January 29, 2018

Busting Tech Career Myths, Part 6: ’My Kids Won’t Listen to Me’


In earlier posts in this myth-busting series, I’ve stressed that blasting misperceptions about tech careers is a professional mission for me as a technologist and technology-industry mentor devoted to drawing new generations of workers into our field.

Per this objective, I’ve so far dismantled five delusions about technology jobs:

  1. “Technology is all about coding, math, and science.”
  2. “Working in technology requires a four-year college degree.”
  3. “If it’s not at Facebook or Google, it’s not a technology job.”
  4. “A tech career means being stuck at a desk.”
  5. “Money is the main benefit of a tech job.”

In addition to being a professional duty, debunking these misapprehensions also stokes my passion as a parent of four kids. That’s why pulling apart the sixth myth in our series gives me particular pleasure:

Myth No. 6: My Kids Won’t Listen to Me

In the latest CompTIA research, “Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology,” we asked 1000 teens in the 13-17 age bracket where they turn for career guidance. “Parents/family” was among the top three answers given. This follows a strong trend established by our 2015 research, where the most frequent answer to a similar question was “parents and guardians.” At 68 percent, that answer was given more than two times more often than “teachers” (28 percent) and “school counselors” (25 percent).

Two years ago, the demographics of our sample group were different, as we focused on minority teens living in urban areas. Plus, the questions were structured differently, which also could account for varying outcomes. But regardless of these variations, the results of both studies confirm an important finding: Teens do listen to their parents. Maybe not all the time about everything, but certainly more often than parents think they do – especially when the topic is as important as their future.

Educating parents about issues and options in schooling for tech careers is just as critical as teaching teens about their career options. Why? Because parenting along any dimension is demanding work that could always use a helping hand.

I understand the challenge firsthand. As the chief executive of a philanthropic organization, I’m comfortable speaking to diverse groups of people in business situations of many kinds at this point in my life, but nothing prepares you for dealing with an angry or hurt teenager. I had my share of doors slammed in my face by my stepdaughter, Lindsay, during her teenage years. When the discussion wasn’t quite so heated, I also had many moments talking to my stepson, Dylan, and Lindsay with the sinking feeling that my words were falling on deaf ears.

(I’m not out the woods yet, by the way. My last two children aren’t too far from middle school.)

It’s not pleasant, that sense of futility, because you care deeply, and you want to help with every means at your disposal. That’s why I wrote How to Launch Your Teen’s Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education. In the guide, I cover some key subjects that will help in conversations with kids about tech careers.

(The book is available to Recruiter Today readers at a 10 percent discount; visit TinSTEM.com and enter “BLOG17” as the coupon code.)

Lindsay and Dylan are in their mid-20s now. Although they live outside of the house, we see them once or twice a week. Almost every time we are together, we talk about their jobs, how to grow in their careers, and how to manage people. Lindsay especially has been asking for leadership advice as she now has staff reporting to her. It’s a gratifying feeling after all those years of wondering if the messages were taking root.

For the final installment of our myth-toppling trip, I’ll discredit: “Tech jobs are going overseas.”

Charles Eaton is executive vice president of social innovation for CompTIA and CEO of Creating IT Futures.

Read more in Career Planning

Charles Eaton is a father to four children, ranging from elementary-school age to working adult, and leads three philanthropic endeavors for CompTIA, the world's largest IT trade association, including Creating IT Futures, CompTIA's IT workforce charity. His first book, "How to Launch Your Teen's Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education," is available at www.tinstem.com.