SQL University – Teach Your Children Well

“If you had a daughter, would you really encourage her to get into IT?” … “Yes, if she loved it.”
My Name Is Jes, and I’m a WIT, Jes Borland

“Let the kids (your kids, any kid) know there are more career options than teacher, doctor, lawyer, fireman, police office and astronaut.  Don’t force feed it to them, but lay a foundation.  It may not seem like it, but they will remember when they are older:  I know I did.”
We Could Be Heroines…. Not Just For One Day, Julie Smith

“What I do care about is making sure that every single person, boy or girl, never experiences any barrier to the life they want, be it as a database developer, stay at home mom, or Wonder Woman. If we can accomplish that, it’ll all work itself out naturally.”
Sometimes Saying Yes is All About Not Saying No, Audrey Hammonds

Sean and I have a daughter and two sons.  In addition to the standard Parent Curriculum lessons- things like laundry, hygiene, confidence, and all that jazz – we teach them other life skills that we consider essential for the kids:

  • Cooking: Food is required, healthy food is required for a healthy life, and tasty food is required (so we think) for a rich life.
  • Kenpo: It’s a dangerous world; we teach them fighting skills so they’ll be armed to the teeth, even without weapons.
  • Computers: No matter what they do with their lives, technology will be a part of it.

 This is day 4 of SQL University Women in Technology week, and this is my SQL blog, so we’re going to talk about…my kids!  And how we’re teaching them about technology.

If you had a daughter, would you really encourage her to get into IT?

Yes, absolutely. I’ll encourage all three kids to get into IT, to the point that they’re interested. Why? Because this field is awesome.  Here are some of the reasons for the awesomeness, more or less as explained to our children:

It’s a job that you do sitting down, inside a building.  We’ve had jobs standing up and/or outside for hours on end…these are not fun jobs after approximately age 23.  I’m being perfectly serious here (as the over 23 crowd probably have realized).

There are tech jobs – and I’m only exaggerating very slightly here – absolutely everywhere.  I could walk into Hibbert’s Gore, Maine (population: 1) and sell somebody tech support.  This makes it a lot easier to get a job (or change jobs) than in, say, the parks and recreation sector. Ask me how I know.

There are – and again, I’m only exaggerating slightly – approximately 100 gazillion different kinds of IT jobs. Cross join computers, networks, software, storage, and a few dozen other things with design, build, install, support, test, troubleshoot, and optimize….and now add all the different brands on top, and then multiply again by the number of ways different businesses use all of the above to further their particular money making (or philanthropic) venture.  In  short: If you have any inclination towards techie stuff, it’s hard to get bored.

It pays well!  Some kinds of positions pay better than others, certainly. But this is definitely a field that you can do well in, with a bit of studying and strategizing.  This is the kind of gig that will let you have a decent house and car, and still travel and retire before you’re too old to enjoy it.

To review: Technology is fun, it’s cool. It’s lucrative and flexible. It doesn’t ruin your knees or blacken your lungs (and hey, carpal tunnel treatments are getting better every year!)  There are a thousand different directions to go while still remaining on the IT map.

Lay a Foundation

We’re huge computer nerds.  We’re counting up, and we have (at a conservative estimate) 15 working computers in the house, and 13 of them are ours.  It’s fairly natural that the kids have more than a passing familiarity with technology.  We make sure to build on that every so often, especially when there’s a ready opportunity. We’ve shown the kids PC internals, enlisted their aid in upgrades and part replacements, involved them in computer discussions. 

At an early age, we make sure that the kids get their hands on one of the hand-me-down laptops.  They get amazingly adept at the keyboard and mouse / touchpad in no time, especially with the incentive of games, MS Paint, word processors, NickJr.com, and YouTube.  I gave our 5 year a simple password so he can log into his computer,and gave the 3 year old a few bookmarks on the favorites bar; he can’t read yet, but he knows P is for Peanut Butter Jelly Time.  Sean started some deeper computer lessons – including web search and navigation, email, typing, and HTML – with our oldest (the girl) when she was 7 or 8. These are things they’ll need to know even if they never want to code the simplest web page. Any zookeeper, musician, artist, museum curator will need to know this at a minimum.

We don’t necessarily want them to get into technology over any other career. But even if they all turn out to be doctors in a backwater part of the world, they’ll be intelligent users who can take advantage of the tech that they need.

To review: Hands on is the way to learn computers, especially as a kid. 

Never a Barrier to the Life They Want

We LOVE technology, and we’re very vocally enthusiastic about it. I’ve had a number of conversations with our oldest along the lines of “technology is so wicked cool, and it’s new in my lifetime….”  We let her have a whack with a sledgehammer at the server we destroyed on air New Year’s Eve. We’ve taken her to user group meetings and SQL Saturdays.  And most recently, I’ve been running some of my session material by her, to clarify the way I explain certain concepts. 

As these kids get older, we’re showing them what we do, and with any luck, showing them that it’s something we enjoy.  That’s the lesson: You can find the thing you want to do.  A career doesn’t have to be a daily exercise in headdesk.

We learned, through lesson and example, to be strong and innovative. I found a career that interests me and pays the bills…I hope my kids will do the same, in whatever field they choose.

Teach your children well.

 -Jen McCown, http://www.MidnightDBA.com/MVP

P.S. No assignment today. If you’d like to write, comment or post the link back here so we can read up on your thoughts!

Further reading:

13 thoughts on “SQL University – Teach Your Children Well”

  1. My 10 year old daughter – for years has said she wants to be a Vikings cheerleader and a doctor. I always let her know she can do whatever she wants!

    On a technology note, she’s very interested in computer games, web sites, etc.. I love the references you used above as starter sites (NickJr, etc. That’s where both of my kids started). Now, she wants to blog. Her dad says no, but I told her she’s welcome to guest blog on my site anytime… I think she’s getting close to actually taking me up on that!

    Wouldn’t it be cool if there were enough children interested, that on the occasional SQL Saturday, there was a luncheon, or event of some sort introducing them to the basics of IT. I envision something along the lines of a WIT panel discussion, only for kids maybe ages 10 or 12 – 18? That would be pretty awesome! PASSJr?

    1. We’re actually doing a session (or was it a whole track?) for high school aged kids at the Dallas SQL Saturday! I do like the idea of a presentation for a younger crowd…maybe a bring-your-kids-to-the-UG day, with panels and questions and an activity….

  2. Great post Jen! It’s really interesting seeing how everyone passes down their knowledge of IT to their kids. I LOVE that you guys are doing a teen-focused session/track at SQLSaturday, let us know how that goes! Thanks again for being full of #sqlwinning 😉

  3. Awesome post Jen. I am adding your techniques to my arsenal for laying a technical foundation. I am so data centric in my thinking and love data so much I’m just always trying to explain database structure to my kids. Which is a lot for 5 and 9 years old.

  4. My family has traveled to my presentations since I started giving them. Of my three children, my oldest daughter (6) may end up being the most computer savvy. She just gets things her brothers never did. But all of them will be in and around computers because my wife and I both are. For instance, my oldest, 13, will be a gopher at SQL Saturday #70. He’s part of the tech crew. Not much experience, and green as all get out, but it will be a growing experience for him.

  5. With the incredible amount of problem solving/instant gratification (when it compiles and such) / and artfulness of creating something… I would find it incredibly hard to not expose my child to programming…. especially if the alternative is sitting them in front of a TV.

  6. Great post, Jen! My 14 year old son wants to be a rap artist (sigh!). But, we bought him software, and a digital mixing board thingy for Christmas, and lo and behold, he’s engaging in his passion (which I sort of secretly adore because it’s edgy and artsy) while learning technology. He mixes his own beats and tracks and all kinds of cool stuff. Nothing makes me happier than when he shows my his lyrics on paper first, then comes back a few days later with a song that’s been put together with his software. Yeah, I wish he’d paid more attention during guitar and piano lessons, but at the end of the day, we love that he’s using his computer to do what he loves. I guess the point is that you can always find a way to integrate an IT education into whatever interest your kid has.

  7. Saved this post in my tweetstream earlier today as I knew it was going to be great.

    Totally was right and agree that no matter what our kids do arming them with technology is going to help prepare them for the real world.

    My son is 6 and one of the best decisions I’ve made is buying him a decommissioned dell from work rather than a chintzy leappad. He is already surfing things he likes so much so I had to lock down things tighter way earlier than I thought I would have to.

    My daughter already shows an aptitude and is able to sit and use the keyboard for basic tasks (thanks to Scott Hanselman’s Baby Smash).

    I believe we are giving our kids the tools to one day be greater than we are regardless of gender. Maybe even in the technology field.

    Its cool to think that one day they will be teaching us and laughing about our ancient technology.

  8. Jen,

    Great post, as usual. I have a dual context here. First and least important, I am a PASS director and responsible for WIT. I have the priviledge of representing you to the rest of the PASS board. Far more important is that I am the father of three daughters. My position to them is and always has been that if you enjoy a career and are willing to work at it, then you can do it.

    I am proud to say they seem to have internalized that. At least I see them thinking and talking about all possibilities in their futures. As you know, I brought them to SQLSaturday Atlanta last year to earn some volunteer hours and expose them to my world. You and the rest of the women at the event, especially the speakers/leaders had an immense impact on their world and I am deeply grateful.

    As for me, IT careers are just a symbol of what opportunities are available for the next generation of women. IT, Engineering, Racing, Politcs, or any male (statistically) dominated endeaver better look out. The smarter, better half of the species is coming up fast. I am worried we (men) are going to have a tough time keeping up.

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