Top of the Class

#12 College Tips - Top Tech Careers High Schoolers Need to Know and How to Prepare Now

April 28, 2021 Crimson Education Season 2 Episode 12
Top of the Class
#12 College Tips - Top Tech Careers High Schoolers Need to Know and How to Prepare Now
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Top of the Class
#12 College Tips - Top Tech Careers High Schoolers Need to Know and How to Prepare Now
Apr 28, 2021 Season 2 Episode 12
Crimson Education

When you're in high school, a career can feel like a long way off. The reality though is that tech companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft as well as thousands of other companies both big and small are scouting university campuses around the world for the best talent.

In this episode, Crimson CEO and podcast co-host, Jamie, shares his insights into the tech careers to aim for, the subjects to focus on while in high school and how to make your way to top careers in tech.

Show Notes Transcript

When you're in high school, a career can feel like a long way off. The reality though is that tech companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft as well as thousands of other companies both big and small are scouting university campuses around the world for the best talent.

In this episode, Crimson CEO and podcast co-host, Jamie, shares his insights into the tech careers to aim for, the subjects to focus on while in high school and how to make your way to top careers in tech.

Podcast Host  00:05

It's always a pleasure to be joined by my illustrious podcast co host. And today we're talking all about technology. Jamie, how have you been?


Jamie Beaton  00:26

Good Alex, I actually recently moved from New Zealand to Sydney. So I'm in your neck of the woods, over in Australia. And I'm very excited to be here. After a year as a flightless Kiwi in New Zealand. 


Podcast Host  00:41

Well like every other kiwi, I guess a flightless in that regard. But yeah, it's fantastic we're talking about technology. And I know this is a topic that you get followed up with quite a lot. And obviously, it's an area that you're quite passionate about. In fact, you just messaged me a couple of days ago saying that there was a student who asked you all about the various technology jobs that are out there. It's an area that I admittedly don't know too much about. So I'll throw it open to you. Firstly, why did you really want to cover this particular topic of like different career paths and technology? And why should high schoolers be knowledgeable about this kind of area?


Jamie Beaton  01:13

Okay, to put this really simply, there are two ways to really boost one's career pathway quickly in this board right now. But I can see, the first is going to one of these competitive undergraduate colleges, but opens up lots of job opportunities. But there have been a Wall Street, whether it be you know, as a lawyer, a great school, whatever. The second is going to technology. And that could be learning computer science, it could be working on other related technology jobs. It could even be working in like business development within a technology company, but particularly within the hot areas of technology. So I'm seeing for example, alumni like zone one Tesla, or alumni like Brendan fork is launching his Y Combinator startup or semi or soon doing his Y Combinator startup, but other people in our network are interning at Facebook or other folks at Google DeepMind. Like Richard. So I guess what I'm seeing is this growing trend and growing opportunity. And I want to make sure that, you know, our listeners around the world are aware of how compelling Mr. Trump's attorneys are, what they look like. And you're really thinking about this early on in high school? 


Podcast Host  02:10

Yeah, well, it is one of those things that I think a lot of high schoolers can understand. Because obviously, they using technology quite a lot. But they might not actually know what jobs they might be aiming for. I'm assuming it's not like the IT guy type of thing. A lot of companies that goes and presses the on and off button on a computer to get it going again. So what kind of areas? Do you see the technology jobs falling under? Is there like a couple of different categories? Or what are the titles usually that you think of? When you think tech jobs?


Jamie Beaton  02:38

Yes, so definitely, it's not the IT manager, that is not what I'm thinking about, or nothing wrong, IT managers, and we really appreciate as a crimson. So basically, the corrupt charities that we're really talking about here, I'll go through them. So first up is software engineering, this involves you actually learning how to code, you know, building the architecture for an app, designing it, you know, actually, you know, literally writing the lines that bring it to life. So this is a really continuously high paying field, a lot of our alumni are on 120k USD plus salaries plus stock and many of these big tech companies in Silicon Valley, and there's really this like Firestorm demand for these developers, because you've got traditional tech companies hoovering up talent like Google, then you've got other companies that are trying to become more tech forward, that are hiring developers, for example, JP Morgan, one of the world's biggest banks now has more developers and bankers, you know, which is really interesting investment bankers. So the point is software engineering and big air of demand. That's the first area Okay, that's what people will often think about when they get to computer science. Next up, we move to data science and artificial intelligence. So data science is about using statistics to, you know, answer important questions, let's say want to know what price Uber should charge for its car, or, you know, for example, how quickly you know, people will book on, you know, bookings calm based on what kind of photo they're shown and what sort of notifications are shown. Data science can be used to solve that problem and make smart recommendations. It also used to develop, you know, good trading algorithms and Wall Street, things like this. Now, one branch of data science is artificial intelligence, which is using data to make decisions with the outputs and the new learnings feeding and updating of the algorithm and then progressively better decisions that sounds But well, you know, gobbledygook. So let me kind of break you down. A good example. When you go to the doctor, we look at your X ray, you break your arm whenever they look at the X ray, and they tell you, you know what's wrong with your arm. But Google scan millions of X rays and now can often beat the human doctor and diagnosis of the X ray. This is the use of artificial intelligence. The same thing is true, you know, financial stock recommendations. So previously, you might pay some broker who sort of you know thinks about the world and recommends your stock. But these days a lot of advice has taken place to robo advisors, robotic advisors, which has AI algorithms recommending you what stocks to buy, what portfolios are more optimal, there will often be been, you know, emotional human traders, so AI and they Science is a second career vertical, again, that pays even better than software engineering, often, particularly artificial intelligence that things like Google DeepMind, Google brain, things like those. Moving to the next node, we have product management. So product management is like being the mini See, what you do here is you think of a problem that you know, some users are facing. And then you basically responsible for building the solution coordinating a team to make that happen. So let's say for example, you want to build a food delivery app inside, you know, Sydney, you might think about, you know, what features the app needs, you know, what you know, uses the prioritize what features are required, you might need to help work with a develops, that goals will be completed. And you'll oversee not only the, you know, coordination of the project, but the technical specification of what features users actually want, because the software engineer will build the feature, but the product manager has to often tell them kind of what to build. Now, that process is often more collaborative than what I've just said. But that's in bolts. That's kind of that's the third pillar in our product management. And then the final pillar that relates to broadly tech is entrepreneurship. And what I mean by this is creating your own tech company, similar to so for example, what I've done at crimson, I'm building an education technology company, there's lots of opportunities for young people now to go out there raise capital for their ideas, and build their own, you know, entrepreneurial ventures, and this is becoming progressively more popular career opportunity. And I bundled under technology, because a lot of the best founders often have some kind of STEM or computer science or technology background driving, you know, this idea that building. So therefore, the kind of main career tracks that I'm seeing within the technology area that are really I guess, referencing for students.


Podcast Host  06:37

Yeah, fantastic, and an awesome breakdown. In terms of the skills that underpin all of these major career paths. What do you think the, you know, average high schooler should be working on to prepare themselves to go into these areas?


Jamie Beaton  06:52

Got it. So a couple of things. First up, you want to nail math, this is obvious, you need to be pushing hard on math. We have an online High School, the Crimson global Academy, which lets you take additional AP classes like AP bc calculus, or a levels that igcc math, we also tutoring things like the IB, what you can do is, you know, a new physical school, take the extra math subjects. And the point of this is that normally in a physical High School, your math level is constrained, being only sort of one year ahead of other classmates, the more you can push ahead and be several years ahead of math and performing well, you know, the better you're going to do, because that rigorous math foundation really helps you to thrive in computer science. So now the math. The second thing, obviously is computer science, you can take it, I recommend AP Computer Science, which we also offer. And basically AP Computer Science take my alumni Smeal Singh, he went to Harvard now he's doing a Y Combinator entrepreneurship company inside Silicon Valley, hey, picked up AP Computer Science in high school at our suggestion took that on and now you know, Harvard hated applied math and computer science. So AP Computer Science very, very valuable. So math, computer science, the third subject that can throw be physics, because it often required some of the modeling some of the math skills that you know, sit at the intersection of theoretical math and more like applied problem solving. And then, you know, finally, I would actually throw in English as well, because English is really critical for you to communicate with other people in your team. And to be a product manager, you got to communicate well, often, both in writing and verbally. And all those skills are pretty useful. So I do recommend strong performance in the English as well. So those subjects, if I can remember this correctly, you know, math, computer science, physics, English, would be my core recommendations for the aspiring tech entrepreneurs listening to our call today.


Podcast Host  08:31

Yeah, fantastic. And in terms of computer science, obviously, not every school offers that. And I'm going to guess there's a lot of students who are sitting out there thinking, Okay, well, I've got physics, maths can that kind of stuff that I'm doing at school? How would they kind of get a quick introduction to computer science without necessarily delving into a full kind of, you know, course at the moment, but yeah, enough to know that they want to do it longer.


Jamie Beaton  08:55

So a recommendation I would give you is to take Harvard's CSF the program, I took the student at Harvard, and what it is designed to be as an introduction to coding for those who have never coded before. Now there's 11 weeks of problem sets, followed by a final project, it's fully online, you can go for free, or you can pay a small price to get a certificate. And basically, it's well recognized the top universities, so getting it done has real value to your us college application. Students like to say loosely now, you know, now I have dsst through Crimson with us. And basically, it's really useful, especially when you're just the first three weeks to get a bit hard near the end, for sure. But the first couple of weeks will give you a bit of a flavor for coding. And it's really interactive, fun, low cost way to just test it out and learn about it. So that will be kind of what I'd recommend on the hard academic side. As far as understanding how technology is going to affect the economy and artificial intelligence. In particular, I recommend a book for our students called the AI superpowers or artificial intelligence superpowers. And this talks about the rise of artificial intelligence in China and the West and how it's radically transforming different industries. to finance any creating a quite a big geopolitical battle between America and China, so that will be another reason today as well. Yeah, no, that's


Podcast Host  10:07

awesome. And yeah, like, obviously the the coding side of things is such an important part of you know, going into that computer science field, I'm going to tell you a bit of a curveball question here. If you had the choice, you can choose only one between learning Mandarin, or learning, say, some of the more fundamental coding languages? Which one would you put more time and effort into? Knowing that, you know, you wanted to start a business in future we wanted to get into the future of technology? Would you spend more time learning Mandarin or coding languages?


Jamie Beaton  10:41

So I think the fair comparison, tell me if it's not reasonable is fluency in Mandarin? Or, you know, especially strong coding skills, you could design a basic, minimal viable product at by yourself getting that person? Yes. So if you give that to me, then I probably choose the coding. The reason why is, you know, you can recruit people in a team to speak Mandarin. But having versatility in coding means you can whip up some and actually coding is a very expensive resource. So if you want to hire coders to build anything, it's a challenging, costly endeavor, especially if you don't know how difficult that work is to do, you can't really audit the work very well. So being able to do some of the basic prototyping work yourself, and work with the engineers directly is going to be pretty valuable. So I mean, honestly, one of the mistakes I made in high schools, I did French and Mandarin. So I would, I would love to do both. But if I had to choose one, I'd rather fluency encoding over Mandarin, you know, in most cases, I think there are some selective cases where you know, Mandarin better, like, if you want to become an investment banker, you know, speaking Mandarin is probably more useful than, you know, being I haven't been able to code. But for the careers, we talked about, you know, Product Management, entrepreneurship, you know, artificial intelligence, software engineering. So, yes, it's gonna be a big leg up.


Podcast Host  11:52

Yeah, for sure. Now, one of the things that I think a lot of people who are interested in the area of tech, in particular coding would start hearing about the, you know, when they get to, like 1718, near the end of high school, is the argument that the majority of coders could probably do projects outside of university or not even go to university and still get a good job, like, it's your skills over degree, whereas other people say, No, no, you should still definitely go to university, it's for the connections and the ins that you can get with a lot of these top companies. But do you think it's leaning one way or another towards like getting a degree and going that path, or DIY buying it and just doing projects at home going that path?


Jamie Beaton  12:34

Alright, I can answer comprehensively, and not just with a small inclination that the US UK option, particularly the US option is, you know, far ahead, I'll give you a couple of reasons why. First of all, you know, I've met a lot of students that, you know, they consider applying to the US, they ultimately don't do it, or they try, I realize it's kind of difficult, and they sort of give up. And then they try and do things in entrepreneurship without going to university. And so far without fail, they've all failed, like someone who have taken years to fail in terms of their, you know, their raise capital, they bought a company, it looks promising, and then it goes down. University from ways top schools is ultimately a fantastic insurance policy, that means you can get a lot of different jobs, if you don't want to be an entrepreneur, you can just get a fantastic job quickly. Your skills are transferable and well understood by the market, and you can land the jobs at Google etc. When you don't have a university degree, and you just know how to code. Ultimately, you're always entering every scenario assumed to prove, you're always entering with a disadvantage. And you're always entering, you know, having to sort of like have someone take a bit on you. And in a world where not everyone has enough time to get to know you. And it's competitive job market. And you don't want to put yourself in that kind of environment and limit your options, so much. So I would say the other thing is that while you can do like a quick coding boot camp, you know, 12 weeks, none of the bits coders at Google did this to develop, you know, their, you know, skills, because it requires a good understanding of the underlying math, you know, how to do architecture, and some of the more sophisticated academic components of encoding beyond just brute force, you know, shipping code to become a truly amazing, you know, software engineer, so that you can try and, you know, do this bridge course, but it's ultimately a bit of a hassle. And you're going to probably hit a bit of a wall and you won't have the social network of people that are really advanced in coding, you can learn from, you know, corrupt communities, and these great places that even if you're the one exception to the rule, and it's been eight years 1000s of kids that I haven't seen one real exception to this rule. You know, you may go to boot camp, but it's gonna be it's gonna be a bit of an uphill slog, when you know, you won't have that network around you. So overall, like I'd much rather you, for example, to kind of just stay on to do computer science degree, you've got so much flexibility later on. Then you take this punt on kind of this alternative pathway. So it sounds nice to take the alternative pathway, but I would challenge anyone listening to this podcast, you're thinking about that, who actually get an offer from one of these top schools, then if you've got the current current down and go coding, by all means, do it. But you know, kind of I often see people using this alternative out as an excuse to not kind of even try in the first process. So that will be my my passionate hot tech about why they should go ahead and get a serious undergrad degree in computer science.


Podcast Host  15:10

Yeah, yeah, I think that's a fair insight, particularly when you've seen it time and time again, where the the alternative of not going University hasn't really turned out that well for students. So yeah, definitely worth considering to go to computer science or a range of different other degrees, I'm sure probably a good option. In your mind, if a student is looking at, you know, the next big thing in tech, what are some of the degrees that they should be seriously considering? Or are there any kind of like specialist very, very cool degrees. I know Berkeley does MIT, for instance, like these kind of hybrid courses that are very specialized, what are some of your kind of top 10, or maybe not, we don't need to do 10. But top five, for instance of your favorite courses around the world that students should be looking at.


Jamie Beaton  15:57

Got it. So I think some of the best programs in the world combined engineering and business. So the first one I'll give you is Jerome, Jerome Fisher, m&t program management technology at the University of Pennsylvania and Ivy League school. This program, which we've seen a number of students to, like mass and luck, for example, combines engineering, from the you know, from the engineering college at UPM, as well as the business school of water, which is the world's best undergraduate Business School. And that can combine the program, you're getting rigorous business skills, rigorous engineering skills, you know, you have so many job opportunities post that program. The other one that gives you would be Stanford's msna, program management, science and engineering, management sciences, a nice way of saying business and in engineering courses, you know, it can be computer science, it can be, you know, other types of engineering, but many of my students like for example, a May, you know, like, for example, promise Jang from Australia, these students, you know, go ahead and do MS and E at Stanford with great success. The other programs are throughout their programs, I also applied to and got into myself back in the day, like, you know, offi, operations research and financial engineering at Princeton that combines, you know, math, economic stats, and finance, computer science, as well as, for example, financial engineering at Columbia, which is, you know, a, you know, a focused major economy, which combines many of the things that I just mentioned as well, giving you a flavor of computer science and a flavor of business together. So they're kind of for a really solid programs that I would say, are all quite exciting. And I'd also throw in the, you know, University of Washington, it's got quite a good recruitment pipeline working for Amazon, given its proximity to Amazon HQ. And that's sort of a bit of an untraditional Peck, where you can do computer science there in land some good job opportunities from a school that isn't actually so competitive. But you know, it's sort of historically done well, from a recruiting perspective. But also Georgia Tech in there, as well as a pretty good focus computer science school. So there are a couple of kind of quirky options for you, and some, you know, heavy hitting competitive, but incredibly effective programs that


Podcast Host  17:57

also talk about Yeah, yeah. And does the university name matter beyond like your, your top 10? You obviously like your MIT, Harvard, Princeton, like, I'm sure you could do any kind of tech degree there and do very, very well. But outside of that top 10? Do you need to go to a university that I guess has a, you know, more of a reputation for computer science tech? Well, should you be aware of the pathways to different companies? Those kinds of things? Like what kind of research should students do if they want to get into these top companies, but they might not be able to make it to like those top 10? universities?


Jamie Beaton  18:35

Yeah, it's a great question. Um, the short answer is yes, I would say the ranking of the School Matters all the way down to about position like 40 or so when it starts to become a bit less relevant, because the way this works is that you know, these, you know, these companies have, you know, finite constraints on the HR team. And so they're going to go ahead and do on campus recruiting, where they turn up seven campuses, and interview students at only a select number of institutions. So, you know, if you go to one of these high rank computer science programs, then people are going to actively recruit from these places, because they don't want to filter through all these different candidates, where they don't know how they've been trained to give you the science, they've got very different variable ways of approaching different problems, it's a bit harder to recruit, they can, of course, do this, if you're a company like Google, they've got very efficient recruiting channels. But for many major tech companies, you know, go into, you know, one of the more well regarded computer science particular programs is valuable. So you know, you don't necessarily have to go to a school that has an incredible overall reputation, although that's of course, ideal. But a school that has really been computer science, reputation is definitely pretty valuable. And think about it like this, a lot of your learning universe takes place from your peers. So you want to be in an environment as strong as possible, because that means your peers are going to be as strong as possible. And you're learning the function of their learning and your reputation of the of the universe as a function of their reputation. And so you're sort of all sort of in the same boat. And so you want to go to the best possible program, I would say pretty clearly.


Podcast Host  19:54

Yeah, yeah. Well, that's for sure. And for students who are potentially saying, Well, you know, If I get into a good University here in Australia or New Zealand or Singapore, whoever else they are in the world, potentially Europe, even I know we've got listeners from all over, what could their chances bay of working at a place like Google, Facebook, IBM, Amazon, etc. In the US if they're particularly aiming? You know, obviously, these big companies have headquarters all over the place. But if they were wanting to make it big, I guess it would be in the US? What's the chances of getting recruited to a company like that? If they do study at a university outside of the US?


Jamie Beaton  20:35

Good question. So, um, the short answer is, it is very doable. I'll give you the example of, you know, one of my good friends Richard and his girlfriend, both of them study that, you know, Oxford, in the UK. And then they went on to work for Google's DeepMind team, and one of them in the Canadian office, one of them in the UK office. But basically, these top companies have big resources for international students, big visa support offices, there's a lot of support for h1 visas. So big tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google, Netflix, these companies are really well equipped to recruit international students, and they see getting the best talent as a critical kind of competitive advantage. So I think, for example, a kiwi alum, when he went to St. Catherine is now at Harvard to that squared out, he has been about five years there and the engineering team. So it's definitely doable, you know, come from a non American background, and then lead these job opportunities for sure. What you can do is also work for some of the European operations and trends at one of the American operations also. But you know, you do want to be thinking about visa questions pretty early on. Yeah, I've seen it statistically happen, you know, many times now. And it just kind of make sense to like, if you're a smaller company, you know, the resource support these kind of international workers as much. But if you're a larger company, like a Google, you know, it makes a lot of sense, because you have sort of economies of scale and recruiting.


Podcast Host  21:59

Yeah, yeah. My final question for you, before we get into your final advice would be how does students stand out even among like, all these, you know, I know, there's like a lot of hiring going on from students who have come from these top universities. But if you are getting into a top university, how do you stand out among those kind of cohorts? Who are no fantastic coders? Or really mathematically strong? What kind of things could students be doing perhaps even in high school leading into university to kind of give themselves a little bit of a head start and make sure they're as close as possible to the top of the pack?


Jamie Beaton  22:40

Good question. So I guess come back to the basics. You want to accelerate in both math and English. And you want to, you know, get some AP ones not in computer science, what is on the board, quick point with AP Computer Science, you probably want to think about some competitions in the area, like the informatics Olympiad, which is kind of pretty relatively uncompetitive, bit like math Olympiad. And you probably want to get some exposure to entrepreneurship nice and early as well. There's some internships potentially could be online ones that students can enter at PwC. As part of our school program, Crimson global Academy, there are a couple of my quick suggestions. What do you have Alex, for our listeners? Well, I


Podcast Host  23:13

think, you know, having seen a couple of the examples on the top of the class podcast, I think self learning different languages can be very useful. I know satvik, was a student who has impressed quite a few listeners. And he learned 14 different coding languages. And after a while, he's able to pick and choose which ones he wants to code in. And he knows which ones he likes more for different purposes. So I think, a broad understanding of the variety of different languages out there is something that I'd probably encourage students to do. And yeah, don't be afraid to potentially start like a company and start creating apps. I know that we had a 15 year old student from Sydney, Nick, who was on the podcast and talking about his startup, which is an app company or app development company. And it just gives him an opportunity to code as well as the entrepreneurship angle as well. So definitely, like a bigger undertaking, I guess, in some respects, but no less impressive, and certainly does give students a leg up. And he's very much considering the US college pathway. And he feels like the experience he's getting outside of school at this stage is far more valuable than what he's doing in school, because he's just able to have that, you know, personal experience and be able to take his journey and coding wherever he wants to go at this stage. So I think yeah, definitely checking out. Oh, and also, I think from the robotics perspective, learning how to code robots. We had Jia, who spoke to you very early on, but I think she won the Vex robotics championship with three times or something like that. Yeah, so I think her episode is a great example of what you can do with coding. I think students who are getting the the knowledge is great, but the practical experience and the application they're off like that's, you know, just takes it up a notch or two. So I definitely recommend students look at that. But yeah, that's just my general thoughts from being the podcast co host, your final advice for any students listening,


Jamie Beaton  25:09

I think it's worth understanding that if you're in the coalface of Silicon Valley, the opportunities and you're in front of you are really mind blowing. As far as these major tech companies and they're also spreading around the world, one of my good friends recently started working to strike a fast growing payments company over here in Australia. Just because your country with your be, you know, Australia, or whether it be Tokyo doesn't have a rigorous computer science education, within high school yet, um, you don't want to be left behind, it's really a big opportunity. So do think about how you can kind of systematically build these skills, because chances our time to get to these top us schools, it'll be really on your career horizon, if you're a stem student, it's a bit of a, you know, a no brainer for many of the students to think about some of the time where you might currently perceive medicine or something like this to be like, the exciting local option here mind that, you know, amongst the kids with this opportunity set in America, you know, technology often can use up medicine as that, you know, really exciting, flexible opportunity. So, you know, pay close attention this pathway, think about it really seriously. And, you know, be aware that as your environment evolves and changes, it could actually become the leading option. So, you know, definitely lean into it now, do the research, we're happy to help.


Podcast Host  26:19

Yeah, and I think the other thing that students should keep in mind too, is that if you're 17, or 16, right now, like these kind of pathways are not some distant future thing that you might consider in like, 1520 years time. This is like five, six years away. This is a lot closer than you think like as soon as you get into university, you could be considering like, internships at some of these big companies, like we've seen it with our Crimson students, like first second year, university intern summer job type of things at these like, you know, massive companies. So it's a what I think is a lot earlier on in your career, then perhaps students are thinking about, like, I think, Oh, it's something that I'll think about, you know, when it happens, it's happening like if you're 1617 years old, now's the time to start planning your path to these kinds of universities and careers.


Jamie Beaton  27:05

Yeah, I think you nailed it started merely planning future being ambitious, critical. Great. enjoyed the tech session.


Podcast Host  27:13

Yeah, man. Absolutely all the best and I look forward to sharing the episode far and wide.