My company has this mentoring program—it’s a great program where college students meet with programmers and other IT professionals to learn what it is really like to work in the field—but it has an unhelpful name like “the future is now” or something equally as meaningless. I got into it for the same reason I got into blogging. This can be a confusing and competitive field, and it would have been nice for me to have someone who told it to me straight. I try to be that person for others who are thinking of walking the path behind me.
Anyway, so they had this big, day-long retreat for everyone in the mentoring program right after the college kids finished for the school year. It was early May but it has been oddly chilly, and of course the smart people over in Human Resources booked this as an outdoor thing. So we get there and it is drizzling and cold and the kids are looking at us like we are the absolute worst for making them come out there. And I have to wonder why they’re even there, as they’ve already gotten their college credits for the semester. Then I realize that for some of these kids, it isn’t about the credits. They’re actually looking for something. And that’s really cool. I go into the main office and find a lot of sporting equipment that you can borrow and some grilling supplies. Buried in the corner, though, was a kero heater. I could not believe my luck when I saw that it was fueled up and ready to go. Excellent find!
I brought it over to a reasonably enclosed gazebo and set it on the floor in the middle. I checked to make sure that the wick was wet with the kerosene. Then I borrowed a lighter from one of our friendly smokers and touched it to the wick. It went up on the first try. I gotta say, I certainly felt like a genius. I adjusted the heat so that it was warm but not too warm. Worked like a charm. People started flocking to the heater like moths to a flame. Pretty soon just about every one of the students and half my colleagues were sitting around the heater, warm and chatting about the drudgery of school and some of the more ridiculous computer related questions we have gotten. We talked about how every friend of ours who isn’t in the field always calls us with every single one of their computer problems. How easy or difficult it is to do programming on the side. What the app market might look like in a couple of years. All the stuff that mattered to these kids. It was a really great conversation, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves. That little heater did a mighty job of beating back the cold, dreary day. It felt like chatting around a cozy campfire. Geek camp, I guess. Everyone hung in until it ran out of fuel, and then we started packing up to go home.
I returned the heater to the main office and let them know we used all the fuel, offered to pay for the kerosene we used. The folks manning the desk didn’t mind at all. I told them that we would probably come back and do this again next year. Even if the company doesn’t, I might invite the kids to do it again on my own time. This was a really cool thing.
That’s me all right, lighting the path to the future and keeping it warm.