A professional wrestler, really???

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday break and are gearing up for an exciting spring semester.  I figured for my first email of the year, I would tell you a story about one of my first career day events and a few things I learned that day.

My wife’s school was having their career day, and this was the first time the school (or any school) was using our scheduling software to put the schedule together.  They asked if I wanted to participate as a speaker (I was still a microchip designer at the time and could talk about that).  I agreed to attend – I was happy to participate, but I also thought it would be good to be there in case any issues with the scheduling popped up.  My good college buddy Ben was coming to town that day, and he decided to come speak to the kids as well – Ben’s degree is in Chemistry and he was working in a lab at the time.

So the morning of the event came, and Ben and I arrived early, ready to go.  We got a chance to meet a few of the other speakers (and let’s be honest – size up the competition a bit – everyone wants to be the most interesting one there).  So we met a few different people with interesting professions, and then I meet…. a profession wrestler!

Now, I wasn’t up to date on the latest wrestlers.  If Hulk Hogan, the Iron Sheik, or the Rock came in, I would know who that was.  But apparently this wrestler was a fairly big deal.  He was related to one of the teachers, and she was able to get him to come speak to the kids.  Great – now the kids are going to have a session with this wrestler and then come to me for some boring tech talk!  How can I compete with that???  Meanwhile, my friend Ben is preparing, getting his equipment ready, and putting on his lab coat (yes, he brought his personally embroidered lab coat!)

I had brought some microchips and equipment we used to make them, and my plan was to pass them around and explain how we used everything.  The sessions came, and I spoke to the kids, passed around my chips, and all in all it went fairly well.  The whole time I’m thinking those kids must be excited to see that wrester!

The day came and went, and all in all everything went pretty smoothly (both my sessions and the event itself – I was still trying to make sure the scheduling worked OK).  I spoke to a number of teachers to get their feedback on anything we should change in the software.  And I kept hearing the same thing – ‘Ben was amazing!  Everyone loved him!’.  Apparently, Ben stole the show that day.  Turns out, he not only wore a lab coat, but he made sure he was in a room with a mirror over the table for lab demonstrations, and he did demonstrations, made slime, and did all kinds of cool things the kids loved (remember this was an elementary school, so the younger kids loved the slime). 

I learned a few things that day:

1. Use the people around you to get your speakers – you never know the interesting professions you can find (like a professional wrestler!)

2 . EVERY profession can be interesting.  It really comes down to how you present it.

3 . Preparation is key – Ben knew exactly how he wanted to communicate to the kids.

4 . The desire to present to kids is just as important as an interesting profession.

Finding speakers is tough (more on that in a future email)!  But once you find those speakers, how do ensure they are engaged with the students?  Do they know you can accommodate their needs, like the mirror table, or a projector, etc.?  Encourage them to bring things for the students to see and touch.  Make sure they actually like to speak to students!

Next time, I’m going to talk a little more about finding speakers and ways some speakers have made their session fun and interactive.

– Scott