FutureInTech Ambassador

I did something I don’t normally do; volunteered for civil service. In this case I volunteered to become an IT ambassador for the high schools in the Auckland region with a program called FutureInTech.

It turns out that software programmers (and IT in general) aren’t well represented in this program so a few of us from Navico volunteering was a big boon for their efforts to encourage students into IT. This situation somewhat mirrors IT in New Zealand in general (programming anyway) in that there just aren’t enough of us. At Navico, of the 12 software developers I can think of (off the top of my head) only 5 of us are New Zealanders (I couldn’t say ‘born’ in NZ, because that would exclude 2 more of us). Software companies in NZ have to keep sourcing from abroad.

This week we gave a talk at a High School to one of the senior IT classes about project management; a topic they were currently studying in class. For the first time in a long, long time, I had to prepare slides for a presentation to cover the following topics:

  • A little bit about me.
  • Some interesting personal software projects of my own.
  • A little bit about ‘agile’ project management.
  • A bit about scrum and kanban.

My colleague who talked first covered all the general info about software project management.

What made this talk interesting (for me) was that it brought me into the high schools to be involved with the education sector. I’ve become so accustomed to working one-on-one with school age students for music classes that I forget how different it is to present to an entire class. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. I’m also wary that presentations have the potential to be a snore-fest on account of having been subjected to many presentations and lectures at university. When I was presenting my half I was aware that I was reaching the limit of keeping the student’s focus, not because I was boring or anything, but simply because 30 minutes plus of passive listening is not something that students can be subjected to without drifting off at least a little bit.

Luckily we only had 30 minutes to talk shared between two of us and despite my colleague wishing he had more time to talk, I knew we had found the sweet spot.

Maybe I’m cynical about presentations but I suppose I’ve seen so many and seen so many attempts by presenters at trying to be funny by using either jokes or funny slides that I just cringe at their efforts. Transitions between slides? That’s one of the most cheesiest things I think anyone could do, unless the whole point is to create self deprecating humour.

It was a job well done though. The students opened up at the end with some questions, some directed at me because of the games I’d made for PSP and iPhone. The teacher was interested in some of the games (exercises) one can play to demonstrate project planning such as the ball point game and the marshmallow challenge. The organiser of FutureInTech was present during the talk and was also excited because he knew that my (mis)adventures at making my own games would be something that would engage and excite younger high school students.

Perhaps I’ll get more gigs in the near future.

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