they seek employment.

People who want to succeed in hitech careers should begin their job search early. Researching hi-tech careers as soon as you begin seriously thinking about a career in hi-tech will help you understand what a hi- tech career involves. Doing the following things will help.

* Look at the trends in the hi-tech industry.

* Study the hiring and promotional policies of companies in your chosen fields of endeavor (African-American students need to know everything about this area).

* Find out about the stock market positioning of companies in which you are interested. Find out what industry analysts have to say about these firms. It is imperative to study industry trends to determine what areas will offer continued viability and the potential for individual growth. This is critical in choosing a field that will have entry-level positions available when you graduate in firms that offer upward mobility.

Once you become employed in the hi-tech industry, then you must begin formulating a strategy to succeed, such as the following:

* Study the organizational structure of your company and determine where you are now, where you want to go, and what you must do to attain your goal.

* Learn who the players are and how they fit into the organizational equation.

* Network. Seek the advice and counsel of other African Americans working in your field from other companies.

* Constantly upgrade your skills; be in a perpetual mode of retrofitting.

* Identify the hidden dangers that can hamper your growth; these hidden perils can be people (Black or white) and/or organizational flaws. Develop strategies to protect yourself.

* Work hard and document your achievements and contributions to the firm.

* Prepare for the opportunity to provide input to the CEO; this may be your opportunity to scale the corporate ladder.


Louis Cain, Jr., is the manager of Staffing Policy / Strategy and University Partnerships at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore). His responsibilities include developing the mechanisms and alliances that support a proactive, efficient and cost effective staffing program. This includes the Employee Referral Bonus Program, Employee on Customer Site Program, Resource Project Management, Summer Internship and Co-op Program.

Cain has administered or managed co-op internship programs for more than ten years for Bell Laboratories (Lucent Technologies) and Bellcore. This included recruiting, hiring, interviewing candidates and marketing them to hiring managers. He is a member of NJCEA and chair of the Employer Relations Committee. He also serves on the following Advisory Boards/Councils: NJIT Career Development Services, Southern University School of Engineering and CCNY Diversity in Engineering. He is a member of ASEE; chair, Historically Black Engineering Colleges Committee; member, College-Industry Partnership Committee; and, Program Chair, 1998 conference. Cain serves as Bellcore's representative on the New Jersey Business-Education Summit.

Cain's honors include: Bellcore Distinguished Member of Staff Award; Bellcore Outstanding Recruiter Award; Bellcore Pipeline Development Program; NAMEPA Leadership Award and the Southern University Recognition Award. Louis Cain received his B.S. degree in economics from Florida A&M University, and his M.B.A. from Farleigh Dickinson University.
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Title Annotation:Industry Reports
Author:Douglass, Fredrick I.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Feb 1, 1998
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