How to help your child choose a profession if you don’t know anything about IT

“The future is digital” we hear this phrase all the time. In parallel, we hear that just programmers are not needed by anyone. So what’s the bottom line? How to choose a profession for a child, especially if you yourself (or almost nothing) in IT?
The space around us is becoming more and more technological, and the pandemic has only spurred this process. Interest in specialists in the IT segment is growing: for example, this spring programmers entered the top 3 most demanded Russian professions. The average salary of IT specialists is also growing. At the end of the first half of 2020, it amounted to 108 thousand rubles, having increased by 8% compared to the same period last year.
Practice shows that pre-university career guidance is very important. Today, the best technical universities enroll in a greater number of children of those people who are themselves associated with programming or other technical sciences. Such parents are “in the know” and from an early age focus on mathematics schools, encourage passion for technology from childhood.

Programming for kids

Nevertheless, some parents with whom I meet in the framework of my projects, with all their desire to help their children in choosing an IT profession, themselves often do not have sufficient knowledge about the field and its possibilities. I offer some practical advice on how to be in this case and painlessly immerse yourself in the topic.

Step number 1. Study the market and choose a direction

First of all, if you do not understand the IT topic, you can start diving into the sphere by making a map of the leaders of this market in Russia and the world. Explore the pages of the sites where the relevant vacancies and internships are located. This will make sure that programming is one of the important components, but not the only one. For example, creative and humanitarian professions in this industry are in no less demand marketers, content producers, designers and 3D artists. It also does not hurt to familiarize yourself with the requirements for employees, working conditions and the education necessary for employment.

Another great way is to build on examples. What IT products do you use yourself? Gadgets, services, applications, games, social networks
If you dig deeper with your child, you can find out, for example, who the developer of his favorite game is and how it came about. History will help not only broaden your horizons, but also inspire you to master the profession.

Let’s take a look at several popular IT product areas:

1. Software development

The software development segment is now rapidly developing in 2019 its share amounted to 10% of the total revenue of the participants in the CNews100 rating of IT companies, which amounted to 1,555 billion rubles. The developments of such companies are used by both corporations and ordinary people. One of the brightest representatives of the trend abroad is the Microsoft company, which develops and supports the Windows operating system. Russia also has its own stars: for example, JetBrains, which produces professional software development tools and created the Kotlin programming language.

Who can work here: Developer in Java C C or other programming languages, DevOps engineer, systems programmer.

2. Game development

The global volume of this market in 2019 amounted to 148.8 billion and continues to grow. Among foreign representatives, Naughty Dog can be distinguished, which released the game The Last of Us: Part II, which broke sales records on the Sony console in the United States in June 2020. In the CIS, a good example is Wargaming, which publishes the online game World of Tanks. Since its launch, 85 million people around the world have already played it.

Who can work here: concept artist, game designer, 3D artist, game programmer.

3. Social networks

At the beginning of 2020, more than 4.5 billion people use the Internet, and the audience of social networks has exceeded the 3.8 billion mark. Facebook, Instagram and Youtube remain the main players in this market. Also, messengers are gaining popularity recently: Telegram, WhatsApp and Viber.

Who can work here: Android and iOS developer, UI UX designer.

Step number 2. Introduce the child to the basics

It is important to look for approaches to the child through his interests. For example, if he watches YouTube a lot, you can try learning video editing or special effects software. Drawing instead of doing homework? Maybe he should get some concept art. The environment is also important for skill development. Help your child choose clubs or courses where he will not be alone in his interests. As a rule, there are free test lessons and other opportunities to master new IT and digital areas. The more different options he tries, the faster he will decide on a profession. But in my experience, it is worth spending at least six months on each direction to be sure whether it is suitable or not.

It is generally accepted that 9 years is the optimal age to start learning the basics of IT and digital. There are many simple and intuitive visual programming tools for children. For example, the Scratch programming language, which was created by students of the MIT Media Lab. The main thing is to never doubt that the child has the ability. There have been cases when children came from humanitarian schools and easily mastered machine learning. After completing the courses, they entered the university in the same direction.

Step number 3. Start programming

As a rule, children begin to get a knowledge base from the age of 12 at this age they learn the basics of programming or game development using a real language like C or Python. Various tasks can be accomplished with modern languages. For example, write in Python both a neural network and a back-end for a website.
If your child is already familiar with the topic, you can buy individual courses from foreign providers, such as Coursera, and take them in English to improve several skills at once: a foreign language and knowledge of the subject.
It is worth considering that knowledge of English is a must in IT. Most of the terms and useful literature that a student comes across on his way are written in it.
For an immersion in programming, you can also watch the Harvard CS50 Basic Programming Course, which demonstrates the principles of coding. It is quite fun and is suitable for both children 13+ and adults.

Step 4. Career guidance and festivals

At the age of 14-16, it is time to decide on the direction of future work. For this, it is useful to visit specialized events and forums where you can personally ask speakers questions about the development in the IT environment. Often such events are organized with the support of universities, but there are also private projects. For example, for the same purpose, my team, with the support of ANO Step Towards and the Committee on Youth Policy of St. Petersburg, created a free career guidance festival Digital Jungle, where students can communicate with industry experts, listen to lectures and even try popular areas in practice: game development, IT, design and marketing. The closest will be held online on August 9, 2020. The event is attended by IT companies of different directions and you can find out the latest information about the specialties of interest. Also, within the framework of the event, a competition of works for schoolchildren of 12-16 years old “Digital Stars” is held, where participants have the opportunity to offer their own ideas for digital projects.

If you understand that the child has an interest in a specific area, for example, game development, then industry, highly specialized conferences can be added to the general events. This step involves a deeper level of immersion so parents and children can get advice from the professionals.

However, if for some reason a child changes his mind about associating his future with IT and digital areas, the training will not be in vain. Working with information technology helps to think logically and systematically, to better perceive new information and structure it. Therefore, you should not be afraid to try different things the acquired skills will help you adapt to any new place.